The Beastmen

So after letting the prior outline percolate in my brain for a while, I’ve decided that I’m reasonably happy with the premise. I think my major concern at this point is about the events after the ‘traditionalist’ rituals are forcibly halted. At first I had this idea that a gateway or gateways would begin to open, allowing imprisoned faerie-like creatures from some sort of other world to enter our own (or rather, to enter the world of the story). But I’m starting to like the idea that there are no gateways per se, rather the world itself starts to change to reflect a faerie-like aspect. So I’m imaging that maybe 1 in 4 or 5 people actually change into beastmen of some kind, and parts of the landscape and some of the major buildings actually morph into these fantastic versions of themselves.

 

In fact, I’m thinking that might be the setting for the story’s climax. Rather than having the protagonist journeying through a gateway into another realm, I would have him going to a familiar place, such as the Duke’s castle, but that familiar place has been completely subverted and turned into something fantastic, and likely dangerous.

 

I’d like to pack in enough ideas to keep the story alive. In particular, I want the setting to feel unique. To my mind, in fantasy one of the hallmarks of the genre is that the setting itself becomes a character. I mean, not literally, but the setting is so important it acts like a character to the plot, in the sense that the setting goes through conflict and changes with the story’s outcome. So it’s very important to me that this setting be more than just the “generic medieval setting” found in so much trash fantasy.

 

Other ideas, then:

  • The dog idea? People are all people, but they’ve been selectively bred like domestic dogs, so some people are tall, lanky, and agile, while some are stout and strong – which is true anyway, but I mean to an extreme degree, like some people have been bred to be like 9 feet tall and can run at 40 km/h while some people are 3 feet tall but can lift 400 pounds. In the world of dog breeding, different breeds are created for different purposes, such as tracking, racing, companionship, herding, sled-pulling, retrieving, et cetera. In the world of selectively bred humans, I think similar concepts would exist, but more likely it would be based on occupation. So miners would be bred to be short, strong, and resilient, but not that smart.
  • The government idea: this world lacks political bodies based on land. In the real world, governments are of a place, i.e. a city, a state, a country, and so forth. In this fantasy world that isn’t the case; instead, governments are based on ideologies, where people of a certain political stripe, or religion, or possibly even a trade or profession, have their own government and it’s independent of location. The idea here is there are lots of these “governments”, called sects – no that sounds too much like ‘sex’ – called… factions, politicos… better to have a made-up name that evokes what it is… guild, government, faction, politic, sect, mafia, family, kin, folk, relation, unit, regime, rule, command, administration, association, union, league, federation, society… maybe a play on -ocracy, like Facracy, guildocracy? No, that’s shit. Unity. Fedocracy. Allegiance. Something with ‘allegiance’… legian sounds like ‘legion’… Legie. Does that sounds like it’s pronounced Luh-Gee? or Leg-gee? I want it to be Leeg. League. Leige. Legiance. I like ‘Legiance’.
    • So anyway there’s a ton of Legiances around; I’m thinking that will create some problems with the outline of the story, though, because how does one Legiance enforce law over another? Maybe there’s a Legiance devoted to laws and enforcement, and another Legiance dominated by the ‘modernists’ has exerted enough influence to have them outlaw the ‘traditionalists’. That might work.

 

Dipping a Toe into Fantasy

Here’s a rough outline for a fantasy story.

 

