The Utility of Tangents

Monster in the Tub--Roadio Arts

I like to think that there is a place in my mind—a waiting room of sorts, where all of the stories that I’ll pen, are mulling around, interacting with one another—perhaps arguing about whose turn it is and why it shouldn’t be so. Some are allowed out in pairs, some are solitary. Oh, I know that there are a multitude of things that I (as an author—and occasionally a human being), will encounter that will inspire me.

You see, that’s what decides the order in which these stories are imagined. It’s like the number they assign you at the DMV. You wait your turn until you see your number, in little red lights, pop up on the box. If you miss your turn, they’ll continue to call you for a set amount of time, and then that chance will be given to someone new. My stories all have numbers—I don’t know what they are. But, I’ve learned a valuable lesson this week: I have no say in their distribution.

That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes believe that I do. I argue with myself quite a bit, on one story’s progression or another. But in the end, they all have turns and it’s of no consequence how hard I might try to force one in another’s place. They don’t stand in single file lines, as I’d like them to. They stand like five year olds, perpetually asking absurd questions or fighting with whoever happens to be in front of them (and in some rare instances whoever is behind them). What brought all of this to mind, is the apparent story that I was accusing quite literally of being in the wrong room. It appeared with number in hand, excited, and all I could say was:

“I’m very sorry for the inconvenience, but I’m afraid you’re mistaken. I don’t write romance novels that don’t have some element of the supernatural in them.”

“But, I have a number.”

“Yes, I can see that. But as I said, I’m simply not who you are looking for. And I can’t imagine how you wound up here. I’ll have to get with the frontal lobe about that. What time did you arrive here yesterday?”

“I didn’t. I’ve been here. And I have a number.”

“You couldn’t have been here long, I would have at least suspected you might be approaching the front of the line. Now, let’s talk about the last place you were before you were here and maybe that will help me figure out where to send you.”

“I’ve already told you…I’ve been here. And how do you know that there isn’t anything supernatural involved? I’ll tell you what, lets just sit for a moment. I won’t take up much of your time—I swear. I have a story to tell you.”

So, 38,000 words later—I have a very conceited romance novel in the works (There’s nothing worse than a story running around saying, ‘I told you so’). Perhaps there is utility in tangents—in those wayward stories that wind up somehow wandering into our brains and picking up a number somebody else dropped. I’ve discussed this in depth with several portions of my left brain and that’s the only logical conclusion we can come up with. Either that or someone’s getting fired. Not to mention how loudly Nightshade and Icarus are complaining that it’s still their turn. There isn’t much you can say to soothe stories like those. They’re impatient to begin with, being single volumes and all.

I suspect there is a slight element of the supernatural—though it appears arguably as my main character’s brain and not the ghost of his dead sister, who is whispering cryptic hints in his dreams about the killer’s identity. The story is also refusing to identify itself with a title, so for now I’ve lovingly dubbed it, ‘Not a Novel.’ It doesn’t appear to appreciate this much, but that’s what it gets for being so damn close-lipped.

Oh, and just to add insult to injury, the story let it slip that there are more than a couple horror stories hanging out in the billiards room (of course my brain has a billiards room).

“Oops, did I say that out loud? I meant to say that there are some stories of ‘undetermined genre’, wrecking the pool table.”

“Self-righteous son of a…”

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Some worlds never die

Some worlds will never die. Regardless of how many generations come and go, there are some places that once imagined, will never cease to be.

As a young girl, I read E. R. Eddison’s work, The Worm Ouroboros. It remained a part of my mind long after I had closed the book.
Gro answered and said, “I will not hide it from you, O my Lord the King, that in my sleep about the darkest hour a dream of the night came to my bed and beheld me with a glance so fell that the hairs of my head stood up and pale terror gat hold upon me. And methought the dream smote up the roof above my bed, and the roof yawned to the naked air of the midnight, that laboured with fiery signs, and a bearded star travelling in the houseless dark. And I beheld the roof and the walls one gore of blood. And the dream screeched like the screech-owl, crying, Witchland from thy hand, O King! And therewith the whole world seemed lighted in one flame, and with a shout I awoke sweating from the dream.”

Why is that one of my favorite passages from Ouroboros? I love the imagery. The visceral feel of the world in which Gro lives. It takes me, terrifyingly of course, to another existence. How much fiction have you read lately that can lay claim to that? So much pop fiction frustrates me. Is this a lost art? Is Epic Fantasy losing its readership to paranormal and urban fantasy? Some think so. Quite a bit has been said lately about the decline of book sales in the genre. Is this a passing trend? I personally think so. There is a really good discussion of it here http://aidanmoher.com/blog/?p=230#comment-2057
Epic stories are too much a part of our being. In a commercial, pragmatic world, its nice to fall into a realm that knows nothing of emails, or cell phones, or the wonderless existence of living in polluted, over-crowded cities.
Who hasn’t experienced loss that, even for a second, made you wish for the impossible? Even those who claim they don’t care for fantasy, are drawn to newstories that are seemingly incongruent with reality.
Our daily world is built on the foundation of immediate gratification. We are no more invested in imaginery worlds than we are our own. But, this mindset is relatively new. Like all things, it will change. We’ll find the lost art of letters, and face to face communication. Not to be archaic, but I like things that leave more than a page in your browser history. I am not alone.
So, no. I don’t think Epic Fantasy is dying. The publishing trend may be pulling things in a different direction, but as the pendulum swings it will return again. Some worlds will never die.