Just finished reading Hal Duncan's novella Escape From Hell! wherein, you guessed it, is a story of people dying, going to Hell, and attempting escape. Highly recommended, esp. taken with Harlan Ellison's short story The Death Bird for a chaser. Both have as themes (among others): God's a bastard and it's past time the fucker goes down.
Stories, that for me, are an irreverent brew that helped wash a bad taste lingering in my mouth since last month. Few weeks ago, I was sitting in my favorite book store's cafe, sipping coffee, reading a magazine before I got down to writing.
The young man sitting the table in front of me is having a conversation with an old man. I'm not listening when the old man's familiar voice catches my attention. Couldn't be...
It is. Even more aged that I remember, of course, but undeniably my old pastor of my late childhood's church. The young man is of the opinion that Haiti got what was coming to them, what with their voodoos and their rituals and all. Same as that New Orleans place from a ways back.
My old pastor tries to steer him away from the idea, using a soft tone of voice and words as firm and forceful as gently prodding pillows. We don't know God's plans. It could be that he'd destroy those cities as an expression of his displeasure, but the signs (whatever those may be) don't point to it. He struggles and fails to remember Thailand's name, you know, that asian country over there somewhere that got slammed by the tsunami a while back. Same deal. But such things are to be expected more frequently as we near the end times.
Ah, those ol' end times, always just around the corner. I remember anticipating their immediate commencement myself once upon a time.
Yeah, but...the young man isn't quite convinced.
Remember, pastor said, Christians died in these natural disasters. God wouldn't kill his own in a display of wrath laid upon the heathen. He doesn't say heathen, really, but he might as well have. Pastor then goes on to relate the story of Sodom and Gomorra.
I tried not to eavesdrop, told myself I wasn't going to eavesdrop. I concentrated very hard on the article spread before me, but I didn't see the words on the page anymore. I was staring down through them, through the pages and the table and the floor, down down into my own private hell.
I want to be enraged at this young man, this waste of oxygen's smug self righteousness. His sickening ignorance. I want to confront them, make a scene. But, selfish, self-centered thing that I am, I'm too wrapped up in myself. I'm paralyzed.
Hearing pastor once again affirm to his young man that unbelievers will perish in the eternal outer darkness of hell, puts me back in a place I haven't been in years, though it always seems like just last year and not a decade later.
And they ate of the fruit and became aware. When they saw that they were nekkid, they were ashamed.
That's me. Eve and Adam in a garden of books and espresso. Contemplating aberrant acts of literature. Feeling ashamed, brimming with self loathing, a small, filthy, pathetic thing. A mad urge seizes me to walk up to pastor, to apologize for giving up on the faith. To beg to be taken in again. Not even close to actually doing it though. Grateful for small blessings. But the fact that this urge, this desire so quickly springs up in me, is even there at all, is terrifying.
Where was my swagger now? Where were my doubts, my "deep" questions about faith and God and spirituality? Where was my identity of not having a religious identity anymore, neither atheist or believer? Gone, all gone.
I'm sweating. Still haven't read a word.
The pastor leaves. He never recognized me even after I made eye contact. He'd have said hi if he'd recognized the face. But why would he? I am not what I was.
Sanity returned, sheepish and offering no good excuses.
I'd never guessed that it would take so little for me to...god, I mean, I thought I remembered, but no. The memory of sheephood had never left me. Buried, but not decayed in the least. And restless in its tomb, it would seem.
There are many young men and women like this young man. And I was, oh god, I was once one of them. I was once the same.
Okay, on to fan fic stuffs.
Sometimes I really have to wonder wtf is wrong with me. Like most people, I like media that's funny. That can produce that really deep belly laughter that hurts so good. Or even just a chuckle. Brightens the day by a micron or two.
But enjoying great humor writing and being able to produce the same oneself are two very different things. And unlike the stuff I write, you can't just sorta half-way succeed at teh funny. It's all or nothing when the punch line comes round, baby.
I don't know why my stuff tends to be darker than the canon's tone. Original flavor appears beyond my grasp.
Sure, I enjoy dark or serious stories just as much as the humor, and I'm inspired by them, but that can't explain it all, can it?
Here's a recent example. I decide to write a Super Mario Bros AU. I decide that it's going to be violent, with plenty of dark accents, sure. But I also want it to not take itself so seriously. I don't want it to be gorn or deathly serious. It's going to be a fun story, full of knowing winks and charm and adventure. First paragraph comes out fine.
But before I finish the first page, this is what comes out!:
He spotted the Toads now, rounded heads and chubby bowling pin bodies skittering through the murk, hunched over the koopas and goombas and shyguys they had slain, little hands groping and little curved knives flashing up and down in the dim light as they stripped the bodies of his soldiers for loot. Loot that was not only the equipment his kin carried but their very flesh as well. Koopa shells, in particular, were a prized commodity in the market places of these abominations.
See? I can't have nice things. Am I so one-note? Must I always take the lowest, darkest road possible?
I'd like to think I'm capable of more.
It's something about writing fights, battles, wars that gets to me. I can't force myself to pull back, to leaven my punches. When people...things try to kill each other, I don't see any beauty in it, even if my characters do. A big part of me hates to romanticize battle. Yet, I crave action scenes.
And us writers, we often have to write what makes us happy, frightened, terrified, pissed off, uncomfortable. Because how else can we make readers feel emotion if we cannot believe in it ourselves?
But is that really the true answer? Am I just being lazy, making excuses?
I read on and write on, hoping to find the answers. It's all I know to do.