Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: To Hate

To hate from afar is easiest,
swaddled in ignorance
and unchallenged venom. 

It’s hatred at close distances
that reveals how vile the whole business is. 
One son screaming he hopes his mother will die,
one protestor saying a gay soldier burns in Hell,
one pundit telling a foreigner his ideology leads to terror.

One grimace,
one pinkening set of knuckles,
one muzzle flash.
If only all haters
could sit beneath the stairs
as they tossed Saddam over the rails to hang.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: The Sunrise Apocalypse

My favorite is probably the Sunrise Apocalypse. It’s sort of a three-way, right? Because first you got the meteors hitting the planet, and the monsoons of dust blotted out the sky. That killed off the sauropods, as best we can tell, by killing off all the above-ground plants. Then the underground plants poked up and allegedly took over the planet, but that’s probably a crock, right? Because they starved to death next, without the sunshine. Though it is funny to imagine a bunch of giant vine-monsters busting through the crust thinking its their time to rule, and wilting a week later.

So you knock off most of the sauropods, and most of the giant plants. That left the mammals in control, which is when vampirism really took off. The World of Night, where rats and fanged birds carried the plague across the entire continent. Tribes of infected centaurs and humans laid waste to any straggling healthy civilizations.

It was vampirism like the world has never known since. There were so many that they were forced to hold each other back and let blooded critters breed. They farmed people, region by region. The imps and centaurs still live where vampires stuck them, claiming ancestral birthright, even though that birthright was a nightmarish pen. The wars of that period were of impatient vampires against cultured ones, killing each other over the expiration dates of mammals. And then there was the apex predator.

There’s the legend – the awesome legend – of the infected tyrannosaur rampaging the south coast. It never spread the disease because it just ate anything it came across – centaurs, dorads, anything. Your people hid in a cave? Then a bat flutters in, and before you realize it, the bat turns into a vampire tyrannosaur and he’s eaten your entire tribe. I love that people believe it’s still skulking in the volcanoes of the south. I don’t even care if it’s real. Who doesn’t want to believe in a vampire tyrannosaur, blending in with lava mist or drinking sharks at the bottom of the sea?

If it’s still swimming around, it’s all that survived. Because under the torrents of dust, they were unbeatable kings and queens, spreading their disease at will and treating the planet as a buffet. Then the planet closed for business by clearing the atmosphere. It was the first morning in nine hundred years. The sun crawled across this continent, frying skinny-dipping biters, their ranchers and warlords, ones fleeing in the forms of bats or wolves, though still more standing slack-jawed in awe. They’d thought the sun was a fairytale.

Funny that they all turned to fairy dust. I hear faeries eat vampire bones, and pay handsomely if you can find some.

Hands-down, the best apocalypse. It was just a sunrise. A little twinkling of a nearby star, checking to see how we were doing and eradicating most of the undead in existence. If only it was that easy to get rid of tentacle monsters.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Beats a Neon Sign

What punk it was that set the cross ablaze in their yard, none of them knew. There were guesses, with only so many people so low in Fleetwater, and fewer spotted fleeing neighborhood as the Cartwrights desperately tried to beat out the burning symbol of salvation. The old Cartwrights were studied Methodists, but the young were new to the game and didn’t quite grasp symbolism. The young Cartwrights went about with oil and wood, and that next morning every potential offender awoke to burning letters in his yard. A fiery ‘HE’ stood in Fords’ yard, and a minute later another ‘HE’ lit up in Kip Gotch’s. They all got at least one letter, and none of the Klan understood the message, but if you tried to read it, starting with the burning cross in the Cartwrights’ yard as a ‘t,’ you could read the message across the street: “tHE HEll Is WRoNG WITH YoU”.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Problem With Prologues

Not a month goes by when some agent or editor doesn’t decry prologues. Allegedly they drive away readers and signal poor quality fiction; they are labeled unnecessary and signs of poor craft, too short or abrupt, useless and dissonant from the main narrative. Last night I talked to an agent who said she tosses any manuscript that features one.

I’ve never been rejected over a prologue. It’s just a pet peeve of mine because not a month goes by when I don’t read a popular novel from traditional publishing that opens with a prologue. When they’re poor, I simply skip to the main body of the novel, as I suspect most audiences actually do.

But if this anti-prologue dogma is going to be preached at all emerging writers, the industry ought to hold their actual employees to it. Below is a very incomplete list of some notable prologue-uses.

1. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (debut novel)
2. Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind (debut novel)
3. Patrick Rothfuss’s Wise Man’s Fear (Locus nominee for Best Fantasy Novel 2012 –1/5)
4. Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris (debut novel)
5. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Book 1: The Final Empire
6. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight (debut novel)
7. Vernor Vinge’s The Children of the Sky (Locus nominee for Best Science Fiction Novel 2012 – 1/5)
8. Stephen King’s Carrie (debut novel)
9. Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot
10. Stephen King’s The Dead Zone (King’s first #1 Bestseller)
11. Stephen King’s 11/22/63 (Locus nominee for Best Science Fiction Novel 2012 – 2/5)
12. Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Series Book 1: Eragon (debut novel)
13. George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones (debut novel)
14. George R.R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings
15. George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords
16. George R.R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows
17. George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons (Hugo nominee for Best Novel 2012 – 1/5; Locus nominee for Best Fantasy Novel 2012 – 2/5)
18. Max Brooks’s World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (debut novel)
19. Daniel Abraham’s A Shadow in Summer (debut novel)
20. Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck’s Leviathan Wakes, as ‘James Corey’ (Hugo nominee for Best Novel 2012 - 2/5; Locus nominee for Best SciFi Novel 3/5)
21. Jo Walton’s The King’s Peace (debut novel)
22. Jo Walton’s Among Others (Hugo nominee for Best Novel 2012 - 3/5; Locus nominee for Best Fantasy Novel 2012 – 3/5; Nebula nominee for Best Novel 1/6)
23. Terry Pratchett’s The Color of Magic (debut novel)
24. Terry Pratchett’s Snuff (Locus nominee for Best Fantasy Novel 2012 – 4/5)
25. Catherynne Valente’s Deathless (Locus nominee for Best Fantasy Novel 2012 – 5/5)
26. Garth Nix’s Abhorsen Trilogy Book 1: Sabriel
27. Garth Nix’s Abhorsen Trilogy Book 1: Lirael
28. Garth Nix’s Abhorsen Trilogy Book 3: Abhorsen
29. Seanan McGuire’s October Daye Book 1: Rosemary and Rue (debut novel)
30. Seanan McGuire’s The Newsflesh Trilogy Book 1: Feed, as ‘Mira Grant’ (debut novel as Mira Grant)
31. Seanan McGuire’s The Newsflesh Trilogy Book 2: Deadline, as ‘Mira Grant’ (Hugo nominee for Best Novel 2012 – 4/5)
32. China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station (debut novel)
33. China Mieville’s The Scar
34. China Mieville’s Embassytown (Hugo nominee for Best Novel 2012 – 5/5; Locus nominee for Best SciFi Novel 4/5; Nebula nominee for Best Novel 2/6)
35. N.K. Jemisin’s The Kingdom of the Gods (Nebula nominee for Best Novel 2012 – 3/6)
36. Jack McDevitt’s Firebird (Nebula nominee for Best Novel 2012 – 4/6)

Just imagine a publisher shunting one of those debut novels over a prologue. Now, remember how many times J.K. Rowling was rejected. And you know what? It's susceptible to all the criticisms lobbed at aspiring authors in workshops, and it's perfectly functional.

Two of the six Nebula nominees for Best Novel lack prologues: Kameron Hurley’s God’s War and Genevieve Valentine’s Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti. God’s War has literary quotes from The Bible and The Quran, but nothing resembling narrative in the way of Mira Grant’s blog excerpt about “The Wall” or Vernor Vinge’s Chapter 00. Meanwhile, the fifth of the five Locus nominees for Best SciFi Novel is Charles Stross’s Rule 34, which I’m told lacks a prologue - I don’t have a copy and couldn’t find a preview online.

So out of all the books nominated for a Nebula, Hugo or Locus this year, either two or three of the twelve open with Chapter 1. None of those books nominated for more than one of the awards lacks a prologue. All of the nominees that hit #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List have prologues. Of the nine-out-of-twelve majority, guess how many of the prologues are short and dissonant from Chapter 1.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Naked Crowds

"Just imagine the crowd naked."

"Who... who... who is comforted by imagining thousands of naked people staring at him? Who? And why would you let those perverts in front of crowds? Why would you think that would comfort me? I’m comforted by going home early on Friday, microwaving some Hot Pockets, and not facing a thousand exposed crotches. And a thousand naked people who I’ve got to explain are about to be laid off. The economy tough – now so tough, no one can afford pants. There is something keenly worse about potential downsizees who are naked. Something might… tense. Ugh. Now it’s worse. Now I’m definitely worse. If I have a stroke, it’s because of this. Let’s just get it over with."

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: But then you’ll marry your dog!

There’s an old chestnut in the Gay Marriage debate that, if we change the definition of marriage for this, then it can be changed for anything. If Aunt Sally marries Rebecca, then in another year Uncle Ron will marry his dog.

To this objection I say: let Uncle Ron marry his dog. Let everyone marry their dogs.

You cringe from human/dog marriage because you imagine the honeymoon. But friends, there are millions of pets in this country. If the owner wants to screw the pooch, he’s already doing it. In the privacy of his bedroom, or basement, or sound-proofed kennel, you really can’t catch or stop him. The inability to marry the dog isn’t stopping anyone.

Human/dog-marriage would simply give the dog a chance at half her owner’s stuff if he cheats on her. Now their romance will be public. You’ll know to watch out for that guy, both around his pets and the pets of others. If he’s a monogamous pet-porker, then he’s safe. Or maybe he’s not.

After all, you could turn it into the Benny Hill of laws, and anyone who applies for pet-marriage can be tossed in jail automatically, with their marriage license as evidence of bestiality. It depends how cheeky you feel your state’s Senate is.

And what if Uncle Ron and his dog have a fulfilling relationship together? I know plenty of crazy cat ladies. My sister sleeps with her pet cat in the same bed. They hug, they cuddle, and she even buys him more sweaters than she does for her actual boyfriend. The emotional link is already there. The sexual link isn’t there, but if it was? Then let her pay a fee at the courthouse and flag herself.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Chinese Crayfish

"We've got succulent Chinese crayfish, in fresh this morning. The chef is baking them into a pie."

"No thanks, I'm allergic to crustasians."
Counter est. March 2, 2008