  • The setting is an isolated area, but also a complete political denomination, like a duchy or barony or something like that; possibly somewhere at the edge of civilization
  • The people are split fairly evenly between traditionalists and modernists (not likely to be terms used in the story, just for my reference)
  • The traditionalists follow some of the old rituals and beliefs, some of which have a distinctly magical feel to them
  • Some of these rituals have been proven to be dangerous – children have gone missing or been hurt, people have done terrible things during or due to the effects of the rituals
  • Generally the rituals are not harmful though, they are more like celebrations and harmful incidents are rare
  • The modernists view these rituals as harmful: they feel the traditional ways are holding back progress and endangering people; in general they view the traditionalists as immoral
  • What no one but a few traditionalists know is that many of these rituals are important for the safety of the area – they are used to appease and ward against something; I’m not sure what yet, possibly something to do with monsters from another dimension, or from the depths of the forest or mountains, or under the sea… at any rate, something scary that no one would want to have to deal with
  • The modernists for a political action lobby that gains a lot of strength and influence, eventually enough to convince the duke or baron or whoever to outlaw the traditionalist rituals
  • The traditionalists continue to practice their beliefs in secret, but over time law enforcement officials stamp it out quite effectively
  • The last group of traditionalists are hardcore, and they know the dangers of ending the rituals; they have a cool old name like the druidic torque or something like that
  • The last small group isn’t enough to keep the rituals going to the extent needed, though, and the monsters begin to return
  • The modernists blame this on the traditionalists (out of ignorance, not malice)
  • Soon there are several conflicts taking place: the druidic torque is fighting for its survival against the law and the modernists while also combatting the monsters; meanwhile everyone is coming into conflict with the monsters as they begin to overrun the area
  • Likely at this time other things would be happening as well – the physical world of the area begins to revert to a fantasy state
  • The druids begin to split into two factions, one is comitted to restoring the rituals and returning things to the way they were, despite the fact that the legal and modernist forces would basically need to be defeated for this to happen, the other faction sees another solution – if the leaders or power source of the invading monsters could be destroyed, the world would be safe but could retain its connection to this fantasy state, allowing magic to remain in the world
  • Somewhere in the midst of all of this I need a hero, or a few heroes
  • The rest basically suggests itself: the heroes obviously side with the druidic faction trying to preserve magic in the world, and so begins a quest
  • This would be tough to do without falling into fantasy tropes, but I need a quest
  • Perhaps things aren’t as cut-and-dried as we’d like; these monsters are only monsters from our perspective – the rituals have kept them imprisoned for centuries in this harsh other land where they’ve been barely surviving
  • The druids in some ways now seem like the evil ones, having upheld a tradition that served to save the land for humans while denying it to these ‘monsters’
  • My mind keeps wanting the monsters to be faerie of some sort, but that feels cliched
  • And so the quests unwraps itself slowly as the heroes eventually reach a point where they can destroy or imprison the monsters forever
  • And the big finale is what? Options:
    • turn the tables and imprison the humans leaving the world to the invaders
    • destroy the invaders or cripple them somehow forcing them to be imprisoned forever
    • destory the power of the rituals so humans and invaders will be forced to learn to live together
  • I think I’m going to stop right there, that last one sounds good
  • So what happens is the hero finally understands everything and makes his decision
  • He’s discovered along the way how the rituals work: something to do with a… gateway maybe, something that is maintained by the rituals – possibly the home of the invaders is through a sort of mystical path that connects it to the ‘real’ world, and that path can be blocked off through the power of the rituals
  • The hero decides to destroy the gateway, throwing it wide open and ensuring that the invaders homeland is now permanently part of the rest of the world

There, not a terrible outline. I need to flesh it out quite a bit, and something about destroying the gateway… I wonder. Maybe the druids give the hero a device to use to destroy the power source of the invaders, and he uses it to destroy the gateway instead. Hmm.

 

Prose Poem

This is targeted to be 200 words, based on the scene where the adventurers approach the town of… hmm, it was ‘Whitecourt’ in the original adventure, but I guess I should change that. How about… Whitechapel? Alright. So, what’s the scene? The adventurers are approaching the town of Whitechapel; their horses are being abandoned because they refuse to approach the town; Whitechapel has a high fieldstone wall and a wooden gate; there are sentries, but something about them is odd; the sun is setting as they approach. That’s probably enough for 200 words.

The sun is setting. Whitechapel is ahead. The horses have been abandoned. Surrounded by woods and high hills. Sounds of the woods at night. The appearance of the town. The gate. The sentries.

Here’s the real question: can I fucking write this without regurgitating metaphors from other writers’ works? UMBRAL presence of the forest giving way to something darker… or something lighter and yet all the more foreboding for that… ooo spooky

The horses balked at the approach, seeming to prefer the black uncertainty of the woods to what lay ahead.

