Saturday, July 4, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Ways to Read

The reader reads your book.

The good reader underlines things on your page.

The editor corrects things on your page.

The aspiring writer corrects things on your page, leaves suggestions in-between words, and will rewrite entire sentences in the margins.

The master writer will retype your whole manuscript to get a feel for it, changing words, sentences, paragraphs, back story, conflicts and context on the fly as he discovers how it is that he actually writes from rewriting your book.

The typesetter, dreading all these people, stays as far away from bookstores as possible.

Friday, July 3, 2009

“It was his turn” on Blink Ink

Blink Ink has accepted "It was his turn" for e-publication. It's a tweaked version of a 55-word story from last year, about a magician who vanished - and it wasn't part of his act. You can read it here:

Bathroom Monologue: Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody…

A bride with a bloody gown and knives for fingers stood in Chantal’s door. Her lipless mouth grinned, asking, “You said Bloody Mary in the mirror three times on October 29, 1984, right?”

Chantal ran for the window, but it was stuck shut. One serrated finger slid up her shoulder and neck, until it caressed her ear.

“The folktale that I come for anyone who mocks my name in the mirror is true. I just never said when.”

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Devil Gone Missing on Thrillers, Killers & Chillers

My flash story, "Devil Gone Missing," is story of the day over at Thrillers, Killers & Chillers. It's about something that happened in a dump, because dumps are scarier than supermarkets. You can check it out here:

Stories set in supermarkets are pending.

Bathroom Monologue: Two Horns, Six Sentences

The agent said they could cut off one of their horns and increase their chances at marketability. Unicorns were always in demand, but “bicorn” sounded like a farm subsidy. Most of them refused self-mutilation to masquerade as their more popular cousins, and stood by their virtue as a taller, sturdier breed with natural handholds for children who wished to ride them through dreams. All their endorsement deals fell through save one with a glue company, and when a protestor explained to them why they’d gotten the deal, they were pretty angry.

Anyway, that’s why those beautiful steeds are down there amongst the army of darkness. Hell gave them work when little girls wouldn’t even draw them on their notebooks.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Channel Surfing

I watched twenty minutes of 28 Days Later on the TV, waiting for my favorite bit, where the camera pans back in the church to reveal the note from survivors of the apocalypse, which reads: "THE END IS EXTREMELY FUCKING NIGH."

Having seen my favorite bit, I switch channels and get some kind of documentary on Ronald Reagan, who says, amidst background laughter, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

I change the channel up to the triple digits to flee this coincidence, only to find a gaunt man on a rooftop, holding a dry-erase board over his head with the question: "WHAT’S THE BAD NEWS?"

Desolate music swells behind him and I change the TV to anything else, and this anything else turns out to be the recently departed Charlton Heston bursting through a door and screaming, "Soylent Green is people!"

I turn off the TV, rub my eyes and wish there was some way I could share this with others.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Pun Time

(This was written in a challenge to tell something relating to the above photograph)

“Found it out by second base.”

“No way!”

“I thought they were a myth…”

“It’s real, Whitey. Got to be worth at least a million.”

“Never thought I’d see a real baseball diamond.”

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Kiddy Kitty

Despite having the elevator to themselves, the boy stood so close to Ronald that he almost rubbed against his left leg. Ronald followed elevator protocol and stared at the descending numbers, ignoring his juvenile elevator-mate until the kid tugged on his trouser leg.

“Sir,” the boy said in a voice that was almost a purr, “how would you feel if Tigger, your girlfriend's cat who died nine years ago when you went to Hawaii and forgot to get him a sitter, was reincarnated?”

Ronald pushed back into the very corner of the elevator and asked in disbelief, “How do you know about Tigger?”

The boy pulled a handful of Meow Mix from his pocket and popped it in his mouth. He replied as he chewed, spraying Ronald's trouser with crumbs, “I’m nine.”

Six Sentence Week 4

The hits keep coming, and they come in six packs. It's Six Sentence week again here at the Bathroom Monologues, featuring stories about baseball, literacy, reincarnation and more. Please vote for your favorite on the poll, which should pop up Wednesday. Please comment, too, on what you think of what I'm doing with the constraint; It's always helpful to know if people think I'm doing work worth doing.

