You! Set your dainty cup of grease down,
and be like the you you remember, like the man just-dead.
Days cry for him.
He’s gone, all of his time piled up, unsmelted ore behind the Now,
and I will set this down with drills in stone in the Met:
“There are wonders at the door,
Be seeing ya.”
I’ve been trying to remove a particularly bothersome character, Cousin Darrell, from my novel for a while. For those of you following along at home — he’s dead. At last. Or, more properly, he has ceased to have ever existed.
This coincides with me reading a passage in Donald Maass’s “Writing the Breakout Novel” about keeping the number of characters to a minimum. I am tempted, indeed, to put the nix on another one of the troublesome Bascom cousins… But I don’t think I should. If I do, some of the plot changes get pretty intense.
I will continue to reflect. I hope I choose wisely.
Just ran into this one:
http://soireb.blogspot.com/2012/01/teddy-bears-and-tea-parties-spoilers.html (spoilers in the review, warning!)
My favorite (non spoilery) quote from the review is this:
“I’m hoping that the author publishes a sequel or at least another book set in the same universe to try to get a better sense of world itself.”
Well, if they want to read another story in that universe, they must have liked it a little, right? That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
In case you’ve been down a hole with a white rabbit somewhere, my short story, “Our Vast and Inevitable Death” is up at Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, here (you can read a sample for free).
AND NOW my non fiction article, “On the Writing of ‘Our Vast and Inevitable Death”, which describes all the various influences that went into the story (and is almost as long as the piece itself! Is up on the OSC IGMS blog here (and you can read it FREE)
My dystopian/horror/surreal/weird post-apocalyptic ebook “Teddy Bears and Tea Parties” NOW FREE on Amazon Prime for a limited time!
And a 67% discount for we non-prime mortals.
NYT Best Seller David Brin calls it, “Way unconventional, dreamlike, and fun.”
Nebula Award Winner Eugie Foster says, “Homicidal teddy bears, man-eating houses, a really creepy clown, and one scary little girl. S. Boyd Taylor has crafted a seriously sinister and unforgettable tale.”
Lots of great illustrations, by my good friend Jorge Rodas too.
Okay, now that the mandatory promo part is over, let me ramble on about why I love this story so much — think of this as a self-review of my own book, but with a twist — rather than just telling you everything I like in the story, let me tell you what I was TRYING to do, and why I loved the PROCESS of writing it.
First, let me say — TBTP is the most fun I’ve ever had writing anything. It’s way beyond my normal boundaries of self, and I had to grow to write it.
I pushed the surreality and the creepiness as far as I could (and I’m a pretty surreal guy, ask my friends!). I pushed my writing into a completely new shape and style. It’s kind of like looking back at climbing your first real mountain — this is when everything clicked, when all the skills came together.
It’s also a big milestone for me — the first pro-sale I ever had, ChiZine back in 2009. A real milestone, just when I was giving up hope after submitting it for a year.
When I wrote this, I was trying to come up with something new, something I’d never seen before, and (while this goal itself is arguably impossible), I think I got close. It doesn’t fit into any shoebox. When I read it, it still sneaks up on me with a knife and drips grape jelly all over me.
And that’s the best feeling you can have, IMO, loving something you have written so long ago.
If you know me at all, you know I like Monty Python. It would not be far from the truth to say I was raised on a steady diet of Python (and, of course, Doctor Who. But that is off topic — GET BACK IN THE BLOODY BLUE BOX, TIMELORD!! It’s not your post!)
The result is that I have a zany, surreal sense of humor, and I tend to like my humor British. Despite the fact that I have lived most of my life in Texas. You can imagine the complications (the skits write themselves, don’t they?)
So… When I decided that I should write something funny for a change (instead of all this dark stuff I’ve been struggling to sell, as full of irony as it may be (i.e., “Teddy Bears and Tea Parties: A Horror Story”)), funny to me meant Monty Python.
This left me with quite a problem on my hands (and when I say problem, I mean a twenty-foot tall electric penguin with green tentacles shooting out.) So I did what any self-respecting only-child of two college professors WOULD do — I started studying.
I downed the whole Python series again in one go (doing my best to keep an eye on how things worked), and then all of the movies. This of course was not enough. I needed something I could analyze at a much more leisurely rate. Rather than driving my wife mad by rewinding skits and sketching out scripts for them, I dived into the written materials out there… (Pardon me while I elide time for convenience and pacing — if I had the skills, I would insert a Terry Gilliam-style animation, probably about monkeys using books as wings, but at some point turning into monkey-headed cherubic angels all shooting plungers off their harpstrings at each other, while a large, decapitated head of Graham Chapman (he’s dead already, he won’t mind) eats large parts of Parliament in the background. However, I do not have any animation skills whatsoever, so there is no animation, and you’ll just have to deal with it.
Ahem… I seem to be rambling. Let’s hope I keep it up, it’s a downsight more interesting that me actually saying anything.