Here’s an idea: the woods are an orchestra of woodwinds – flutes and piccolos – but the instruments are wrong somehow: dead, broken, rotten, lifeless, hateful, arresonant (what’s a word for that? discordent?).

The village was visible ahead now, its fieldstone wall marking the boundary between civilization and wilderness.

The village of Whitechapel was our goal and the surrounding forests became an orchestra conducting… mmm orchestras don’t ‘conduct’.

As the sun disappeared behind… bleh

Take one:

Even the Sun seemed afraid of that impenetrable forest. As we entered its fastness our shadows quickly lengthened and then merged with the spreading gloom as the Sun cowered behind the distant jagged peaks, first sillhouted as black teeth against the sunset and then becoming one with the all-encompassing night. We rode an umbral path accompanied by a strange march. The trees bordering our trail seemed to stand with backs turned and boughs twisting above them like mad conductors to a strange orchestra of woodwinds arrayed before them. Flutes and piccolos playing a discordent symphony on dead and broken instruments.

 

 Mmm. Take two:

As we entered the fastness of that mighty forest our shadows lengthened and then merged with the spreading gloom. The Sun cowered behind the distant jagged peaks, first silhouetted as black teeth against the sunset and then becoming one with the encompassing night. We rode an umbral path between strange orchestras, the nearest trees seeming like mad conductors, twisting their boughs into commands for the legions of discordant woodwinds arrayed behind them. Flutes, piccolos, and instruments too foreign to be named all fashioned from things dead or broken or rotten accompanied us in a mocking march. When Whitechapel materialized out of the gloom ahead, our horses balked and would go no closer, seeming to prefer the trodden ground behind despite that dissonant symphony to what lay ahead. The fieldstone wall still stood, as high as a tall man’s head and cleft by a wooden gate hanging ajar, marking the terminus between wilderness and the village. The building beyond were visible only as deeper black shapes against the surrounding night. We approached afoot, the sound of the horses’ loping fading quickly behind us. Through the murk of filtered starlight we could see shadowed figures guarding the old gate. They seemed eerily undisturbed by our advance and stood waiting with an aspect of inevitability while that village like a lodestone drew us by the very substance of our blood.

Better. I’ll work on this a bit more and try to finalize it before the end of the day.

 

 

The Hook

I’ve been supposing that beyond the need for a story to have a theme it should also have some sort of a hook, or a catch, or a twist. Something clever, I guess, that catches the reader a little off-guard and makes the story memorable. I read a story called “Dog Person” a while ago that I really enjoyed. It was short and the entire setting was a farmhouse kitchen. In a nutshell, the story was about an old, sick dog that needed to be put down. So the farmer is getting his gun ready and is going to take the dog out behind the shed and shoot it. As the narrative develops, we find out that the farmer’s girlfriend hates the dog and has been feeding it bacon laced with rat poison to try to kill it. At any rate, the farmer eventually takes the dog and goes out behind the shed while his girlfriend waits in the kitchen. There’s a gunshot, and a few minutes later the dog comes wandering back into the kitchen. So there’s your hook, the story builds you up thinking the guy is going to shoot the dog, and then he goes and shoots himself instead, leaving the girlfriend with the dog she hates.

 

So here’s where things get difficult. I need a new story. My plan is to write a series of stories set in… well the setting I suppose. My idea is that before I try to tackle a novel I want to do a few things. First, I want to have some of my writing published. I also want to really develop my setting and its history and characters, and also to flesh out the themes I’d like to explore as well. So to my mind a great way to accomplish all of that is to write a series of short stories all taking place in this setting; beyond that, I’m not envisioning many restrictions. For instance, these stories could take place in the past or the future or the “present”… I’m thinking that the main setting will be about 1960, but using roughly 1920s level of technology.

