Sunday, September 4, 2011

My Big R.A.Q.: The Rarely Asked Questions of 2011

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this year's Rarely Asked Questions. Hopefully I'm in a cake-coma right now, but rest assured when I regain consciousness I'll be very grateful to you all. Cheers!

Harry Sanderford asked: Why is it, "The Bathroom Monologues"?
We’re starting seminally here. Back in college I was assigned so much reading and non-fiction composition assignments that I feared I’d lose my creative drive. Almost any time I was at my desk I was either working or decompressing with a videogame. I decided that any time I got up to use the bathroom, I’d improvise a story on anything other than what I’d been working on at the desk. These were usually first person monologues on vital topics like what happens to an anthill if the queen gets cancer but won’t relinquish power. Sometimes I thought I was really funny and typed them up for friends. Sometimes my friends said they were actually funny. I started saving them to a Word file, and a friend gave me a subsection on his site to post them. Later when I created my own blog, it felt natural to maintain them.

Alan W. Davidson asked: Do you think that Gilligan and Mary Ann ever 'hooked up' while trapped together on that island?
Not with the human chastity belt that is The Skipper walking the earth. But if he should one day fall, then Gilligan’s latent libido might rise to prey upon all untouched women.

Helen Howell asked: Why was Tinkerbell so infatuated with Peter Pan? ^_^
Because he always kept dog treats in his pocket. It’s a trick most of us use.

Tony Noland asked: Why do so many people think "Seinfeld" was a funny show?
As someone who does find Seinfeld funny, I think it’s about investment in the characters. The core cast of four are play simple roles with absurd depth beneath. If one seems watchable, you latch on and sink into their sundry absurdities. Entire episodes go by without you laughing, but it was funny as hell. Somewhere inside your head, you’re pleased – but it might not get to the surface. The more you watch, the more your mental snowball consumes until decades after its cancellation you can still quote your favorite lines. But if you can’t latch on and get rolling, the show is a baffling phenomenon. The best current example is The Office and its resultant pseudo-reality knockoffs. Why anyone would like them is utterly beyond most of the people who don’t watch them.

Garner Davis asked: If you had to choose between a) flashing a crowd of complete strangers ... at an elementary school, or b) watching the entire "Jersey Shore" TV series back to back in one marathon session, which would you pick?
I’m a multitasker. I can, for instance, let my sister watch Jersey Shore on the television while I play a mindless videogame on the PC, or fold my laundry, or construct a sixteen action figure wrestling tournament. And those are the sorts of things I would do while I marathoned this show rather than go to jail for the rest of my natural life. Plus this way I don’t have to go to an elementary school. Children are more annoying than clubbers.

Ross “Chaz” Rostopher asked: Why do humans like things that make our tongue hurt, such as chilis, wasabi, cilantro and curry? (This was a post-sushi question.)
With the rise of vegetarianism and veganism, the plant kingdom has increasingly seen human beings as violent bigots. Citizens such as wasabi and chili peppers are the highly ethical suicide bombers of the plant kingdom, and are doing in their power to bring down the horrible hedonistic human hegemony before all is lost.

Karen Schindler asked: What, to your knowledge, is something astonishing you can do with your body that few others in your current social circle can?
I can pick my nose with my tongue.

Mr. FAR asked: How do you get by without a dayjob, you lucky so&so? :-)
See: answer to Karen Schindler’s question.

Mary from GigglesandGuns asked: Is it true if you malted milk balls while drinking beer you won't get drunk?
From experience, I only know that if you eat malted milk balls before drinking beer you won’t get drunk because the damned things are so addictive you won’t have room left. God, I hope somebody got me candy for my birthday.

Cassie Nichols asked: What three authors (living or dead) would you most like to spend the day with? What would you spend the day doing? Would you take any of them to a carnival?
Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope and Homer. They are all dead and would leave me alone to write. In the event they came back from the dead for the visit, they would be highly lyrical and interesting to talk to, plus I’d solve the mystery of who Homer was. In the event they came back as flesh-eating undead, I would take them to a carnival so that they might eat somebody else.

Cassie Nichols also asked: Would you create a unique language in your books if you knew that 20 years from now hundreds of your fans would greet you in that language at conventions? Be married in ceremonies where they only spoke that language?
I couldn’t even retain French. I don’t know how I’m supposed to invent this new language. But I guess I’d at least begin going down that road just to see what I wrote that apparently affected that many readers so deeply. It wasn’t the language; it damn sure wasn’t the language that got everyone into Star Trek to the point where they conjugated Klingon. So I’d at least like to observe me crafting work that stuck so hard to people.

And Cassie Nichols also asked: How many blows with a pillow *does* it take to slay a moose?
One. It is to the back of the head of the troll slumbering in yonder forest, rousing her from her slumber and wakening her hunger. You will likely also perish this day, but so will that moose. It is a recourse only viable when justice is due.

Tim Van Sant asked: WTF?

Danielle la Paglia asked: What book would you like to live in? Who would you be? Why?
The Norton Critical Shakespeare is very large. If I had to hollow out a book and live in it, I believe this might offer the most spacious living environment.

