The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘blog-chain’

AW Blog Chain – Fire And Ice

Posted by BigWords on August 23, 2012

This blog hasn’t been updated in a while (though you don’t need me to tell you that), and I thought that getting back into the swing of things was a good idea. Even better, using the blog chain gives me ample reason for mass linkage to some of the awesome blogs out there – and you really want to start clicking on these linkies if you haven’t visited the blogs before. So… linkage first, madness second.

orion_mk3 – http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com (link to this month’s post)
Ralph Pines – http://ralfast.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)
areteus – http://lurkingmusings.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)
Catherine Hall – http://theelephantinthetemple.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
bmadsen – http://www.bernardmadsen.com/ (link to this month’s post)
pyrosama – http://matrix-hole.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
meowzbark – http://erlessard.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)
BBBurke – http://www.awritersprogression.com/ (link to this month’s post)
writingismypassion – http://charityfaye.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
wonderactivist – http://luciesmoker.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)
SuzanneSeese – http://viewofsue.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
randi.lee – http://emotionalnovel.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
Proach – http://desstories.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post)
magicmint – http://www.loneswing.com/ (link to this month’s post)
tomspy77 – http://thomaswillamspychalski.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post)

The prompt for the blog chain is “Fire and Ice”.

Image by Frank Frazetta. Go buy some of his paintings.

CONTENT WARNING – PROFANITY AHOY.

Fire and ice are at opposite ends of the thermal spectrum, and so aren’t linked by many things. Except volcanoes. Yup. You read that right – freaking awesome volcanoes at that. Sometimes it seems that the universe looks at our laws of physics and says “Fuck that, check this out” and does something outlandish. Not that, y’know, we should be surprised or anything, given that reality has already laid the smack-down on our understanding of life on our own planet. As a voracious reader, such things crop up surprisingly rarely in fiction because… Well, you simply wouldn’t accept being told about ice volcanoes, would you? It would be like those Kemlo books where the brat could breathe in space and had awesome adventures just because. Looking at the differences between fire and ice also brings up another question you are probably not going to give a damn about, but which gave me an unbelievable boner when I discovered it – you most likely know about absolute zero (−273.15°C), but you probably didn’t know that there’s an equivalent for fire as well. Unfortunately, some genius thought that “absolute heat” sounded good enough a name for this limit (where reality loses its shit and starts to break down), so scientists are forevermore doomed to say something which sounds like a bad eighties action film whenever they talk about this phenomenon.

Aren’t you glad I skipped over Gliese 436 to bring you all this other stuff?

There are a lot of myths about both fire and ice which are as fascinating for me as anything that reality throws at us – the phoenix, rising from the flames is an image not easily forgotten, and places such as Niflheimr (literally a land of ice) are as potent as any Greek He-Man wannabe. I spent rather too long a while back hunting down the origins of a rather more modern myth, concerning a Russian submarine which picked up a “corpse” on a chunk of ice only to find that the body (when defrosted) wasn’t as dead as imagined. The various tellings differ slightly, though the impossibilities of the repeated information make me think that somewhere along the line someone was having waaay too much fun propagating this piece of cold war nonsense – the life span of an iceberg isn’t that long, and to believe that the woman was recovered in 1988 and nobody has spoken about being on the sub which pulled her in beggars even the most credulous mind.

Those of you who know of my slightly (snerk) obsessive nature will no doubt be wondering when I’m gonna break out the inevitable reference to Fire and Ice from the Justice league, but… that would be too easy. And boring. Lets try something a little more highbrow.

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Browning, 1920.

It is interesting that fire is linked to hate there. Written before the horrors of World War II, he couldn’t have imagined just how potent it would become for future generations. The notion of repeated apocalypses – apocalii? – has been a staple of myth for probably as long as there have been people. the Hopi believed that there have been three apocalypse events already. Handily, they occurred in the order of fire, ice, then the flood… I find this endlessly fascinating. Firstly, how the hell did they work all this out, and (more importantly) how did they come to that order? it fits with the scientific knowledge that a planet smashed into the earth, turning the surface into a molten goo. Then the massive ice ages (of which we are currently in the middle of a rather minor one), and… Hell, they nailed the fact that the last major ice age was followed by flooding when the sheets of ice covering giant chunks of the planet thawed. It is eerie. And that’s before we get into what the Mayans came up with, in between games of soccer with the heads of their enemies. It seems that no matter where you turn, there is another apocalyptic myth which begs investigation.