 

That might not have made much sense. Let me outline my current plans for this setting:

  • The world is Earth, more or less, although with a dramatically altered history
  • The main difference is that magic is real, and that has caused there to be a number of historical differences between real Earth and the Earth of this setting
  • Why magic? Well, that’s the basis for fantasy. Magic becomes an allegory for… whatever, I guess. In this case magic is an allegory for anything prohibited – I’m thinking mainly alcohol and other ‘taboo’ concepts from the real world like prostitution, drugs, abortion, and so forth
  • In this setting, there was a time when the Earth was very much like many typical fantasy settings. Basically, we had wizards, monsters, and so forth, like Lord of the Rings, Forgotten Realms, or so many other stereotypical fantasy settings
  • The key difference is that the setting is mainly set in a fairly modern time, so you can say it’s like Middle-Earth once Middle-Earth reaches the modern era
  • The other difference is that for several hundred years, magic has been completely restricted, so there are no more wizards or monsters
  • Magic is restricted by a technology that allows magic to be ‘captured’ and stored or channeled very much like electricity
  • I’m thinking that where in real time the steam engine was invented, which launched the industrial revolution, in this setting it was the magic engine that was invented – basically the growth of technology was stifled by the presence of magic for centuries; no one really needed to advance technology because magic already did what most real-world inventions do; so when the magic engine was invented, probably about 1800 our time, it really changed things
  • One of the major effects was that it was determined that there is only so much magic available; in essence the Earth acts as a focus for magic and it generates a certain magical ‘flow’, so once that much magic is being used there is no more available
  • Over the decades, massive reactors have been built on ley-line nodes to siphon off and collect magical energy. That energy is the property of the state, and it is only allowed to be used as the state determines; the state also ensures that essentially all magical ‘flow’ is collected, so no “wizards” or other such people with an innate ability to command magic have access to its power

 

All of this leads to some reoccurring themes. One of the main ones would be the question of whether or not this practice of having the state control all magic is a good thing or not. The history of this world contains all of the sort of fantasy tales that you’d expect to see in any fantasy setting, with dragons and princesses and all sorts of juvenile adventure. But, now that is all in the past, there are no more wizards, or if there are they have no idea they’re wizards because there’s no magic any more. I can see having a few long-lived members of monstrous races still around, possibly a dragon or two, maybe some members of one of the fey races that are storied to be long lived. But the idea here is that magical races can’t survive in a world without magic. It might come across as too strong to have them actually dying… as in “we can’t reproduce without magic,” that seems weak. But, it could be that the magical species are becoming mundane. Unicorns are just horses now; dragons are just big lizards; elves are just homosexuals. So the world is safer, more predictable, probably more fair and equitable; but, it’s also more dull, it’s the fantasy world turned into the real world, and not everyone would be happy about that.

 

There might be an idea for a story in here. The first story could be about the invention of the magic engine. I wonder if that could be the big ‘reveal’… the reader doesn’t know what the engine is powered by until the end when we see that the story has been set in a fantasy world all along and it’s all about magic. Hmm. I’m not sure that would work, but it’s worth thinking about. Another idea would be a framed story – a story within a story: a young man is sitting at the base of the cooling tower of one of the massive magic reactors while his tutor tells him the history of the reactors and the magic engines; the story walks us through the salient points of this setting’s history and introduces some of the main themes; the twist then, is that we’ve never really been shown the tutor, he’s just been described in oblique terms, then at the story’s conclusion we finally get to see him and he’s actually a dragon; he’s lost his ability to fly, breathe fire, wield magic spells, et cetera, but he’s still a dragon and the story ends with the young man pondering the lost majesty of his tutor and the modern, safe world he has instead.

 

 

Returning to Themes

I know I’ve covered this ground, but I feel it’s something I’ll be returning to repeatedly. As an aside, I wonder if I should learn to type properly. I’ll try typing the rest of this blog using the home-row keys and all of that. I don’t know how well it will work.

 

All right. Here I am typing on the… fuck it I can’t stand that. I typing the way I type.

 

Okay, so I’m talking about themes. Why? Well, I have a 200 word prose-poem due on Thursday, and the only way I can think of creating some context for writing it is to outline a new story and then zoom in on one of the more evocative scenes. You know… I get what Joel is saying about writing evocatively, but sometimes I wonder if he doesn’t advocate going a bit too far. I mean, I get that you want to provide some detail and add some richness to your prose, but do you really want to get bogged down in that detail? Sometimes you just want to cut to the chase and move the plot forward. Anyhow…

 

So yes, themes. Themes because I start all of my stories with a theme. Then I move on to fleshing the specifics of the theme I want to explore, and then comes the outline. Or the characters and setting, I suppose, but to me that’s part of the outline.