Does a semi-colon make it one or two sentences? Will I fool them if capitalize "It's?"

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Umbrellas

"It's bad luck to open an umbrella in the house. Strange things happen, like objects getting knocked off tables, walls getting scratched, and inexplicable increases in the amount of water on my floor. Might be ghosts. Now close you fricking umbrella and wipe your shoes."

Bathroom Monologue: Why Vampires Suck

I originally wrote this for the Fantasy Magazine blog that asked why we loved or hated vampires. It's way too damned long to be a comment, though I did post it over there anyway.

I can’t stand vampires anymore. The children’s expurgated version of Dracula was one of the first novels I read in elementary school, those glow-in-the-dark plastic teeth were the coolest thing in the world in 3rd grade, and I watched Blade an embarrassing number of times in high school. But there came a time when that fiction became dominated by too much trash and pseudoscience for the monsters to be scary or intriguing anymore. I’m afraid they’re reaching the point werewolves and mummies did before them. Their time may be up.

All that is wrong with the modern vampire is not any one element or author’s fault. However, many of the modern vampire’s problems arose from secular influences. There is a pathetic strain running through Horror that sees them tearing through walls, surviving bullets to the head and lifting cars as realistic, but being afraid of crosses as not. I’m not Christian but I could see what very ham-handed writers were trying to do to the Fantasy. They wanted to remove what they didn’t believe from the mythos, but unwittingly insulted the entirely implausible fiction. Suddenly magic was yanked out and there was no cool shapeshifting, no good explanation for the fear of the sun, and the psychic “familiar” phenomenon turned into psychic pseudoscience (when it was explained at all). The clever variations on vampire tropes – like why or how stakes were supposed to work – were dwarfed by a general half-hearted apology for it being fiction, and fiction that apologizes for itself insults both the story and the audience. What the secularization of the vampire did, mostly by accident, was sever the Fantasy creature’s connection to the world. It was like taking night and the moon away from the werewolf. Satan’s overplayed in fiction, but vampires need some mysticism. That they once were one with the night gave them a mythological power they lack altogether today.

In place of magic, now vampirism is a disease – presumably because we’re terrified of STD’s instead of witches these days. But the result is something downright insulting to the ill. I suffer from a neuromuscular syndrome and have mentored a couple of chronically ill girls. Disease does not make you immune to bullets or render you capable of biting through body armor. Reducing vampirism to infectious superpowers is ridiculous, made worse when so many don trendy clothes and black trench coats. They’re the vapid Matrix posers of Fantasy.

The modern zombie does a much better job of expressing the mental and physical degradation of disease, and their far broader potential for infection allegories and apocalypse stories has helped them completely overtake the popularity of their undead brethren. Zombies, popularized in film during the nuclear age, have beaten vampires to the punch. It’s not even a contest. Even in prose, Max Brooks’s World War Z blows away every piece of vampire fiction of the decade on narrative and literary levels.

Then there’s what vampires have actually done in their new pseudoscience domain.

Since Carmilla’s lesbianism and Dracula’s creepy harem, vampires have always had sexual themes. Some directors used those to probe rape and homosexuality when the political climate was less tolerant in visual arts. But Post-Anne Rice, vampires are insipidly horny. Twilight’s teen angst romance and True Blood’s constant banging do little to remedy this. Not to insult the author of a recent blog entry around here, but neither Twilight’s hesitance towards pre-marital sex nor True Blood’s fascination with as much pre-marital sex as possible is interesting. Not with vampires. Not without them. Contrary to popular belief, sex is not mature – kids have sex all the time, and most sexual vampire fiction shows a distinctly adolescent fascination with rutting. That’s certainly part of why I detached from it. I remember when I first turned against the idea of the vampire – reading Rice’s The Vampire Armand, with a slave begging his master not to whip his thighs as he was “disciplined.” Vampire sexuality rapidly descended into the prurient and titillating, which is to say, it became trite. That’s the coffin where vampire sex has laid to rest.