For everyone who knows anything about the universe, this is gonna be boring as hell, but for those of you who didn’t pay attention in school, it is important – there are currently two ways the universe is going to end. Go on – take a wild guess as to what those two ways are… Yup. Fire and ice. Again. Shit, it is almost as if the universe likes deliberately messing with us. Either everything spreads out to the extent that the skies will turn dark, and the end comes in a slow, freezing nothingness, or the universe pulls back on itself like a giant rubber band and contracts into a fiery point of everything, where the next universe will be born from a big bang. Like hitting reboot on your computer, though without any of the information being saved. Kind of a bummer. And don’t fret – mankind will be long, long gone by that point. Oooh – we might all be ghosts, watching as the shit hits the fan. That would actually be kinda awesome.

Aaaand that’s as far as I thought ahead for this. I suck, I know. I’ll leave you with a suitable song.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are wondering how the hell I got through this entire post without mentioning George R.R. Martin, then join the club.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Dusk At The Diner

Posted by BigWords on September 9, 2011

This post is part of the September 2011 Blog Chain at Absolute Write, wherein the challenge is to respond to a picture. In this instance, Edward Hopper’s seminal piece of Americana, the 1942 composition “Nighthawks”. Even if you haven’t seen the original before, you’ve probably seen the image in other media.

It was great fun watching the strands of the narrative come together last month, so this post follows on directly from the first post in the chain, so head over and read that first. I was conscious of the era and setting when putting this together, so some of the references may be more oblique than I would normally throw into something like this.

Acknowledging the historical events of 1941, while writing something which is (hopefully) entertaining to read, was harder than I expected, though weaving in enough for the following participants to play with was quite entertaining. I guess, if anything, you can explain this away as another episode in my Wold Newton obsession.

Dusk At The Diner – Part II

I

Allison tapped her foot nervously as a police car drove slowly past the diner. “Max, another coffee over here.”
“Sure thing, ma’am,” came the reply from behind the counter.
“That’s a mighty fine ring you are wearing,” Charlie remarked, almost offhandedly, as he slid his hat off the counter and clutched it in his lap. “It’s not often you see something like that hereabouts.”
“It was a gift.”
“I’m sure. Looks a lot like the kind Sala and her air pirates wore.”
“How did you-”
“Seems that throwing your lot in with the commies isn’t your worst sin. And what, precisely, is your interest in the book? Don’t tell me you’re another Aristide Torchia obsessive?”
“You seem to be clutching that hat awfully tight. A girl might think you’re using it to hide your interest.”
“And you’re changing the subject.”
Max placed a fresh coffee in front of Allison, nodding to Charlie before moving to the back of the diner.
“The book is important to an old friend.”
“This old friend wouldn’t happen to be named Strack by any chance?” Charlie asked.
“Eddie Valentine, actually.”
“Well, lady, you sure know how to make friends with all the wrong people.”
“Strange times make for strange bedfellows.”

II

Max raised the knife and plunged it into the slab of meat, levering the blade and slicing it in two. Separating the flesh from the bone was not as difficult as he had imagined, and, once he had removed the head and hands, the trembling voice in the back of his head had stopped questioning. He could get away with this if he was careful, and mixed in just enough of the regular meat so as not to affect the taste of the burgers.
“Hiya, Max.”
Spinning on the spot, the knife still held in his hand, Max looked for the speaker.
“You did a nice job there. Probably better than you expected.”
“Who is that? Who’s there?”
“C’mon, you can’t tell me you’ve never read Edgar Allan Poe? The Telltale Heart? Ba-doom, ba-doom, ba-doom.”
“This ain’t funny, whoever you are.”
From the shadows stepped the last man Max expected to see – the man he had spent the last three hours cutting into pieces…

III

Vince stared into the large window of the diner, and paled as he saw his reflection. The last week had been hard, and it was now showing in how gaunt and weary he appeared. From somewhere east of him, the police sirens which intermittently cut through the night began again. Another guy in a gray hat was probably being questioned about the killing two towns over – the only consolation he had was that the eyewitness accounts were so vague. It would be impossible to convict a man on the color of his hat alone.
Jingling the loose change in his pocket, he decided that the safest place to be was off the street. If that meant he had to spend his last remaining money on a warm cup of coffee and a meal, then that was what he had to do.

