The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Archive for June, 2010

Incident At An Overlook

Posted by BigWords on June 25, 2010

by Gary James

The cliffs. Cast in glittering white, now tarnished, the cliffs are where she stands. Alone, and wondering. Lost. Looking out to sea, hoping for the moment. But there is nothing. No answers to her call, no breath of the divine. No salve for the emptiness, no warmth for her soul. She grasps the rail, shoulders hunched, peering over the edge. The drop. Waves rise, fall, surrender to their nature. Erin sighs, fingers tapping. Her ring clanking on the metal rail. Seagulls laugh, flying overhead, tormenting her. Salt air invading her lungs. Standing on the cliffs. Erin, a cipher to herself, mysterious. Who am I?

The sea. Shimmering in repose, it calls to her. Home. Erin leans to it. Fingers stretched on roughly painted metal. Tapping. Clouds roll languidly in the air, playing. Erin still has not found herself. So she waits. Watching the sea, she waits. And beyond, barely visible, is France. A slice of gray resting ghostly on the light blue sea, past the sea, beyond the sea. And of Erin… A bob of black hair framing delicate white skin. Ghostly, sharp features. Beautiful, her mind preoccupied. Tormented. Impatient at the wait. The endless wait. Shifting on her feet, she leans. The railing holds. Erin breathes, and thinks. Who am I?

A ripple runs through her mind, playing at her wants. Not answered, but acknowledged. She has been seen, but she has not been offered tribute. The breeze catching her blouse, the tip of her shoe scratching at the path beneath. Fingers tapping on the metal rail. Impatience. She is Erin, yes, but she is fury. The wait hurts. Cuts. And her anger grows. The sea calls. There are no answers, only questions. Erin wonders. Who am I?

Solitude is broken. Shattered by quick, eager footsteps. A jogger runs the path. Erin watches. Trainers tapping on concrete, the young woman’s stride, the taut strength. Erin straightens, alert. The young woman moves closer. Erin notices the briefest movement in the trees. A man, masked. The jogger is unaware. She is not like Erin. Erin, fingers tightening on the rail, feet flat against the ground, tensed. The sea crashes against the cliff, crying out. Erin watches. Who am I?

The man moving. Nearing the woman. The jogger interrupted, thrown sideways. Erin watches, fingers straining at the metal of the rail. Fury rising. Hair blowing into her eyes. The call of the sea. The man swipes, hitting the jogger. On the ground now. One hand at her shorts. Erin, tensed and ready. The flat of his hand hitting. Erin approaches. Thoughts swirling in her head. Clouds gather in expectation. Eager anticipation. The jogger is struggling. Bleeding. Who am I?

Erin takes the man. Fingers stretching as she savors the act. Erin breathes. Fury rising. She strikes, tearing, ripping. Her anger divine, Erin screams in rage. The sky darkens. The sea calls. Waves whipping in a frenzy. Erin stretches. Flexes. The wait is over. She is Erin, yes, and her mind is clear. And she is savage. Uncontrolled and uncontrollable, Erin continues, gouging, rending and ravaging. Never ending. The horrors she commits shock her. And she wonders. What am I?

Erin’s call is answered. Her calling confirmed. Nerves tingling, rejoicing. The sea flowing her blood, the sky churning in her stomach. Her past flooding in, drowning her. Erin’s sisters, the wars, the neverending pain. Ten thousand years of loss. The defiler sacrificed to her gods. To her friends. His death a kindly act. Erin, satisfied at last, stops. Still hungry. The sea calling to her. Erin, shocked. Horrified. Stepping back from her act, to the rail. To the rail where she has waited. Fingers grasping for steel. Breathing hard. Her head light, Erin balances herself. What am I?

The sea mocks. The jogger, panting, wriggling back from her attack, rises. Turns. Flees as fast as she can. And Erin watches. Aware. Always aware. She knows that her call has been answered. Her soul lightened. And she knows who she is.

She is Erin, yes, and she is fury.

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Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

I Haz BlogType AwardThing – End Of The World Imminent

Posted by BigWords on June 19, 2010

There are, apparently, “rules” I must follow (yes, the dreaded R-word popping up on my blog again) so I’ll put in bold the important stuff. I’m bending the format of this award-thing, but it won’t do any harm. 🙂

Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.

