Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fictional Me: A Daydream Game

This is taken from the collection Lat's Lot, copyright 1977 by the Malaysian cartoonist Lat. Lat's work is just wonderful, the kind of thing I periodically force down people's throats.

Anyway, I'm not the only one who plays this game! This is a panel from a cartoon Lat did on the same subject. I remembered it while writing, and was able to track it down.

It's been a while since I did something properly goofy. Just for fun, here's one of my daydreams.

Hey, writers? I have actually gotten a number of stories from this little game. And if you read this blog for soap-opera purposes, I will no doubt make some truly unfortunate unconscious revelations here, along with some tragic misapprehensions of self. Should be good for a laugh.

Here we go:

If I were in a thus-and-such type of story, what would it be like?

And to clarify, the whole thing has a casting sort of quality to it -- there are roles that I've played in certain books, I can always get work standing in the back of a Viking scene, that kind of shit. Remember -- daydream.

Hard-Boiled Detective

I'm starting here because in this genre? I am not the lead. I'm the guy who knocks the detective out. You can tell it's me and not just a random thug if there is --

-- a revelation of unexpected depth of character lending a tragic tone to my inevitable demise.

-- a hint of sympathy directed toward the detective.

-- I turn out to be a sadistic intellectual who smugly torments our hero.

(As an aside, I also play this basic role in a number of Daniel Pinkwater books, but I'm a butler for one of the heroes in those ones.)

Police Procedural

An amusing witness or suspect. Really, not a whole lot of point to me in this genre. I'm just another one.

Cozy Mystery

I hate cozies. Hate, hate, hate 'em. The domestication of murder for the amusement of human housepets rankles severely.

Too bad, because I am custom-made for cozies. I'm a fact reservoir, a detail-noticer, a loveable good-natured eccentric, and when that one little moment comes when violence is threatened? By cozy standards, I am a warrior king. Thankfully, I am also bound and determined to mind my own damned business.

But as all fiction writers know, that just means I'll be dragged into the mystery kicking and screaming against my will. How? The writer's groups. The band. My attempts at breaking into the arts. These all provide interesting points of contact with the world that could fuel a series.

But worst, and most obvious of all?

The missus. She throws herself into the middle of every dramatic situation that comes along because if it interests here, then it's her business, isn't it? And yeah, we do in fact banter amusingly, bicker ceaselessly, and come to one another's rescue on a regular basis.

I really wish I liked cozies, because that series writes itself.

Adventure SF

I'd be good here, but nothing special. I'd fit in all kind of roles. One of the settlers on another planet, a field illustrator in a time travel story, the guy the aliens first contact, all that stuff. Unfortunately, I'm too quirky for the starring role in this stuff. Fine with me, he said huffily, you're all a bunch of dummies anyway. (I'm just bitter because I wanted the male lead in a Stanley G. Weinbaum planetary romance, and the woman has to be the quirky one in those.)

I'm putting this here because of the psychic powers in Known Space, but Larry Niven could get a good alien race out of me.

Hard SF

Similar, but with less scope. I'd be the one who asks the questions the reader wants answered. Maybe if I'd had more study skills when I first tried college...

Quest Fantasy

Again, a tooth-gritter. No really good roles for me. I might be like Beorn from the Hobbit or (oh, I hate this) Tom Bombadil. The good-natured outsider with an uncanny link to the natural world, who provides both a place to rest for the heroes and a vague sense of menace.

Or I'd be an orc, or a troll. Ah, well. It's work.

Heroic Fantasy

God help me, this would be the perfect fit. If you've ever read blurbs describing characters like Conan ("A man of great mirths and great melancholies...") or Kane ("Half-savage, half-savant, with a dash of Satanic seasoning..."), well. Jesus. Have you ever hung out with me?

I even have a knack for swordplay -- when I studied fencing in high school, a number of instructors gave me free lessons, and I kinda got the impression they thought I might go somewhere with it. Too bad money issues ended that.

My main problem with life is that it isn't sword-and-sorcery fiction.


It's been done. I'm The One That I Want by Margaret Cho. My brother Duncan is a major character. I'm the briefly-mentioned bit player who means nothing to the reader but the writer needed to acknowledge. At least I can walk into bookstores and see my name in print.


Well, you should be able to figure this out. I do not have a mainstream life, my life's subject matter has been strongly genre. So I'm stuck in an outlying subplot -- 'Whatever will become of our beloved shining nutjob?' I wind up dead in a lot of these, usually suicide. I blame society.


Do I look like an idiot? Ask me in person. You might want to get some booze in me first.


Okay, three ways to go. In mainstream comics, I'm definitely a Marvel guy -- I'm uneasy with the ideas of good and evil as supernatural forces influencing the world, and there's a lot of that lurking in DC's mythos.

I'd start off as one of those guys who comes across as a villain at first because he's too caught up in his cause. I would guess an endangered species of some kind, probably a reptile. My costume would be one of those ones that looks dorky in a comic, but might be okay on Halloween. First appearance would be written by Don McGregor or Steve Gerber. The Avengers would have second thoughts after beating the shit out of me, eventually I'd lead the team for a brief run, and my unsuccessful limited series would feature me getting made a fool of by a sexy supervillainess in a complete tonal about-face from any prior appearance.