Check out this month’s other bloggers, all of whom have posted or will post their own responses:
orion_mk3 – (link to this month’s post)
BigWords – you are here.
robeiae (link to this month’s post)
pezie
Ralph Pines
Cath
AbielleRose
Darkshore
dolores haze
Alynza
pyrosama

Posted in Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

AW Blog Chain

Posted by BigWords on August 9, 2011

Participants and posts:
Story beginning
orion_mk3 (link to this month’s post)
BigWords – you are here
AbielleRose (link to this month’s post)
Ralph Pines (link to this month’s post)
hillaryjacques (link to this month’s post)
Darkshore (link to this month’s post)
pyrosama (link to this month’s post)
Diana_Rajchel (link to this month’s post)
Inkstrokes (link to this month’s post)
soullesshuman (link to this month’s post)
Alyzna (link to this month’s post)
Cath (link to this month’s post)
dolores haze (link to this month’s post)
Alpha Echo (link to this month’s post)
pezie (link to this month’s post)
Finale Part 1
Finale Part 2
Finale Part 3

This month the plan is to feature a song in the story, plus continue each entry on from the last (I cheated somewhat, using two songs for my split story, but I’m guessing most peeps will use one), and it seems to be generating a lot of story ideas thus far. It’s the kind of idea which really amuses me – especially given who is next up in the chain. So, without spending more time waffling, here is the entry…

In the chalet closest to the beach, Allison was waving her hand back and forth in the water slowly filling her bathtub. She glanced halfheartedly at the clock on the wall, noting that it was only six, before rising and moving to her bed. This had been in the planning stages for months, and now that she was so close to carrying out her plan, the ragged edges of doubt were beginning to wear on her – things were not meant to be so easy. There should have been something to fight against, but the universe seemed to be folding around her, urging her onwards…

Allison lifted each item out of her bag and placed it on a towel on her bed in turn – iPod, speaker dock, scissors… She looked at the scissors with apprehension for the first time. Is this going to hurt? Am I going to go to hell? She quickly placed the iPod into the speaker dock and selected the first song, before picking up the scissors and making her way back into the bathroom. As Allison slipped into the bath, brandishing the scissors tightly in her hands, her mind raced to thoughts of the time before the resort had sprawled to its’ current size and scope. Here she would find out – once and for all time – what lay on the other side.

On the beach, a six year old girl stared blankly into the sea as she felt the soft sand squelch through her toes.
At the bar, Mr. Garretson was knocking back his eighth pint, bemoaning the lack of “pretty skirt” to amuse his sensibilities.
In the manager’s office, an envelope sat on Eddie’s desk – bulging in the middle; its’ nightmarish contents intended to frighten him off the island. The owner of the finger in the package was, at that moment, nowhere to be seen.
Chris was steadying himself with a drink in his room, anticipating his rendezvous, as the clock struck five past the hour.

Life goes on in a large resort no matter what happens, but there were forces at work which did not care a jot for the tick-tock regularity; intent, as they were, on as much disruption as possible in the shortest span of time. Shadows shifting across the walls of life, seeking fulfillment amongst the crowds of faceless, nameless people. They needed to feel what they had once felt in the time before the resort… They longed for the weightlessness, the freedom they once had…

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 18 Comments »

AW Blog Chain – Mini Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

Posted by BigWords on July 9, 2011

This month’s AW Blog Chain is entitled “The Mini Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest” and, in the spirit of the great man (no laughing, please) we are obliged to provide the most overwrought, turgid, purple or just plain bad writing. Don’t worry, this is merely one of those “first line” challenges, so it won’t take up too much of your time. I went into this imagining that it would be a relatively quick bit of business to churn out something awful (hell, I write awful prose all the time), and as you’re probably wondering just how hard it it to write something deliberately badly…

In the early Tyburn evening, and under her light muslin veil, Mme. Vendredi – honored envoy of the court of von Bismarck – could almost have passed for beautiful, were it not for the pallor of the grave which hung around her.

Man, this is harder than it looks… Okay, so cod-Victoriana was probably the wrong choice to try, given that overblown hyperbole was practically invented for Victorian writers to play with. How about hokey space opera?

The Celestial Wanderer, flagship of the Covenant Of Worlds, had cowered in the Newt Nebula for three solar days before Captain Washington laid down the order to emerge, the cosmic war cannons readied for engagement.