 

What themes have I been interested in exploring lately? Well, I’ve been starting to plan out my next project – or series of projects, really. I’m reading “Last Call” by Peter Okent (sp?); it’s a history of prohibition in the States. I’m finding it interesting on its own, but not only that I’m planning on using it as the basis for my fictional world. In a nutshell, I’m using the themes of the Prohibition years to base a series of short stories, and ideally eventually a novel on. I think there are a number of interesting themes to be explored by looking at Prohibition, personally. Let me try to outline a few:

 

Morality and how it intersects with legality

I think this is a fascinating theme. I see this all the time, that people can’t tell the difference between a moral and a law. For instance, ask the typical person why murder is illegal and they’ll tell you it’s because it’s wrong to kill someone. To me, that’s a completely false statement. I don’t believe it’s inherently wrong to kill someone – in fact as long as you eat the body I can’t see how it’s ever morally wrong to kill anyone. I mean, people are no different than any other animal when it gets down to it, so as long as you eat what you kill I’m not seeing the problem. But really, I think the reason murder is a crime is that we acknowledge that our society would struggle to be orderly and productive if people were free to kill one another. Let me put this a different way. Consider automobiles. Every year in Canada, 3,000 people are killed in automobile collisions. Statistically, we could reduce that to zero if we reduced the speed limit to 20 km/h everywhere at all times. Consider that, really. We could save 3,000 lives per year, 30,000 per decade, 300,000 per century by simply agreeing to drive no faster than 20 km/h. What do you think that odds of anyone agreeing to that are? Somewhere close to zero? So to me this is interesting, because we’re so sure killing someone is a moral infraction of a very high order, and yet we’ll willfully consign 3,000 people a year to death just so we can get to work faster. Doesn’t that seem odd? So what’s my point? I resist having a point; I just want to explore the theme.

 

The role of government

This theme is central to Prohibition because in general the government had never been concerned with limiting the freedom of the people until Prohibition started. The one exception was emancipation – you were not allowed to own slaves. After Prohibition, you were not allowed to own slaves and you were not allowed to purchase alcohol.  I guess in nations like Canada and the U.S. where common law is practiced, it seems odd for a government to need to step in with some sort of constitutional mandate of what people are or are not allowed to do. There’s nothing in the Constitution for example that tells you you aren’t allowed to kill someone. That’s something the courts have decided and it’s enshrined in the common law of the nations.

 

The effects of laws and how real effect differs from intended effect

This is interesting, too. During Prohibition of course the Mob gained all sorts of power and wealth. Why? Because making something illegal doesn’t take away people’s’ desire for it, it just makes it harder to come by and hence more valuable. So during Prohibition, alcoholic beverage became quite valuable and very attractive to organized criminals to smuggle in. The other impact was that people started distilling their own alcohol in basements and sheds. Of course, that alcohol was often poisonous and the drinker would die, or go blind, or what-have-you. But in the eyes of the Prohibitionist that was an entirely fair and just fate for someone partaking in the demon liquor. This reminds me of abortion, actually. When you make abortion illegal you don’t stop it from happening, you just drive it underground into back-alley clinics where women risk their lives and criminals profit. Prostitution is like that, too. So are drugs. Imagine if cigarettes were made illegal, you’d have smuggling rings spring up over night so criminals could profit bringing in smokes for the people who want them. So we have alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, other drugs, abortions, prostitution, add gambling to the list… basically these are all things that are considered to be moral vices. Some people object to them, some people quite stridently. So through that moral objection and through the political pressure these moral groups can wield, these vices become outlawed. Does it help? Does it work? Well, most of these things have been illegal for decades if not centuries, and they’re all still here, so I’d say not.

 

It’s worth pointing out that these are large, overarching themes that I want to include in setting and character design, but I don’t think I want to smash the reader over the head with them. It would be way to heavy-handed a narrative style. I need to break these up and find some simpler, more personal themes to actually start writing stories about. You know, Party at Steve’s! could easily have been one of this series of stories if I’d wanted it to be.