In the movies? Costumed adventurers would be all supervillains initially, carving the world into despotic city states. I'd be a man with nothing to lose, who in a moment of desperation finds that he once had powers, and they've been stolen from him, and he can only get them back by killing the bad guys one at a time. This one is just oodles of fun. I might write it someday.

Independent comics? I'd be a quirky, humorous hero along the lines of the Badger, Flaming Carrot, or maybe an oddly dramatic one like Kevin Matchstick in Mage or Go-Man. The book would be rough during the first few issues when the focus would be on me, but then I'd start taking a back seat in an ensemble piece.

I'd be an unbelievably neurotic hero for hire, whose staff manages to keep him in line enough to be a force for good, mostly, by cuddling, cajoling, badgering, threatening, teasing, and general bullyragging. It would be about the idea that it takes a dozen or so people to actually make one superhero -- or regular human being -- work. This one might get written as well.

Romantic Comedy

An unexpectedly good fit. The difference in appearance between me at my seediest and me at my best totally satisfies the ugly duckling requirement. My general emotional neediness and neuroticism make me a hard but satisfying nut to crack, romantically (the missus has a well-rehearsed performance on this subject), which is good drama. I can provide pratfalls and physical comedy, then turn and provide a strong masculine presence. I am easily flustered and embarrassed and given to blushing, and I have been given the impression that while in that state I am most amusing.

Truth be told? I tend to view my life as a humorous horror story, but it has a strong romantic comedy element as well.


I'm two guys here. The one who raises the monster and is heartbroken when it turns on him just as the story gets going, and the cannibal genius psycho-killer. The first one depresses me, and the second one has been thrown in my face on a regular basis since childhood.

When I read Silence Of The Lambs, I knew it was just a matter of time before someone said I reminded them of Hannibal Lecter, and I was right. It was amusing the first few dozen times it happened, but now when some distant acquaintance comes up to me and says, "I read a book/saw a movie last night, and there was this character who really reminded me of you," I just feel creeped out.


Oh, this is such a natural. There are two main roles for me here. The misunderstood monster, and the shapeshifter slowly devoured by the beast within. I could do a little mad science, if it was required. Maybe bravely allow myself to get killed so the lead could get away.

Situation Comedy

Like romantic comedy or sword and sorcery, a totally natural fit. But while I find it easy to put together something where I'd be the lead, I'm actually more a side-character. I'm the one who periodically sums up the situation in a bafflingly hilarious statement that turns out to be either dead accurate or utterly incomprehensible.

And so on. The fun part of this game is when the rules of the genre force you into a role you may not care for -- or which surprises you with its aptness. Yeah, it's fun and, if you write down what you daydream, do it well, and sell it, it's profitable.

There are times when I wouldn't trade being juvenile for anything in the world.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bone Chips

So I got a shout-out this week from Joe Clifford of (among other things) Lip Service West. He claims to be the last of the angry white male writers, and it's true. He was like three guys ahead of me in line when they ran out of licenses, and ever since then I just haven't been able to pull that shit off. I'm kinda pissed about it, actually.

Joe's been on a roll with his fiction, working smart and hard, and it's been fun watching him build his chops in stories like this and this.

So, as I mentioned before, I'm gonna be reading at Lip Service West on August 12. Save the date; I expect to see you there. It will be my second reading, and I'm looking forward to it.

Part of my pleasure here is stepping outside of genre fiction distinctly. (I am willing to be photographed with genre fiction, but I don't want us to be perceived as having a 'relationship.') But more than anything else, I look forward to the pleasure of terrorizing an audience. There will be a laugh or two; they will be emitted under conditions of great pressure.

I see this as the first story in a three-part sequence to be read as a one-man show. It will be roughly half an hour long, and it will be called Bone Chips: Stories Of Intimate Violence.

The first section will be the piece I'll be performing on the thirteenth. It concerns a beating I received in high school, and what it meant from a racial perspective.

The second will be the first piece I performed. This was based on an excised chapter from the novel, and concerns how being kept at a specific proximity -- not to near and not too far -- from a number of women led me to break one of my knuckles a couple of times.

And the third will be based on an old blog post, about how I developed a sort of wistful romantic nostalgia toward a splash-mark left by a suicide. That one goes a little dark, but it's probably the funniest of the three.

These were all formative experiences for me to one degree or another, and by taking them and using them in this way, I'm pulling some of their teeth. I own them, not the other way around.

Performing made me feel powerful. I felt at home on the stage, and I knew that when I meant the audience to laugh they'd laugh, and when I wanted them to cringe, they'd cringe. To watch people responding to me, moving in their seats, expressions changing to match the story, really feeling it. I sit here and tappety-tap-tap and think, "Yeah, boy, that's gonna get 'em," but writing ain't nothing next to DRIVING THE WORDS DIRECTLY INTO LIVING BRAINS WITH BRUTAL FORCE AND OBSESSIVE PRECISION.

And I want more. I feel that this is a very unseemly desire, but I have it, and I know that it will not diminish with time. I want to see an audience full of people who have come to see me. I need to take steps toward achieving that.

And this may be an unseemly statement, but I have the first requirement down. I got the goods, and I can deliver them. Now all I need to do is find out how to put something like this together, get funding, find a support crew, and then round up a bunch of people who are really into hearing me rant about blood-spattered nihilism. Sex and violence, audience! I've got sex and violence!