Dammit. Still not hokey enough for the requirements of this challenge. Onto hard boiled, methinks…

The dame with the dirty blonde hair leaned forward and exhaled a mouthful of smoke in coiling whisps as tangled as the case,  her cigarette hanging limply on her lower lip.

Bad enough yet? Sigh. Probably not. The others playing in this months AW chain are as below; go give them some love. Maybe they’ll be better at manipulating their first sentences into a more suitable form for the sake of this (friendly) competition.

orion_mk3
AuburnAssassin
dolores haze
xcomplex
Proach
Ralph Pines
BigWords
jkellerford
Euclid
Diana Rajchel

Posted in Misc., writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 22 Comments »

AW Musical Chairs Blogfest

Posted by BigWords on January 7, 2011

Week One (January 7th)

Regan Leigh’s blog, and her entry: Untitled (Horror)
Gary (you’re here), and my entry: The Lake Of Hope And Sorrow (Romance)
Claire Gillian’s blog, and her entry: Call Of Duty — Mom Ops (Comedy)
Amanda’s blog
Grady Hendrix’s blog, and his entry: The Three Cases Of Almanac Jones

Week Two (January 14th)

Diane (Dolores) Dooley’s blog. and her entry: The Morrigan (Urban Fantasy)
Ben Bradley’s blog
J. (Agnyl78) Elyzabeth’s blog, and her entry: One Night (Erotica)
[there are two blogs linked, so click through to both of her blogs]
Jamie’s blog, and her entry: The Bully (YA Fiction)
Cole’s blog, and his entry: The Bunker (erotica)
Scarlett’s blog
Hillary’s blog, and her entry: Winter Wool (Contemporary Lit)

Week Three (January 21st)

Julia (IdiotsRUs) Knight’s blog
Janine’s blog
Aheila’s blog
Jhuk’s blog [not participating this month, but check out her blog regardless]
Mike’s blog; and his entry: High Scaler (Historical Fiction)
C. Scott Morris’s blog, and his entry: Untitled (Children’s Lit)

Week Four (January 28th)

Sianshan’s blog
Ralph Pines’ blog
Rob (rmgil04) G’s blog
Proach’s blog
Regypsy’s blog
LadyCat’s blog

The Lake Of Hope And Sorrow
by Gary James

I

Kerilyn brushed an errant strand of russet hair from her brow as she attempted (valiantly, though with decreasing chance of success) to ignore the man strolling towards her. Taking her time, she nudged her sunglasses up to cover her eyes, hoping that he would walk on with neither comment nor attention paid to her. Ten minutes was all she asked for. Ten minutes of peace and quiet, where she could immerse herself in thoughts of nothing but the ripples expanding across the surface of the lake, watching as they spread out to touch the shore from the smallest of touches. Such precious moments of tranquility had to be taken full advantage of, for their rare beneficial properties eased complex torments which she barely understood. Pulling her jacket tighter around her, despite the heat, Kerilyn could sense the man moving closer. His steady gait, his confidence, splashed jagged waves through the peace she so craved.

“Hi there.”
She turned to face him, letting him stare at his own reflection in her mirrored glasses. Opening her mouth to respond to him, she caught herself. The lake. She turned from his gaze, sighing. “I come here for peace and quiet, not so that I can be chatted up.” Saying more to him would only encourage further dialog.
“Sorry, it’s just-” he paused. The sounds of water splashing against the pathway engrossed Kerilyn’s attention, and he flustered a word twice before he could continue. “I saw you here. The other day, I mean. You looked so lonely that I thought you might want someone to talk to. Perhaps..”
Kerilyn counted her breaths from the fading of his words, and, when it seemed he would refrain from his attentiveness, breathed deeply in the smell of freshly cut grass. As sunlight tingled on her skin, she reflected on the fading embers of his concern for her.
Without speaking, he nodded and walked on.

Kerilyn stood for a moment, caught in the ever-changing lightshow dancing across the surface of the lake, then turned to see if the man had gone. Hands thrust into the pockets of her jacket, she began to make her way out of the park.

II

As she approached the park the next day, one hand idly brushing against the railings, she reflected upon the encounter. Hoping that the man would not be there, Kerilyn swung open the gate and entered. The trees crowding the side of the footpath provided some shade, allowing sunlight to dapper through in streaks of light before her, guiding her to the place where she could lose herself in contemplation. For a moment, as leaves rustled in the wake of birds taking flight, she felt the burning intrusion again. Angered at her response, when silence was all she should have offered, she determined that she would not speak to him again. Closing on the water – her space – she saw him. Sitting halfway around the circumference of the lake, cross-legged with one arm draped along the back of the bench, he watched her as she walked.