 

But, the main conceit of the setting is that magic exists but it’s illegal. Magic becomes the big allegory for alcohol or drugs or prostitution or anything else that people have historically tried to suppress or destroy. Now, there’s a difference between trying to suppress something that’s blatantly harmful, like murder, and something for which there is arguably no victim, like alcohol. The gray area is that alcoholism can have a victim if a drunk beats up his wife or smashed his car into someone or something like that, but here we have to be careful and ask if that was the fault of the alcohol or of the drunk him or herself.

 

 

Earthrise

Here’s the completed “Earthrise” poem. I get feedback on it next week, so it will be interesting to see what people think of it. Frankly, I don’t consider myself much of a poet, but this was a fun exercise.

 

The Sun its path that day did stand

as to my kin and me

for an eon it did offend

mocked us with liberty.

 

Our hunting lodges had been masked

as laboratories

libraries where our trophies basked

the unknown our quarries.

 

The crew’s thoughts in their furtive glance

to shore tremulous smiles

the more knowledge we earned recants

our dreams as do a child’s.

 

The jeers from well-wishers toward

prophets our doom decreed

but my ghost stood aside that horde

of madmen and agreed.

 

We sailed past heights of ancient rock

upon old stages perched

where impatient people would flock

the horizon they searched.

 

That final boundary now passed

that yet forbidding wall

at every warning we laughed

a new challenge was all.

 

As twins with sutures of flesh tied

against what gods had sewn

the other’s face could not unhide

though it was so well known.

 

The shadowed hemisphere our jail

nor through epochs would turn

astronomy had told the tale

the truth we would now learn.

 

It did rise as we knew it must

as armed we were with math

it dawned over the world’s far crust

and we gripped in its path.

 

As a truculent god above

with knowledge absolute

for our trespass no defense of

hiding our profane route.

 

In all directions gray waves faced

in rows of subjects bowed

supplicants before it abased

some mad king’s throne did crowd.

 

To that strange court our ship that day

like an ambassador

from a nation of dirt and clay

vulgar and nothing more.

 

A countenance of such beauty

too much our minds to bear

past ken of mortal agency

artless to shield its glare.

 

The crew as one the gunwales scaled

until ‘twas I alone

adrift and wishing once more jailed

with those yet safe at home.

 

Blork. If that isn’t pretentious shit I don’t know what is.

 

Dark of the Moon

Here’s an idea for poem number 2. In a nutshell: life also evolved on the moon; it has water and an atmosphere; the landmass is concentrated on what Earth-dwellers call the dark side of the moon, meaning that the sentient life forms that evolve on the moon never see the Earth. Eventually they develop the technology to sail over the horizon, and finally see the Earth rising up out of the sea before them. This poem is about what that moment would be like.

Outline:

1. we’re on the moon

an orb – a brother or cousin – spinning – dancing – hurtling – inevitable dance of the eons – near yet always out of reach

that brother orb or cousin, spinning in an inevitable dance for eons

Conceive a place from us forever hidden

An eons long dance our back always turned

Instead of above ideas, let’s go with the command – command – question format

“Conceive a world eternally turned away

as lovers in an eons long fight without possibility of reconciliation

2. life has evolved

conceive of life evolving there as on Earth – water and atmosphere – recipe for life fulfilled

conceive of its recipe for life fulfilled with air and water

“Conjoined at birth and no man with the art to render assunder

as though cruel sutures of flesh binding them yet keeping them apart

3. parallels the Earth in many ways / 6. sentient life evolves but never sees the Earth

life emerges, evolves – epoch upon epoch – sentient life similar to humans appears

from those countless epochs a beast emerges with the will to rise and seize its own destiny

4. land masses are concentrated on the far side of the moon / 5. tidally locked orbits

it rises to view the cosmos but cannot see the elder brother, trapped on the far side of the tidally locked moon

