Monday, August 26, 2013

Putting Fortinbras In The Ground

I was definitely In A Mood over the weekend. One of those stretches of days that Melville wrote about when you want to go about town, tipping hats and picking fights. Of course I did neither, because people don't wear hats these days, unless they're hipsters and screw those guys. And getting into fights is ill-advised because people who get into fights regularly suck. Unless it's over important things, like coffee and beer.

So, getting down to the grit and writing a story almost didn't happen, because I had a near-terminal case of don't-give-a-shit. But I rallied at the end. Realized the planned story, the one which would be a strange take on an Edgar Allen Poe tale was probably too ambitious for the time allotted and the energy levels I'd bring to the typewriter. Also, I'd helped three separate friends move heavy stuff around over the week and just needed a break. This sort of thing seems to happen a lot in August. If March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb, August stumbles around like a tired pack mule.

I considered a few separate ideas for a shorter flash piece, including the aforementioned cryonics story, or doing something fantastical because, hell, why not. Then I went to the source and did another Wendig piece instead because it's the right amount of accountability for my mood. Some days you can count on your inner headmaster to stroll down the row of desks and thwack you on the knuckles, get you sorted out. Sometimes, not so much.

The challenge was to incorporate a short list of ten words, with the story length limited to a Grover Cleveland's bill worth of words: funeral, captivate, deceit, brimstone, canyon, balloon, clay, disfigured, willow and atomic.

The end result felt vaguely Heinleinian for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. Probably that sense of people scheming and tap-dancing, using science and brainstorming to overcome problems. It would probably be much better blown up into a full story, but would run the risk of becoming too much like Big Shot's Funeral.

Just one of those pieces which never quite came together for me. On one hand, it's fun and I like all the small little details, like Ytterby or the garden badger. I had a few amusing bits in there which I really liked, some fun description and hints about the old man's circle of acquaintances, for example, but there's not much in the way of story or progression. I finally just gave up, slapped a bow on it and called it good.

Short stories always have to do a bit of fancy balancing to avoid becoming a vignette; flash fiction doubly so with the limited word count. This one's pretty close. Probably too close, actually.

BUT, I'm now over 250,000 words for the year. And my 100th blog post was Thursday. It's a pity I wasted it bitching about mainstream fantasy. I'll just have to try harder for my 1000th.

The Onion posted this article a few days back, probably one of my favorites in a long while. Every writer I've seen post it has pretty much the same reaction: a wince and a guilty look. We all have our own Skyzones, I'm guessing.

There are things on my hard drive which I fervently hope will never get discovered by other human beings but I can't really quite make myself give them the mercy killing they so richly deserve. Creative guilty pleasures, castle in the sky things that the eight year old hiding in the back of my skull still thinks completely awesome. The absolute nadir of the creative heap, the back forty, the ninth and bottom-most layer.

There should be some kind of pact which writers can make with each other, similar to the ones that porn buddies make where if one person kicks off early, the other has their passwords. They sneak over, delete all of that person's Skyzones, their fan fiction about My Little Pony, their epic Dungeons and Dragons modules involving transforming robots and an elaborate Harry Potter-style universe, the half-formed abandoned horror stories about crime-fighting teens, all of the fantasy heartbreakers and terrible poems about unicorns and wizards and the righteous fire of youth--kill it all with flames before family and friends can wander by and find out just what in the hell you've been doing with your spare time over the years. Wipe out the bottom 20% of your oeuvre before any horrified bystanders can see your ass hanging out for posterity.

I'd call it Operation Skyzone. Maybe it would make a good Kickstarter. Have it be a tray app, similar to cloud-based backups. It would be set up like a dead man's switch. If the trigger popped, it would delete all the embarrassing crap from your computer at the next boot.

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