Biting the inside of her cheek, Kerilyn took to her usual spot at the edge of the lake, resisting the temptation to look over to her unwanted companion. Water lapped against the banks in soothing waves. Controlling her breathing, concentrating on the serene center of her being, she glanced at the bench to see if he was still there. He wasn’t. His approach, as before, was one which was as measured and relaxed as she had ever seen. Too flustered to deal with another round of his attentions, she moved to leave, though the call of the water held her in place long enough for him to arrive, unbidden. Almost without effort, he seemed to bring out in her something near anger.

“Hi there, mysterious lady.”
She glared at him from above the rim of her sunglasses, unamused. “I thought I made it clear that I was in no need of company.”
“It doesn’t hurt to try my luck.”
He remained silent for a moment, hoping, perhaps, for witty repartee. Kerilyn did her best to disappoint him in all regards.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, then. Take care.” With a nod of the head he departed.

III

Stepping into the park, aware that the man would likely be there for the third day in a row, Kerilyn tried to push thoughts of his disruptions into her routine from her thoughts. Almost immediately as she passed the threshold from the city to the greenery, with footsteps muffled by the grass underfoot, he announced his presence.
“Well, fancy bumping into you out here.”
Kerilyn took off her sunglasses and faced him. “There’s such a thing as stalking, y’know.”
“Me? I’m hardly a stalker. We just happen to frequent the same location at roughly the same time. I didn’t even know you took this path into the park.”
No, Kerilyn thought. I don’t usually come this way, but I did so today specifically to avoid you. As she began walking again, she made a mental note to avoid the park for a few days. Just long enough for the lovesick puppy to find a new playmate.
“Don’t you ever get lonely, standing out at the lake by yourself?” He matched her pace, slipping into his well-worn nice guy routine once more.

Kerilyn sighed, lowering her gaze. “What do you want?”
“I see a pretty woman standing by the edge of a lake, all on her lonesome, I get to wondering why she is all alone.” He let out a small, though warm, laugh. “You looked so sad, out here by yourself. I thought that a friendly face, and someone willing to listen, would be good for you.”
Staring at him from behind her protective lenses, aware that her shield of indifference had been dented, Kerilyn replaced her sunglasses. “If you must know, I go to the lake to remember.”
“Must be an awful good memory for you to spend so much time here.”
“Someone-” She thought for a moment how best to phrase the thoughts drifting through her mind. “Someone I know died on- died in the lake.”

IV

Standing at the main entrance to the park, Keri pondered how two weeks of brief companionship had changed her expectations of the park, and how it had ceased to loom so large on her mind. There were still nights where she would awaken in a cold sweat, but the darkness had lifted. As Lucas wandered up to her smiling – always smiling, she thought – it felt natural to smile.
“And we meet again.” He gazed into her eyes, “Brown. Your eyes are brown. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you without your sunglasses.”
Her hand reached up to her face. “I must have left them at work.”
“Other things on your mind, huh?”
Keri smiled. “Don’t you go getting the wrong impression.”
“And a smile as well. Today is bringing all kinds of firsts.”

Lucas raised a hand to Keri’s cheek, and she could feel a blush blooming under his touch. “I have a surprise for you, but you’re going to have to trust me.”
“Trust you? I barely know you.”
“Well, there’s plenty of people around, and it’s not as if you don’t know me.”
“And what is it that I have to trust you about?”
“You’ll see. First though…” He reached into his pocket, removing a long piece of cloth, “You’re going to have to wear this?”
“A blindfold? Seriously? You haven’t gone and bought me a pony have you? I made that wish when I was eight, and I’ve since learned that they aren’t the delightful, sweet-smelling creatures I once imagined them to be.”
“Not a pony. Put on the blindfold, and you’ll find out soon enough.”