Danielle la Paglia also asked: What movie would you like to live in? Who would you be? Why?
I would like to live in my favorite movie. I would be myself, living with that cast of people, because it is my favorite movie. Feel free to guess what my favorite movie is. Unfortunately, “What’s your favorite movie?” is a Frequently Asked Question.

And Danielle la Paglia also asked: Who, what, when, where, why is Bruno Mars?
I had to Google to find out: he’s just some guy, you know? But before that, my imagined definition for Bruno Mars was a high-school mystery show starring a 6’6” middle-aged muscle head who had been held back so many times that he actually travelled back to the 1960s.

Jen Brubacher asked: What is the most mysterious number?
Negative zero. The only witnesses that claim to have seen it are unreliable. What is it hiding?

Mari Juniper asked: What does your bathroom look like? (interpret the question as you wish)
Dark. I should turn the lights on in there.

Mari Juniper asked: Since my verification word is "unitypen" I ask you: if there was a pen that could unite the whole world, what would it look like? How would it work? What about its effects?
You’re asking about the Ballpoint Black Hole Pen. Remove the cap and put the tip to paper to open a super-giant black hole. Almost instantaneously the entire world will be condensed to less than a single micrometer of super-dense united mater. We’ll never have been closer to each other.

Mari Juniper asked: Do I get to think of other Qs and post them later?
You were allowed to up until Saturday. Now you have to save them up for next year.

Chuck Allen asked: What's one question were you hoping no one would ask? And what's the answer?
I was hoping no one would ask me to explain the true Tao. The answer would be a punch in the eye.

Chuck Allen also asked: What's one book/movie that is so good you wish you had written it?
There are actually a lot of these. Several of the Lupin the 3rd television episodes and feature films evoke that so strongly in me that I’ve invented a few fictional characters as outlets for my inferiority. The last book I read that had such an effect was G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, which is such an effective satire and condemnation of satire that I quaked with envy. He wrote that a hundred years ago.

Liminal Fiction asked: As you edit your novel, how often (approximately) do you decide to completely rewrite a paragraph or page or chapter vs. touching up existing work? At what stage(s) during the editing process do you like to ask a reader to read for you and provide feedback?
Several years ago I began honing my senses for reflexive editing. Anything I judge as addressable in a few minutes, I do on the spot. Everything else? The rough draft of my current novel is replete with bolded sentences, bullet points and notes IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. They serve as flags for me to come back and address a problem later. That sort of tool lets me continue with a story’s momentum even when I know what I’ve just done is broken. The best example is my first chapter: I wrote six drafts in one day before I realized I was wasting my time. I set up a final temporary first chapter, then continued to the second. Months later, I had finished the whole novel and read over the first chapter. With my handy retrospect, it took an hour to bang out exactly what it needed to be. I’ve given that kind of utter rewrite treatment to three chapters out of forty. For paragraphs? I couldn’t even count them. More need re-ordering or cutting a few details rather than utter rewriting. It was actually a stronger draft than I anticipated as I wrote it. That doesn’t mean there are hundreds of things in need of work, but a writer doesn’t need to make a perfect thing, only to make a broken thing and fix it.


  1. John I don't think there is a question that you couldn't answer in some way! I have a huge smile on my face now as I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all these questions and your very entertaining answers. My favourite answer, the one that made me laugh out loud - "Danielle la Paglia asked: What book would you like to live in? Who would you be? Why?
    The Norton Critical Shakespeare is very large. If I had to hollow out a book and live in it, I believe this might offer the most spacious living environment"

    Happy Birthday my friend!.

  2. Very funny and witty post.
    Yes, there are so many questions we can ask ourselves and just ruminating is fun!
    Delightful and btw have a very happy birthday!

  3. Happy Birthday, John! Hope that you spent the day with friends (and eating cake until you puked).

    Thanks for the Q & A. It was an interesting look into your thought process.

  4. "eating cake until you puked" Geez, Alan...
    I hope someone gives you lots of candy and you have a fabulous day full of fabulous things... especially cake! (My son's b-day is tomorrow and after 6 weeks without cake, I'm looking forward to a slice.. mmmmm...)
    Your answers are hilarious... but what's your answer to Tim Van Sant's question mean? AABD? Inquiring minds... please tell me I don't have to wait till next year to find out...

  5. as per usual I am late to the party. With that said I wish you the best of bdays and add my question to the mix: If a chicken and a half laid an egg and a half in a day and a half, how much much would a pound of butter weigh?

  6. Happy Birthday, you mad genius you!

    Did you get a chocolate dinosaur for your birthday this year?

  7. A very merry...birthday (rather than "un-") to you.

    Enjoyed the questions - and, even more, the answers.

  8. Happy, happy birthday John! Next year you'll eat candy until you puke, right? heh

    *hands over a basket of candy* :D

  9. Excellent answers to the RAQs Birthday boy! I don't want to know how your special talent earns you a living, in fact I'd like to unknow that you have this ability. Otherwise, thanks for all the grins and HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you!

  10. I have a copy of the Norton Critical Shakespeare book so if you ever come to visit, you'll feel right at home. Happy B-Day, homie.

  11. Awesome answers. Happy Birthday, John!

  12. Gawd. Well, I did ask.

    Hope your BD was happy, sir.
    *hugs you*



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