7. millenia pass

millenia fade into history as the epoch turns

8. technology reaches a point where long-distance ocean travel is possible

the will to master destiny spawns marvels of technology

9. we’ve built a magnificent ship

ship metaphors – tall, wood, brass, canvas, hemp

10. we sail over that final horizon

finally able to conquer the final horizon, escape the prison

11. our mathematicians have assured us its existence

what has been known mathematically for centuries

12. our astronomers have yearned to see it

what has been discovered again and again in the imaginings of the astronomers

“ancient watchtowers rising out of the surf holding aloft observatories for those would would stand with strained eyes and toes for a glimpse”

13. but when we do finally see it rising out of the horizon

those few who mastered their fears and strode to the world’s end and beyond

“all the waves abased before it like suplicants before some mad king”

“to that strange court our vessel was an ambassador from some rude land of dirt and clay”

14. will we be able to emotionally handle the experience

nothing could prepare us – rising out of the horizon like the unblinking eye of a wrathful god

15. or will we flee from it or hurl ourselves into the water

overwhelming – the kind of horror that only an excess of beauty can communicate – the weak collapse in worship – the strong case themselves into the deep

I think I’ll go for iambic pentameter on this. (da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM). Rhyme scheme… aa bb?

Idea for structure: 4 or 6 line stanzas (6 works I think), 3 of them, last line is a question, possibly last two lines

Stanza 1: set up the situation

Stanza 2: embarking on voyage, armed with mathematics

Stanza 3: revelation

And I Don’t Even Know It

My short story is due in a week, so I should really be working on that. But instead I’m stuck thinking about this poem that isn’t due for a month. Oh well.

“In the Menagerie”

Stanza 1: introduce the scene, a man with his son in a zoo (but it’s an alien man and alien zoo)

Stanza 2: the human cities

they had cities very much akin to those mounds of grit and organic secretions one observes in any number of insectoids

wherein the hunched and agorophobic lurked under fragile roofs and within fragile walls and burned lumps of their planet they had dug up for the purpose

coughing over the fumes and pouring filth into their skies

Stanza 3: charity

malevolent in their ignorance

worshipping life so that they cheapen it

valuable only for quantity and nothing for quality

Stanza 4: reproduction

The men celebratory

for their protomatter issued as a twisting knot of snakes writhing in some dismal defile

The women celebratory

as they cure their infection by disgorging a parasite of screams and want

Stanza 5: closing

The slaughterer and the slaughtered both beseeched the same god

But he didn’t love them enough to save them from themselves

And he sure as Hell didn’t love them enough to save them from us

But even millenia of atrocity can produce some good

As a lesson for us as we stand here now

And see the brute, declawed and naked

A monkey in a cage

 

I’ll be returning to this post periodicaly to work on this poem. Currently it’s too obvious and the ideas are expanded upon enough. Plus I need a good opening and a better closing.

Allegory

I’m fascinated by George Orwell, and to a lesser extent Ayn Rand. These are authors who turned to creative writing in order to make a strong point, a point that likely would have been lost if they had just tried to communicate it by writing a letter or expository essay or something like that. George Orwell was a master of the allegory. In Animal Farm he was able to make a very deliberate and compelling statement about Stalinist Russia, and about dictatorship in general, using a story about pigs on a farm. To me, that’s amazing. It’s truly amazing to see how potent a statement can be made by taking characters, events, and concepts, and simply substituting them with something else. I suppose it’s a way of simplifying things; people can relate to the conflict between pigs on a farm more easily than the conflict between historic political factions in another country, and so the issue can be brought to a level that’s compelling and meaningful to the everyman.

One of my projects-in-waiting is what I hope will be a successful allegory. (Successful in the sense that it will be completed and will appropriately expand on the ideas it’s meant to be an allegory of, not so much successful in the sense of making any money). The concept I want to allegorize is prohibition. To me, the current laws on drug possession and use are fundamentally identical to the laws during the prohibition years in the 20s and 30s. Prohibition, of course, was a miserable failure. It did nothing to stop people from drinking, but it did create a booming business for organized crime. It also drove up the value of alcohol to the point that people were bootlegging it themselves, which resulted in all sorts of people dying and going blind from alcohol poisoning. I guess it’s a little like making abortion illegal. Some people think that’s a good idea, because they think people shouldn’t have abortions. What they fail to acknowledge is that making something illegal doesn’t actually stop it, it just drives it underground where dangerous criminal activity springs up to supply the demand.