V

Walking hand-in hand, Keri felt increasingly self-conscious at the heat of Lucas’ grasp. “I can hear the water. Are we near the lake?”
“We’re nearly there. Just a few more steps.” Lucas moved behind her, moving Keri into position with his hands on her waist. “Are you ready?”
The blindfold slipped from her face, and Keri found herself staring at a small wooden rowboat, two oars laid across the stern. Her gasp of shock at a reminder of the worst day of her life did not seem to register with Lucas.
“I can’t.” She pulled from Lucas, “I can’t go back on the water.”
“No. Maybe not today. But when you are ready, and whenever you want, this will be here. For you.”
Kero looked into Lucas’ eyes, only barely aware she was speaking. “Thank you.”
She knew that one day, maybe not soon, but eventually, she would go with Lucas to the center of the lake in that vessel.

Posted in Misc., writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 23 Comments »

Who Is The Villain Of The Story Anyway?

Posted by BigWords on July 14, 2009

The AW Blog Chain is about writing this month, so I’m playing along. The topic I have been handed by DniC (I swear I didn’t set this up) is

To BigWords (he’s got the whole special effects thing with his words too…big budget people…), here’s my question:

“What makes your favorite villain memorable?”

It’s an old trick, focusing on the darker side of the moral landscape, but writing about the villain is deeper than merely window-dressing. When I consider the great villains I come back to three characters above all else; three villains who have shaped my understanding of what can be achieved when a writer sets out to demonstrate the lengths an individual will go to when they are desperate. Remember when I said I didn’t play well with others? That’s why I get to cheat, and that is why I’m picking three characters.

Frankenstein.

If you haven’t read Frankenstein, you would be forgiven for thinking that I refer to The Monster. No. Quite the opposite in fact. I’m referring to Victor Frankenstein, whose creation of the creature is the cause of all his problems. My reading of the narrative may jar with your own experiences of the story, but I stand by the fact that Victor is the villain of the book. Not only is he the villain, but he is also arguably the first character I read who was to be completely overwhelmed by his own actions rather than by outside forces. He is the cause of his own destruction, and ignorant to the end.

I always get a kick re-reading the book, knowing that everyone else focuses so much attention on the Monster, and the subtle anarchy present in Victor’s character goes unnoticed. He has a full back-story given over to the ways in which he is set apart from the rest of society around him: He reads banned texts, performs diabolical experiments, engages in the life of a common grave-robber… And yet he is seen to be the victim. That is a bloody good trick. The way in which he has been presented in other media continues the ‘Oh, woe is me’ portrait of a man out of his depth. Not so.

There have been other, and arguably better, villains who have managed to gain the sympathy of readers, but I set Frankenstein apart for two reasons. One: He’s so blinkered to the outcome of any action that his work is paramount. That particular mindset, expanded to the degree of “the insane scientist” has been explored endlessly, and we have Mary Shelley to thank for the trope. It is a character touchstone that lives on in science fiction to this day. Secondly, there is the book’s ending. Nobody from the main story gets away untouched by the hand of death. Try selling that to sequel-conscious publisher today…

There is nothing better than a villain who believes himself to be hard done by. Frankenstein is the beginning of the deluded antagonist trope, and his place in the Halls of Evil is guaranteed by one act. One single moment of horror and vile madness. When he agrees to create a bride for the original, and tragically intelligent, Monster, he signs over his soul as surely as if he were Faustus. It is a pact that will bring the world around him crashing down. That is his defining moment, and the reason I am giving him the top spot here.

Frankenstein is my tortured villain.

Jack The Ripper.

I’m using the real-life murderer here because of the numerous fictionalized accounts. It really doesn’t matter if it was one or more individuals, what matters is the creation of three threads which run through the core of modern fiction. Most fiction (novels, film, television…) rely almost as heavily on random and unpredictable incidents as they do on carefully staged ones. It would have been unthinkable for Hitchcock to kill off Marion Crane midway through Psycho if Jack had not carried out his senseless attacks in the 1880s. It speaks to a modern audience of more relevant concerns as well. Terrorism has replaced a knife-wielding butcher, but unpredictability remains a constant.

He was also the first acknowledged serial killer, which has proven a deep source of raw material for authors and filmmakers alike. Sawney Bean may have the precedent, but Jack had the press. I have been fascinated by the case for as long as I can remember and, the constant stream of books and television theories aside, he has remained as elusive as his Spring-Heeled namesake. I have the nagging feeling that without such a vicious and unpredictable killer to draw inspiration from, films such as Se7en and Silence Of The Lambs (moreso than the Thomas Harris novel of the same name) would not have fared so well.