The excellent and entertaining Claire Gillian, who probably should have read all of the previous posts before highlighting the insanity which can be found here as award-worthy, has her post here. Massive thanks for this undeserving blog being mentioned alongside Amanda Plavich, Regan Leigh, Julie Loden, Damien Grintalis et al. Go look at the post in full, and follow Claire on Twitter here. Yes, that is an order.

Onto the next part of the award…

Share seven things about yourself.

Damn. I knew it wouldn’t be so easy… Okay. Seven things about me. For people who have been following this blog for a while, the “revelations” will be old news, so I’m expanding somewhat on each entry. Plus I’ll throw in a couple of things I can’t remember having written about here – I may have made reference to them elsewhere, but it’ll keep this post from being deathly dull.

# 1. I have OCD. Aside from the incessant collecting of books, computer games, DVDs, CDs, odd bits of hardware and other items, there is a running theme of the number four. Multiples of four, and references to the number, crop up everywhere, and even though a lot of the time I know I’m doing things in fours, it also appears unexpectedly in things when I don’t expect it to. It’s one of the reasons why lists show up so often, and why I obsess over the right way to do lists, and associated gathering and distribution of information.

This may be of importance later. Just saying…

# 2. I smoke. A lot. These days, admitting that you smoke is on a par with admitting that you like to eat human flesh, but for centuries it was positively encouraged. The fact that governments make billions of pounds (and probably trillions of dollars in the US) is conveniently overlooked when self-righteous politicians appear on television to say that smoking is bad. By my continued smoking, I am putting money back into the running of my country like a good little citizen. Yay for smoking.

# 3. I like bad movies. Not that films have to be bad for me to enjoy them (Godfather II is one of my all-time favorite films), but I can get as much enjoyment from RoboCop 3 as I can from Solaris or El Topo – I did grow up with a constant stream of Roger Corman, Charles Band and Lew Grade productions feeding my imagination, so the emphasis on plot and storytelling over FX probably enables me to overcome the horrific visuals of certain films.

# 4. I read a lot. Anything. Everything. The lack of distinction between genre and literary (and between genres) means I don’t really care about the barriers which some people manage to raise between books – it’s all good. It’s all equal. The Road, a novel hailed as a literary work, reminds me so much of the seventies Italian post-apocalyptic films that I can enjoy its schlocky elements – it’s a fine book, but it’s a brilliant meta-novelization of all those films. Hate me for that comment if you want, but the blatant inspiration for the novel remains evident.

# 5. I make sketches of all my characters. Even the ones who are never properly described get some form of illustrative work done for them, so I can keep straight in my head who each character is. I also do a lot more background material than anyone should ever contemplate, but it all helps solidify the worlds I try to bring to life. This has been covered in some length here before, but it bears repeating – the more I know about the characters and locations, the more I can deliver with the words I chose.

# 6. I used to smoke a lot of legally questionable stuff. When I say “a lot” I really mean shitloads, and when I say “legally questionable” I mean illegal. It is rare that I tell this story, but seeing as I have this special occasion I might as well tell you about this: Probably eight or nine years ago, with quite a nice buzz already, I thought I had run out of resin. The hopeful part of my brain said no, whilst the logical part decided otherwise. In my bedside drawer I found what I believed to be the remnants of my last bender, and promptly stuck it in the pipe. Big mistake. It was a piece of plastic, and it scratched my throat up for weeks. There’s a damn good reason why people aren’t meant to burn things made of plastic.

On a similar note, I have eaten bread with mold on it. You’ve seen when bread gets the blue stuff? Yeah. I scraped off the blue bits with a knife and coated it in a thick layer of butter and honey. It’s hard to describe the bitter, lingering taste of food which has gone off, but I can tell you this – the taste will stick with you for the better part of a week. Doesn’t matter how many times you brush your teeth, or rinse with mouthwash, the dry and clinging aroma of fouled bread will be with you.

# 7. I couldn’t use my hands for a couple of days as a teenager. Or maybe younger… The specifics are vague, but I got really, really annoyed with a friend, and as I was walking out of his house through the close (an external passageway through the house) I punched out with both my arms. Naturally, balled fists against bricks are no match, and my hands were quite badly bruised up. The lesson in there is probably something to do with not letting anger get the better of you, but I like to think that the lesson is really about using biotech to surpass the frailties we were born with.