I miss the coffins. Damn, do I miss the coffins. They could be hokey, but at least hokey is the attempt to feel authentic. Somebody who sleeps in a coffin is way more interesting than someone who sleeps on satin sheets, even if a supermodel joins him. Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot was the last truly great piece of vampire fiction I can remember, giving us a town too full of its own trivial drama to realize the layers of evil unfolding around them. King wanted modernize the vampires he loved so much, and so while he had them handling land deeds and swarming in a school bus, he kept the stake, the cross, the coffin, the transformations and familiars. He maintained the regal air of the father vampire while sowing the notion of the local, lesser child, and in doing so maintained the dread of infection and the bravery of the hunt. He also had broader vision than most Horror writers, also including a creepy abstract version of the classic haunted house to play influence over his classic critters.

For vampire fiction to live it had to outgrow the Dracula model King used, but it didn’t grow into anything compelling to a mind that grew up with it. Buffy and her quirky crew lived on their rapport. Fans watched for the characters, not their challenges, and “Vampire Slayer” quickly became an inaccurate title as they wound up stabbing Frankenstein-rip-offs, giant snakes and demons. Hence why they started just calling her “The Slayer” instead. The current Supernatural is much more entertaining to me, in no small thanks to its openness about a wider variety of baddies going bump in their nights. Those shows are carried by the cast and the characters they make. The Fantasy is a backdrop, and it can be a pretty shallow one.

Where it wasn’t founded on ensembles, popular vampire fiction mutated into exaggerations of old tropes. How many movies have riffed off the classic black and white Nosferatu and Dracula? Anne Rice exaggerated the sexual element to titillate readers. True Blood is now telling a white trash town drama story, plus things that bite and the people who hate them. The 30 Days of Night comics are just Salem’s Lot again, turned much bloodier (and in the film they might as well be werewolves). Marvel Comics dusted off Blade to make an action hero out of the Van Helsing model. Unsurprisingly, Van Helsing himself exploded as an archetype, and then an actual character, including a film bearing the name (and bearing no resemblance to Stoker’s good doctor).

The last vampire story to make me give a damn was the anime, Hellsing. It kills me as a writer and voracious reader that it was a cartoon I liked instead of a book. But the Japanese took the tropes of shapeshifting, night, the bite, the familiar, the dungeons and the legacy of Stoker, and built something visually cool and disturbing. Their Alucard had distinct style in the way he dressed, the way he moved, and the way he dealt with the modern vampire punks (inadvertently punishing many of the crappy stereotypes of modern vampire fiction). Along the way he got a busty, blonde sidekick who somehow managed to go the whole series without getting bent over HBO style.

Yesterday I got my haircut by a young woman who was reading Stephanie Meyer’s Eclipse. I asked her to tell me about the series – just to listen to somebody who genuinely enjoyed reading. Meyer is not for me. Sentence-by-sentence she simply can’t hold me, sparkly vampires are too silly, and at 27, I may be too old for Romeo and Juliet with fangs. Even my friends who enjoy younger-targeted fiction feel they’re too old for this. ‘Vampire sparkles’ are a joke amongst us. But I was happy for the haircutter, because she was excited to read something, and that will always be a gift, no matter how trashy the writer (and there are worse than Meyer). The funny thing, and sad thing, is that in ten minutes she didn’t describe any character, plot or variation on vampires. For ten minutes she only had variations of “It’s good,” and that she hoped there would be a fifth book. Speaking the allure of vampires, she was equally enthused to read The Host, which she described as being about robots who take over the world.

That’s where I am as a lover of the creepy and the fantastic. If, in our world of remakes, somebody could do something cool with the vampire without insulting its legacy, I’d be game. Since Salem’s Lot it seems like my favorite vampire stories have all been riffs – Shadow of the Vampire being a movie about making a vampire movie, and Christopher Moore and other authors straight-up mocking the lore in print. Those were fun, but they walked no new paths. There is no prose equivalent of Hellsing. Even I’ve written a couple of short stories in attempts at novelty in the neck-biters. I’d like to like them again. I’d love for an author to give me a good reason.
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