The third reason I give for his inclusion on this list is the abrupt nature by which the killings ended. It has been the source of many conspiracy theories over the years, and ties in to a deep-seated distrust of the information parceled out by those-whose-words-we-must-trust. Conspiracy theories wouldn’t reach their golden age until Kennedy’s assassination, but it was in the back-streets of the East End of London where they were truly born.

Jack is still with us. He is still around, albeit in different guises. He is the Silent Killer who stalks pretty girls in Scream, whose measured pace permeates the  Halloween films, and whose name, when spoken five times into a mirror, still carries a dread disturbance. I like my villains to stand apart from the crowd. Fu Manchu could easily be any number of oriental criminal masterminds, Klingons are interchangeable, the alien menaces of the fifties had a sameness to them… Jack was a nightmare brought to life, whose craft was murder. He was the original psychopath.

Jack is my nightmare villain.

Lex Luthor.

Appearing in comic books, radio serials, television, film and novels, the Machiavellian antics of Lex Luthor are textbook villainy, though the rationale behind his actions is impeccable. He wants to keep Earth safe, so the alien intruder who has arrived in Metropolis must be stopped at all costs. It is a bit deeper than that, with a simmering resentment of the newcomer’s abilities, a desire for Lois Lane and a lust for power matched only by his temper. He is a personality that cries out for counseling.

I came to the character late, around the time the DC Comics universe was being reshuffled and reorganized into a singular entity. The pre-Crisis version of the character, who was very different, never appealed to me. I couldn’t get into the mindset where I completely believed in Gene Hackman’s performance in the first film either, and had serious questions about the stability of a person willing to kill millions for what was essentially a land swindle. It wasn’t the character I had been reading in the funny pages.

The Lex Luthor from the comics, whose whiter-than-Mark Twain’s-white suits and oversized Cuban cigars instantly set him apart from the garishly-dressed “supervillains”, is a character who I could imagine existing. He breathes through the pens of the writers and artists who have chronicled his journey. But his defining moment? The reason he is so memorable? It’s a purely character-driven moment from a back-up story which guarantees his place on my top three.

The basic plot had him stopping off in a diner and offering a waitress a job. He tells her he will wait for (I think) fifteen minutes, then goes and sits in his car. Of course, being the villain of the story, he gets his driver to take off after ten minutes, and the poor waitress realizes she has missed her big chance at getting a better life. I like the malice in his actions combined with such sincerity in all other aspects of his being. That is the mark of a great villain – someone who can achieve a degree of fascination in the reader while he is being a complete bastard.

He may have been killed off, mangled into a mock-Aussie for a while, written as a megalomaniac dictator and treated as if he were any other villain, but for one shining moment, for one brief short story, he was the most magnificent and thoroughly corrupt villain in comics.

Lex is my sophisticated villain.

Those three characters, disturbing as my adoration may have been, are where I gain inspiration for my own villains. Without those essence-of-evil archetypes, whose influences are felt across the spectrum of media, I would be at a loss. The villains are as important – and in many cases more important– than the heroes. The square jaws and muscular physiques of the standard Hero fall short for me, seemingly poorly equipped to deal with true evil. Fiction dictates that we must have heroes – I say that we need villains. “Our enemies define us” is a common trope, and for very good reasons.

I’ve trudged through this at quite some length, more than the subject possibly deserved, but the question hit a nerve that jingled just right when it was nudged. I’ll let this subject sit for a while, maybe (perhaps) think further on about what villainy means…

…beffore setting out on my conquest to ensnare all of humanity under my tyrannical grip. Jeez, did I think that, or did I actually type it out?

Before I go any further with the villain-love, I ought to set a Q for Fokker.

Do you believe novels have the power to change the way we view the world, or is that the role of non-fiction?

Here are all the writers participating in this loop-the-loop of blogging. I strongly suggest that you take a look at their blogs…

DniC http://four-lettered-words.blogspot.com/

Fokker Aeroplanbau http://rightfarright.blogspot.com/

harri3tspy http://spynotes.wordpress.com

razibahmed http://www.blogging37.com/

Forbidden Snowflake http://www.alleslinks.com

bsolah http://www.benjaminsolah.com/blog/

jen.nifer http://www.liveimust.com/blog

Lady Cat http://www.randomwriterlythoughts.blogspot.com

Fame<.Infamy http://ambiguousvindication.wordpress.com/

rosemerry http://lyratorres.blogspot.com/

aimeelaine http://www.aimeelaine.com/

Proach http://desinfocenter.blogspot.com

Apelle http://blog.adinapelle.com/

lostwonderer5 http://www.lostwanderer5.blogspot.com/

upsidedowngirl http://upsidedowngrlwrites.wordpress.com/

JamieMT http://thevarietypages.blogspot.com

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A Blog-Chain Isn’t An Excuse For Herd Mentality