Given half the chance, I would *so* opt in for the full Steve Majors upgrade. And, y’know, if anyone has a spare biomod canister lying around… Just saying…

Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason!

So I’m guessing I should at least try and keep to the spirit of the third rule. “Recently discovered” means that I ought to highlight the peeps whom I have only recently discovered. Yeah. So the definition of recently is perhaps being stretched to stretching point with my choices, but I’m playing this my way. To avoid favoritism, I’m not counting any blogs which were mentioned in Claire’s post. That isn’t to say I wouldn’t have picked anyone mentioned alongside me, because I would have. Just playing fair to the folks who haven’t been given a chance, or tormented with this, yet.

1. Benjamin Solah (follow on Twitter)
2. Beth Plus a quick mention of her other blog, because nothing in the rules says I can’t do so.
3. Blake M. Petit (follow on Twitter)
4. Justin Caynon (follow on Twitter)
5. Effie Collins (follow on Twitter)
6. Jamie DeBree (follow on Twitter)
7. Melanie Avila (follow on Twitter)
8. Emily Cross (follow on Twitter)
9. Christopher S. Daley (follow on Twitter)
10 Ralfast There’s also not one, but two other blogs you should check out. (follow on Twitter)
11 Daniel Sos (follow on Twitter)
12 ArachneJericho (follow on Twitter)
13 Scott Williams (follow on Twitter)
14 Nanda O (follow on Twitter)
15 Romi Moondi (follow on Twitter)

Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award.

That’s more of a demand than a proper part of the rules. *sigh* Yeah. Fine. I’ll get right on it.

______________________________

Knowing my luck, I’ve probably screwed up one of the above links, so feel free to bitch and whine at me if you find any errors. I may fix them if you catch me in a good mood. No guarantees though…

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Origins Of A Story, or The Science Of Writing

Posted by BigWords on June 13, 2010

There have been a few writing related posts recently which have addressed various parts of the writing process, though the process of coming up with ideas is rarely – and justifiably – examined in great detail. It’s very difficult to describe the ways things (often completely unrelated) come together to make narrative. Being the type of person who likes to buck trends, I’ll lay out the way in which I came up with one of my current WIPs, for no other reason than I need to keep this blog active or else people will think I have died.

This is a kinda weird post, mainly because I’m attempting to marry two contradictory things together in one idea – the concept that writing (art) can have similar rules to physics (science) if you know what you are looking for. The belief that there is an elaborate set of hidden rules interspersed throughout stories only came about because I was looking for a way to describe how narrative is infused with a life of its’ own. It is, in a roundabout way, the partial answer to the stereotypical question “Where do ideas come from?” As a clear answer would be impossible, I rephrased the question in my head to “Are there analogies to science in writing?” The answer, surprisingly, was a resounding yes. It may sound too complex for words, and possibly contains too little of the former question for some, but it is an interesting thought process which led me here. Lets start with this:

The throwaway character at the beginning of “Dangerous” Calhoun (a superhero story) was meant as a homage to Indiana Jones, though through the Butterfly Effect became a much more important character. As a partial deconstruction of the main superhero tropes, I had set the world around the characters ten years after the outlawing of powered individuals from most of the US (with Nevada – for complicated reasons – the only safe haven left on US soil), so he had to be from elsewhere. Russia seemed a good place to have him come from, and yet, as I was writing, I realized there was an opportunity to tie him closer to the island where most of the action takes place. He was meant to die in the caves honeycombing Bali Ha’i, and through a combination of luck and inspiration I decided to have him eaten to death by tiny translucent spiders (which I had great trouble resisting having come from Mars as a tribute to David Bowie).

Only… It didn’t exactly work out as I had planned. If Calhoun, the hero, had to become involved, then I would need to tie the Russian into his back story. Having the missing Russian be an archeologist didn’t make sense once I tried tying it all in a nice bow. What connection could a superhero have with an archeologist? Much better that he goes in search of the means of his destruction – a xenobiologist. That, at least, gives him a karmic death. It also occurred to me that he needed a very low-level power, merely to remind people that I was playing with the stuff DC and Marvel present as great powers. Thus I decided that he could talk to animals – which makes his murder by the little white spiders all the more horrific, as people will hopefully come to the conclusion that he is listening to their thoughts all the while he is being devoured. By the time I had finished with him, the simple sketch of a Russian archeologist dying in the caves had transformed into a talking skeleton whose musculature and ‘skin’ had become the insects who had eaten him – a living skeleton to act as a guide for the hero to consult on his travels. This had an effect on my eventual choice for the villain as well, but I’ll come to that in a moment.