I think this concept is rich for an allegory. My idea, not all the original I know, is to use magic as the allegory for alcohol, drugs, abortion, or any substance or activity made illegal that probably shouldn’t be. I should make a comment here about the difference between a drug being illegal and something like murder being illegal. To me, if there’s a victim, then it’s appropriate that we have a law to protect the rights of the victim. When there’s no victim, there should be no law. There’s a lot of grey area there, I know, because people would argue that drug users are victims and aborted fetuses are victims, and so forth. But I dont’ want to write forever about this, just let me say that some laws have victims and some don’t, and the ones that don’t shouldn’t be laws.

So I’d like to spend some time, likely in a future post, drafting ideas for this allegory. What I need to do is brainstorm a crapload of concepts around prohibition and its effects and start allegorizing them. You know, I should get a book about prohibition…

 

Let’s Give This a Try…

Here’s the outline, then, for Part at Steve’s!

  1. Steve is on his balcony, waiting for guests to arrive — change: the party has started, many guests are there, Steve has escaped to the balcony
  2. He observes the view and notes a homeless man in the alley
  3. His girlfriend, Nancy, arrives, they talk briefly about the party — change: Nancy pokes her head out the balcony door, the talk briefly, she goes back in
  4. Nancy goes into the apartment to prepare, Steve notes a group of young men entering the alley
  5. Guests arrive: Darrel and Dick, a gay couple from Nancy’s work
  6. Darrel and Dick come on to the balcony and with Steve observe the thugs harassing the homeless man, they make light of the situation
  7. Party is growing in intensity: louder, talking giving way to laughter and some dancing as alcohol kicks in, possibly drugs
  8. Third guest arrives: Cheryl, a friend of Nancy’s, they stay in the apartment talking — change: mention her, possibly, she’s been there all along
  9. Fourth guest arrives: Cody, friend of Steve’s from work, he pauses to admire Cheryl before joining Steve on the balcony, they watch the conflict below and then discuss Cheryl, with Cody expressing romantic interest (although he’s only just met her)
  10. Fifth guest arrives: Jesse, metro sexual and resident of the same building, friend of Steve and Nancy’s, Jesse is an object of desire for Darrel and Dick, seeing him arrive, Darrel and Dick go into the apartment, leaving Steve and Cody on the balcony, who then discuss Cheryl
  11. Guests continue to arrive the fight in the alley builds in intensity
  12. Party builds as well: someone has turned the music up, guests are dancing, making out
  13. Nancy and Cheryl come onto the balcony, all four observe the fight, Cheryl is disturbed, hugs herself, Cody escorts her back inside
  14. Jesse comes onto balcony, observes conflict with Steve and Nancy, remarks on safety of building/neighbourhood, need for security
  15. Others come onto balcony, remark on party, observe conflict below, remark on conflict
  16. Steve goes into the apartment for a beer, also to check on Cody and Cheryl, can’t find them, checks his bedroom, they are fucking on his bed
  17. The balcony is crowded now, Steve can hear someone taking bets, Nancy’s face is lit with an orange glow
  18. Steve comes out, pushes to the rail, below the young men are running off, homeless man is on fire, thrashing about on the ground
  19. Party-goers remark on scene below, a number express disgust and go back into the apartment, the homeless man is dragging himself across the alley, someone offers to take bets he doesn’t make it as far as the dumpster
  20. Assorted comments, as the homeless man dies and the fire dies down so does the party
  21. Steve sees Cody leave, shortly afterward Cheryl appears as if looking for Cody, then she too leaves, appearing distraught, various other party-goers leave, Darrel and Dick leave with Jesse
  22. Nancy says she isn’t spending the night, also leaves
  23. Steve observes the charred corpse, then goes in and retires for the night after cleaning up the worst of the mess
  24. Closing is brief, something like, “Steve checked the morning news before he left for work; there was no mention of the incident.”

Does it work? I still think it might suck, but I can try writing it out.