Posted by BigWords on July 1, 2009

The funny (i.e. strange) thing about writing, which may not apply to everyone, is the convergence of ideas at certain times. Sometimes there will be a whole bunch of books about savage barbarians in a futuristic setting, or vampire detectives, or whatthefuckever… I don’t care about the specifics for the purposes of this post, and I’m just using those examples because they are widely-used tropes. The nature of these bottle-necked ideas (or at the very least, the seeming rationale) is one of opportunity – if so-and-so is popular, then X will be popular as well. It is more complicated than that, due to the length of time a novel remains in gestation, but sometimes you will find twenty or so books of a similar nature hitting the shelves together, all containing a basic idea.

The hardest part of writing is remaining outside of the herd mentality as often as possible, throwing the occasional literary hand grenade across your fellow authors heads. Original ideas are, sadly, too often little more than variations on a theme – how many times (answer honestly) can you read about a melancholy vampire who must save the world? Four times? Eight? Maybe you have more patience than I, but the books which don’t grab me immediately are the ones I have the hardest time returning to. I have yet to read the full back catalogue of Angel novels due to the similarities I find with other works.

Blogging – in my case – is primarily a safety valve for the crazy to be released in an orderly fashion, lest it explode in other arenas. It is a personal, and very complex, set of thought processes which map out a path through both hemispheres of my brain, often fighting the analytical need for lists, definitions and the number 4. I would have a hard time following where all the other blogs are going, yet some people are willing to take their cue from a fellow blogger and run with an idea. The AW blog-chain has shown me that the ability to use another writer’s idea is possible, but I still doubt that I would ever be able to play in another person’s sandbox for long…

Consider these blog posts for a moment:

Fokker Aeroplanbau – I’m Always Right: Blog Chain
Rosemerry – Beyond Tourism: Two Hurricanes

It’s the same instruments, but a completely different tune. I know (absolutely, for a fact, one hundred percent) that I couldn’t have played along. The not-a-theme theme could have gone a million different ways, but the end result was one of concern for the world we live in. The writers involved played the tune they needed to play, adding to the ideas of the person before them in the chain, creating a multiple-perspective analysis. It’s really astonishing that everyone adapted so well and managed to avoid following group dynamics, and I have enjoyed reading their viewpoints, but it begs the question:
What could I have added?

Lets play along for a moment, pretending that I might have played nice with others on this. So, here goes:

Humanity is fucked. Face it, if we don’t drop a nuke, then we’re gonna be hit by a pandemic which wipes mankind off the face of the planet. We might face a meteor in the not-too-distant future, so why worry if sea-levels rise? Who cares about famine, when-

No. It doesn’t work, even when I try to follow the threads running through other AWers ideas, I’m not cut out for the chaining of ideas. I like tangents, and the unexpected places I find myself when I give in to the rush of ideas. I like the danger of not knowing how the next paragraph will come out, and being just as surprised as everyone else when an unusual or downright contrary thought manages to wrap itself into a coherent whole. There are a few forms of writing which still make me shudder – haiku, Iambic pentameter, journalism (for the very brief prior experience), ten-line stories and “community writing”.

Haiku is hard for me because I want to add and add and add to the words. Forming larger thoughts comes easy, but paring things down to the bone somehow screws up my ideas. Iambic pentameter is just downright annoying to try and write, but I love the manner in which the words somehow sound so much more important when laid down in a rigid format. My three weeks on a local newspaper went downhill faster than Michael Jackson. Ten-line stories fatten through re-writes, wanting the opportunity to become novellas of their own distinction. My attempts at writing with others, though…

Being a control-freak, verging on becoming a borderline dictator as far as some projects have gone, I know that working with others to develop a cohesive world is difficult. I don’t like following others, so I tend to use abstractions instead of concrete ideas as a means to throw people off their game. I’ll bring up topics, then move onto other concepts before anyone has had the chance to absorb the previous statement. Which, when trying to maintain a blog-chain, isn’t the kind of mind-set that automatically springs to mind.

I raise my hat to everyone who participated…

…But I still say humanity is fucked, no matter what we do.

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