With the throwaway character now positioned where he can assist the story along better, I needed to explain the spiders. It made the caves too dangerous for my original idea of a standard supervillain’s lair, so by changing one tiny aspect of the story I had to substantially alter everything which came after. The spiders, though cool, were out of place. It made sense to have them somehow belong, so I needed to come up with an answer to the existence of the island. It was originally meant to have been created by a powered character as a “New Atlantis” – the floor of the sea risen by a combination of abilities to create a homeland for the people who were no longer welcome in America. If the spiders were meant to be there, they would need an existing ecosystem, which a newly created piece of land didn’t have. By substantially adding to one (very minor) character’s story, I had broken my story’s logic. The change from “new land from the sea” to “ancient uninhabitable island” came from that – the only characters tough enough to survive there being the very people whose powers made them too dangerous for US soil.

That brings up the other problem. If it’s a harsh environment, then my concept of a “mutant paradise” is screwed. There would be more chance of the dwellings being a shantytown, or ghetto, than anything approaching paradise, so the perception of the inhabitants as a major threat would be diminished enough to make the end – where nuclear missiles fall from the sky onto the island – completely implausible. It was only when I set about justifying the spiders that I realized they were, in every way possible, parasites. It wasn’t just that they had co-opted the body of the man, but their place in the cave had to have some sort of parasitic significance as well, otherwise they would merely be a plot point – and I dislike things cropping up simply for the sake of plot. If they are there, then they need to have a reason to be there. It wasn’t until I connected their actions to that of microbes on the human body that I got my answer – the island had to be “alive” in some way.

Ignoring how dumb a sentient island is for a moment – and I’m not going to even bother explaining Ego or Mogo to non-comic-readers – I needed something less stupid. Hence having the island be merely the shell of a Gamera-type cosmic horror. This would explain away the spiders in a more logical way, and move the end of the story away from man-made destruction to the birth of a greater threat. Having though that through, no longer was the idea of an intelligent, cultured villain whose super-powered apartheid goal relevant – I needed a more substantial menace to balance the increased danger of the island. A character whose life wouldn’t be threatened by the horrors lurking in the caves beneath the island meant that a more substantial power than strong suggestion was needed – and telepaths are overplayed in superhero fiction anyway. It soon became clear that there was a way to mock X-3‘s inclusion of Madrox at the same time as filling out the population of the island.

I had stated there were 1,696 powered individuals in existence (a nod to Soon I Will Be Invincible) after the Power Wars, so a substantial proportion of them would have ended up on the island, but that isn’t many people at all. A few small villages near me have more people that that, and they look so unimpressive as to be immediately forgettable. The changes I had made to the nature of the island – a “fix” for a minor character, remember – had meant that I needed to create another fix for the number of people on the island, a place too dangerous for normal people to live. Having dismissed most of the original text for reasons of credibility, I was now back to blank pages again. Thankfully I had the insight to watch the third X-Men film whilst in the middle of rewriting the scenes where Calhoun needed to face off against the villain, and a self-replicating enemy seemed too good to pass up.

Butchering an SF film script I wrote a few years ago, I took the enemy out of that story and dropped him onto Bali Ha’i as a more formidable foe – altering the basic Midwich Cuckoo variance to accommodate the new horror tone. Not only does the character replicate itself by touching others (overwriting people’s minds to act as an extended being), he now loses some functionality each time he does so. As the villain takes over more bodies, he loses a little more critical reasoning each time he does so – eventually becoming more animalistic as his consciousness is spread over thousands of individuals. It also acted as a neat analogy to the spiders earlier in the story. As an aside, it should be noted that for every minor alteration to the story, at least a dozen things had to be changed to fit the changes.

I’m not sure if this is an example of The Butterfly Effect, or if it comes under Newton’s third law. Whatever the science behind the rewriting process is, it is a pain in the ass when it is so complete as to turn one story into something else entirely.

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