Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm Gonna Be In A Book!

The teacher asked for a subtle use of gradient. It works but it seems a little... lacking.

Ahhh, that's better.

A little while ago I stopped sending stories out to professional markets. There were a number of reasons for this. First, I've been putting my writing energy into the novel. And right now I work with an editor who likes my fiction well enough to place it in the two small-press magazines he edits.

Of course, I also stopped because when I started sending stories out I got personal rejection slips -- here's what didn't work, came close, strong writing here -- but as I improved I started getting form slips and that hurt my little feelings.

So a little while ago I said the hell with it, worry about selling short fiction once the novel's finished.

So of course that's when a small-press editory, Dave Byron, contacts me and asks me to write a story for an upcoming anthology. (I'm putting his site up in my links section -- it's New Voices in Fiction.)

The book is to be titled Grand Guignoir and it's intended to combine Grand Guignol theater with noir fiction. In other words, over-the-top crime stories. "Doc" Byron ran across a sample of my writing on the Swill site and figured I was good at bad so he signed me up.

Bucky Sinister is going to be there -- he was in the first issue of Swill. (Tragically, both he and I submitted clown-oriented horror. Very different stories but it was enough to give the issue its theme.) Cool!

But the big news? Joe R. Lansdale has a story in there. I'm gonna be in an anthology with Joe R. Lansdale! The man is one of my minor heroes and has been a bit of an influence -- more than anyone else he taught me not to look away from what you're writing. He's also an example of someone who started off writing what was more-or-less pulp fiction and who has grown over the years into a very respectable author, one with real depth and strength who uses the tropes of popular fiction to address personal and political concerns.

Like I said, a minor hero of mine.

And the story? I first submitted a piece I'd had trouble placing elsewhere, and in an email to my writer's group I admitted that it was a story that didn't quite work for me and that I'd submitted it as an act of unconscious self-sabotage. (The world's most popular indoor sport, at least in my world.) I've since realized that it's really a spoken word piece and that's why it doesn't work on the page...

So then I went through my notes to see if any concepts seemed as though they'd work for an ultraviolent crime story. That was when I remembered a character I'd created for a novel, a costumed vigilante. He was based on my readings concerning organized pattern killers -- whose behavior was very strongly reminiscent of some superheroes.

Right now there's a celebration in the culture of the good guy who acts like a bad guy, of the man who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty when the time comes. Who isn't afraid to kill and torture as long as he does it to people who deserve it.

To say the least I disapprove. I see this as a corrosive concept, one that leads into a downhill spiral. Yes, I'm thinking Guantanamo among other things. And there was the question I had to answer.

If the bad guy is really bad -- really, really bad -- how can you show the agent of justice confronting him as being repellent in his own right? How do you show a strong man acting in opposition to evil in a way that doesn't engage the sympathies of the audience?

I think I pulled it off.

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