As I said, longer short fiction did not happen. The weekend was busier and I was lazier than I was anticipating. But that's cool, because I got to do some more awesome Wendig-inspired flash fiction.
The challenge was to roll twice on a table and get two separate things. Then write a story you could theoretically pitch to a room full of fancy-pants executives as "X" means "Y". Mine? "Die Hard" meets "Neverwhere."
That's...a lot to cram into a thousand words (or so). In the end, I made the main character a cop and that's about as much Die Hard as I crammed into the story. If I were to pitch it to the previously-mentioned bigwigs, I'd just have to lie to them about it, because that's how I roll.
There was much more Neverwhere than Die Hard.
In particular, I took the idea of an underworld where the homeless and other people forgotten by mainstream society fall, becoming invisible to normal folks, and ran with it as far as I could in 1000 words.
The basic idea, and I'm not sure all of this comes through in the story, is that once you encounter someone who's from "the other side", if you get too close you'll get stranded there, too. The only way to get back, even for a second, is to engage in behaviors sufficiently weird and out there to pull you back into mainstream society's notice. Doing weird drugs, waving strange signs, dressing weird, talking to imaginary people, doing odd things. That kind of thing. There'd be a tension between "normal folks" who have jobs and stuff and the crazy homeless folks because on one hand, the homeless folks are acting out because that's how they get out of their weird purgatory and on the other normal folks recognize on some level that they're in danger of being sucked out of their own lives. Commentary, I have it!
Mostly it was just an excuse to get the main character to SMOKE CRACK FOR JUSTICE.
And, like a lot of things I write, I set it in Detroit, because Detroit's a pretty bizarre place.
I can't really defend my love of the place. It's blighted, it's crumbling. It's smelly, gross, dirty, crime-ridden, filled with criminals and lowlifes and it's entirely too close to Canada. You can be raped, robbed, carjacked, lit on fire, mugged, hammered, beaten, panhandled, stabbed and buggered all in one afternoon. And it's awesome.
It's got all these islands of really weird stuff. Great ethnic neighborhoods. Fantastic restaurants where you can only pay in cash and you'll likely be the only outsider who's been there in a month. The people who are there, at least the ones who aren't trying to kill you, are there mostly because they want to be there. If you're polite and friendly and look like you're enjoying yourself, they're usually thrilled that you're not bagging on the place. A lot of the most crowded places in the city have a weirdly small-town vibe you simply won't find anywhere else.
And Hamtramck is the most Detroit of all the Detroit areas. Crazy ethnic makeup. The highest population density in Michigan. Architecture that's subtly weird and unlike just about any place I've ever seen. And it's got Hamtramck Disneyland, which is an acid trip of a place, particularly if you're stumbling back from a bar at ass o'clock in the morning and just randomly bump into it with no warning.
Would I live in Detroit? Hell, no. Do I visit whenever I get the chance and write about it a lot? Yes.