Python then kicked me to the “Goon Show”, and the “Goon Show” to “Firesign Theater”, and then back to Python (Graham Chapman’s “Liar’s Autobiography”) who — with a sharp pass to Westminster Cathedral — sent me spinning under the feet of “At Last It’s the 1948” show, then to Kingsley Amis who gets the ball stolen from him by Cyril Connolly and book on Pythons and Philosophy — who shoots — and SCORES! GOOOAAAAL! And all the books and TV and radio series are all hugging each other now, in this, the first FIFA finals in untaming one man’s sense of humor.
It’s been quite an adventure so far, and I guess I will see if it pays off with the new novel, but the new novel is not what this post is about.
It’s about something I didn’t expect to find. Way down deep in the dank, cavernous mazes of Michael Palin’s Diaries (somewhere between the plastic skeletons chained to the wall and the fake rats squeaking and trying to nibble my toes off with their little rubber teeth) — and simultaneously in Graham Chapman’s “Liar’s Autobiography” — and simultaneously-again in “Monty Python Speaks” and again-again in the audio-commentary for the Monty Python Autobiography, I stumbled into a strange sort of perspective:
Success rarely happens in a day. It’s random. It is, in a way, luck.
These guys were good — really good — arguably the BEST at what they did, but they were still “lightly paid writer/performers” until one day… They just suddenly realized they weren’t. They didn’t expect it to happen. They were just plodding along, and then, all the sudden, they were hanging out with famous people, making a little more money, and then a LOT more money.
When I go back and look at “The Complete and Utter History of Britain” and “At Last the 1948 Show” and other things, I see that they were doing very Python-style stuff before Python. Not as extreme, no, not as experimental, not free from the constraints of format or punchline — but still very Pythonesque. In effect, Python was just another logical step in what they had been doing all along — and it went big.
…And this makes me think it can happen to anyone. Most of us work hard at our arts and never get noticed. But it CAN happen, and it does happen, and you don’t even realize it’s happening, usually, until — BOOOOM! — you’re being shot out of a cannon with a raving maniac shouting, “You better learn how to land, son, or this is really going to hurt!” up at you.
And that thought… Well, it gives me hope. (Not the cannon one, the one before that — oh, you know!!)
And now we come to the dream-portion of this post. Terry Gilliam once described several of the incredibly lucky events in his life as, “It was like I was willing them to happen.” That he knew such crazy strings of coincidences were possible, so he put himself out there in the way of big events, where they might be, and — well — they just hit him.
I want to be like that. I want to put myself out there in the middle of things, so this is my dream:
I’d like to meet all of these guys (the living ones, obviously.)
I know a lot of them are tired of Python. They’ve moved on (and rightly so!), done huge bodies of wonderful work — Terry Gilliam has some absolutely astounding and amazing movies, Terry Jones has his documentaries, Palin his innumerable series, Cleese as always is a genius, and heck, Eric Idle has even written a Science Fiction book called “The Road to Mars”!
But that’s my dream, to one day meet all of the living Pythons. Why? I really don’t know. They just seem like they’d be a blast to hang out with, really. Who could ask for more than that? That I’ve found their work hilarious, moving, and even inspiring may also enter into it.
The problem is, I don’t know these guys, they don’t know me, and, really, what chance does a minor-league-short-story-writer-wannabe-novelist really have of meeting (much less shaking hands with and sharing a pint of beer or a cup of tea) with mega-stars that live anywhere they want to live and do whatever they want, when they want?
Here comes the hard part, and if I don’t say it now I won’t ever say it:
I need your help — specifically, your brainpower, your voice, maybe a little bit of your time.
I want to meet these guys, and the way I grok it, the only way they’re going to want to meet me is if the situation fascinates them. So what I need is the crazy, the surreal, the absolutely impossible:
I need an internet movement.
Specifically, an “S. Boyd Taylor wants to meet Monty Python” movement. With buttons! Fliers! Silly goings on!
If you want to help — post a link to this, retweet it, talk about it at work, facebook it, tell your budgie, or call up John Cleese if you used to share a toothbrush with him at University and are still close, or even post YouTube videos of you in a Gumby outfit with a handkerchief on your head chanting, “S. Boyd Taylor wants to meet Monty Python.”
Anything harmless and humorous, really.
Then we’ll see if it works.
Teddy Bears and Tea Parties — now with a sporty new blurb from NYT Best Seller and Hugo and Nebula Award winner DAVID BRIN:
“Way unconventional, dreamlike, and fun.”
My most successful short-story to date, Teddy Bears and Tea Parties, is now available on the Barnes and Noble NOOK
(For those of you with Kindles) My most acclaimed short story to date, “Teddy Bears and Tea Parties”, is now available in a deluxe, gorgeously-llustrated edition — for just 99-cents! (other formats coming shortly)
If you loved it and/or you just want to help — spread the word! (BTW, I’m seriously considering turning this story into a series — let me know if I should!)
For those of you with subscriptions to ChiZine (Chiaroscuro Magazine), my flash fic “The Eight of Swords” was recently republished there in Issue 47, April-June 2011.