Crazy Writing Fool

Over at Urban Drift, there’s a new challenge: to "pull a Moorcock", and write a complete novel in a weekend, starting on February 2 — which just happens to be this Friday. As John Scalzi put it, it’s for those people who think that National Novel-Writing Month is just a tad leisurely, or for wimps. Why "pull a Moorcock"?  Because apparently Michael Moorcock has been known to sit down and do exactly that: write a novel in a two or three day period of time.

I’ve decided that I’m in. So on Friday afternoon, once I get home from work, I’m going to sit down and start writing, and see what happens.  At the moment, I have no idea what I’m going to write about, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens.  I’m wide open to suggestions, too, so here’s the usual appeal: if you give me an idea or a title that I really like, I’ll be happy to use it, and then kill you in the manner of your choosing in the novel.  So let me know.  What do you think?

Duncan Delaney and the Cadillac of Doom

Duncan Delaney and the Cadillac of DoomDuncan Delaney and the Cadillac of Doom by A. L. Haskett
Publication: Jonlin Books (2000), Paperback, 180 pages
Date: 2000
ISBN: 096788330X
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This novel starts when the titular character’s mother encounters her son, her son’s best friend, and her boyfriend involved in what appears to be a bloody, evil murder. After that, things get weird.

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The New Lovecraft Circle (edited by Robert M. Price)

The New Lovecraft CircleThe New Lovecraft Circle
Editor: Robert M. Price
Publication: Del Rey (2004), Edition: Reprint, Paperback
Date: 1996
ISBN: 034544406X
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H. P. Lovecraft’s name is virtually synonymous with American style horror fiction; his writing, particularly his so-called “Cthulhu Mythos”, has influenced fiction authors worldwide, and Lovecraftian elements can be seen in novels, movies, comic books, even cartoons. Batman’s nemesis “The Joker”, for example, is said to be incarcerated at Arkham Asylum; and Arkham was an invention of Lovecraft’s. Many modern horror writers — such as Stephen King, Bentley Little, Joe R. Lansdale, to name just a few — have cited Lovecraft as one of their primary influences.

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Urban Legends: Subversion vs. Radical Conservatism

I attended a panel once about urban legends, where the famous story of Dihydrogen Monoxide was brought up. You probably know the story: a kid gets a bunch of people to sign a petition calling for a ban on “dihydrogen monoxide”, listing all kinds of horrific side effects and dangers of the chemical. Later on it is revealed that the dihydrogen monoxide is nothing but water.

I’m not particularly sure that this really counts as an urban legend, since points to a documented case of this happening. On the other hand, I’ve been hearing this story since I was in high school, so maybe this does count. For the purposes of the panel I was at, it did count as an urban legend.

The panelists asked the audience to consider what, if anything, this particular story might have to reveal about our culture. One of the panelists suggested that it contained a very subversive message; and that message was to distrust science. That message may indeed be there in this story, but is it a subversive one?

Brunvard, in The Vanishing Hitchhiker and elsewhere, suggests that most urban legends have a very morally conservative tone to them. The story of “The Hook”, for example, contains a warning to young people to not go “parking” with their boyfriends or girlfriends. The story of the “Hippie Babysitter” contains a strong warning against taking drugs. So for this story of Dihydrogen Monoxide, I would suggest that the message — not to trust science — is, in fact, a very socially conservative message. Our culture, I think, since the 50’s has become more and more anti-science, particularly after we saw the destruction wreaked upon the world by the atomic bomb, arguably the most visible evidence of scientific advancement. We have also seen the near meltdown at Three Mile Island, massive pollution of our water and air, and so on. I think that this has introduced a backlash against science. And this story seems to reinforce that message: You simply cannot trust scientists, because they don’t even speak English. Furthermore, stories like this seem to suggest that scientists aren’t even interested in communicating with the ordinary American, and might even go out of their way to deliberately confuse and make fun of them.

I think that there is also a religious backlash against science as well. Many people believe that scientific findings contradict the teachings of their faith and, so, undermine their faith. I don’t believe that this is necessarily true, but enough people believe this that there are major movements in the United States to alter science curricula in high schools to eliminate the teaching of evolution.

It seems to me, therefore, that rather than embracing a message of subversive distrust in science, this urban legend actually promulgates a reactionary conservative message of distrust in science.

Inspired by True Events

“Inspired by True Events.” Every time I see this phrase used in promoting some movie or book or television special, I want to laugh. The movie Windtalkers was “inspired by true events”. So was the movie Eight Below, which was apparently about a bunch of sled dogs that survived being abandoned by their owner in the Arctic (or Antarctic — I’ve never seen the film, and I get the impression that Hollywood doesn’t often stress about getting the distinction right anyway).

I think it’s a marvelous phrase, and I’m going to start using it for my own writing. For example, when Jennifer and I went down to my parents’ house to help them decorate their Christmas tree, we all had a conversation about Christmas stories and strange twists on them. Out of that conversation came “Night of the Frozen Elf”. Therefore, “Night of the Frozen Elf” was inspired by a true event — in this case, a conversation I had with my family.

Likewise, I’m declaring that The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster is also inspired by true events. I once knew a guy who had a crush on a girl that didn’t reciprocate his feelings, and from that improbable event sprang the idea for my novel about ancient alien deities and evil geniuses vying for control over the world.

“Inspired by true events”. Couldn’t be any truer.

Horrors Beyond (edited by William Jones)

Horrors BeyondHorrors Beyond
Edited by William Jones
Elder Signs Press, Inc. (2005), Paperback
ISBN: 0975922920 / 9780975922927
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I picked up this book at Dragon*Con 2006 and read it on the airplane. On the whole, the stories are of decent quality; the first few in particular were engaging and very well-written. I particularly enjoyed “One Way Conversation”; I was forced to stop reading this one halfway through because our plane landed in Denver, and I was rushing to our next gate just so I could pick it up again and finish it.

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