Okay, okay: Quick update.
School is coming to a close. Not winding down, as the expression goes, not yet — but it’s getting close to being over. I have a ten- to twelve-page research paper I’m working on, I have two or three major essay-based tests to study for, a ten-minute presentation to do, but then I’m fucking done.
At least until next semester. (The last one, finally.)
After that? Well, okay. Here’s the official announcement: I’m writing my first novel. I’ve got a couple of short story ideas brewing in the back of my mind, science fiction stories, but I’m saving those for afterward. I don’t want to get in the way of what has the potential to become a really, really interesting dark fantasy novel. Or horror novel. Or weird transgressive satire. I don’t give a shit what people end up calling it, because chances are that no one will want to read it. It’s a first novel — maybe you didn’t catch that part.
I’m calling it DOOMSTER, but you can call it whatever you want. Don’t call it crap, ’cause that’s rude as hell. Just ignore it, if you think it’s crap. Please.
I’ve got a lot of brainstorming notes and a very broad outline written, with some truly inspiring characters and ideas, but I honestly have no idea what it will end up being. It may prove to be a trunk novel. It may end up self-published. It may sell to a small press publisher like Raw Dog Screaming Press, who I think are doing some fantastic work in the field of horror and the weird right now, or somebody bigger. I dunno.
I just want to write a novel, and have some fun with it.
To write the book — here comes that advice bubbling up again — that I would want to read.
(Meanwhile, I’ll also be filling out applications to Clarion, Clarion West, and Odyssey. Fingers crossed.)
So what have I been reading? That’s relevant.
First: Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk’s earth-shattering debut novel from 1996. My favorite book, well, ever. Must’ve read it a hundred times. It’s been instrumental in motivating my lazy, stressed-out ass to hunker down and get a novel done. Finally. Before that: things like Horns by Joe Hill, and Palahniuk’s Damned. More recently, Jeremy C. Shipp’s Cursed, George Carlin’s posthumous memoir, Last Words, and The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons: Buddhist Themes in Modern Fantasy. I’ve been watching my favorite childhood anime series, Robotech.
This is where my head has been, when it’s not at school. Doing schoolwork.
By the time I get around to diving headlong into the novel draft next week, my head is still going to be here. I think that’s okay, even a great thing. These are books I love. The myths I’ve built my life around, to put it boldly.
They’re the reason I’m managing to make my homework fun in this last, final stretch.
Here’s the block quote that opens my final Buddhism term paper, for fun:
I would put forward that the next thing is going to be a story, because right now, people really don’t have a big story, a big software… They don’t have a big meta-narrative story; they don’t have a big story like Christianity was a big story. So right now, we need a really big story… And that story doesn’t have to be in conflict or in reaction to the current story, because I would say, right now, you don’t change anything by protesting anything… You give people a more effective way of living their lives, they won’t give a shit about foreign oil, you know? You give them the right story, and you make their cars obsolete, it’s gonna be like, “We are just swimming in oil. What are we going to do with all this oil?” And you can do that within the culture without reacting to the government, the war, whatever. Because in a way, by reacting to it, you’re wasting energy…you are making it stronger by giving it this token little resistance, keeping it in place. So your job, I would say, is to come up with a story like that, that makes all of the things we worry about so much right now completely beside the point… We won’t even think about them, because your story will be so incredible. I don’t know what that story is, but that’s why…if I can make my case, somebody’s gonna come up with that story.
–Chuck Palahniuk (Postcards from the Future)
The paper is called Karmic Demons and the Power of Compassion: Buddhist Philosophy as a Basis for Modern Myth, and I’m hoping to craft it into a kind of short fiction-writer’s manifesto. A foundation for the rest of my literary career, at the risk of sounding presumptuous, or even pretentious.
Because I’ve come to love the ideas that lie at the heart of Buddhist thought (even though I’m not, nor will I ever be, a Buddhist), I seek to imbue my stories with them — but only if I can achieve that without growing deliberately didactic. In this essay, I’m going to explore Buddhist ideas in existing stories and the larger philosophical truths they represent, and then explain the utility of such ideas from a contemporary storyteller’s perspective.
To give you an idea of the paper’s meat-and-potatoes content, the preexisting basis for my argument, here’s my works cited bibliography:
- Bacigalupi, Paolo. “Pocketful of Dharma.” Pump Six and Other Stories. San Francisco: Night Shade, 2010. 1-24. Print.
- Dick, Philip K. “Beyond Lies the Wub.” Paycheck and Other Classic Stories. New York: Citadel, 1990. 27-33. Print.
- Hill, Joe. Heart-Shaped Box. New York: Harper, 2010. Print.
- Hill, Joe. Horns. New York: William Morrow, 2010. Print.
- Loy, David, and Linda Goodhew. The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons: Buddhist Themes in Modern Fantasy. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2004. Print.
- Mitchell, Donald W. Buddhism: Introducing the Buddhist Experience. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.
- Okorafor, Nnedi. Who Fears Death. New York: Daw, 2010. Print.
- Palahniuk, Chuck. Damned. New York: Doubleday, 2011. Print.
- Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club: A Novel. New York: Henry Holt, 2004. Print.
- Postcards from the Future: The Chuck Palahniuk Documentary. Dir. Dennis Widmyer, Kevin Kölsch, and Josh Chaplinsky. Perf. Chuck Palahniuk. Kinky Mule Films, 2003. DVD.