406 Writing, Freaks, Angels, Death . . . and Nudity!

It was a little bittersweet last Monday evening, as the first writing workshop I’ve ever done — a course on short fiction writing through The 406 Writers Workshop — wrapped up. It was 6 weeks, and I have to say it was one of the best creative endeavors I’ve ever undertaken. I went into it a little nervous, a little skeptical, and probably with a little bit of an attitude . . . but it was fantastic. The people were great, I learned a ton, and I feel like it threw a big switch in my brain both as a creative person and as a person who just loves books and writing. The discussions we had were probably even more valuable then the act of sitting down and writing, though that was important too.

We each were responsible for two pieces over the course of the six weeks. My first one was the first chapter of what I intend to put online in serial format — I hope to have that functioning by the end of the summer. It is kind of a pulp-styled quasi-superhero story (surprise, surprise). I chose that idea because I wanted something that I felt I could hit the ground running on, because I don’t really consider myself a fiction writer — mainly because I haven’t done it in an age.

My second piece was better, I think. It was more straight ahead fiction, but still with elements of mysticism and myth. I’m going to rework it a bit and might even submit it a couple places. Either way I’ll post it when I’m happy (enough) with it. It was a great experience.

I’m pleased because I won’t be missing a beat, as the novel workshop starts on Monday. It is being taught by Michael FitzGerald, who was also in the workshop just completed. He’s a good guy; I’m looking forward to this session as well. After that is another short fiction workshop at the end of July, then a nonfiction one in August. I’m going to try and keep taking them until they get sick of me!

FreakAngels

I’m a big fan of Warren Ellis. His book Crooked Little Vein, while not the greatest thing he’s ever written, lit some lamps in my brain for things I think I could do with my own writing. He is writing an online comic called FreakAngels, with artist Paul Duffield. It is being published online for free, in weekly 6-page installments. In addition, it is being c

ollected an published in graphic novel form, with the first two installments available for purchase. It’s kind of a post-apocalyptic thing, set in England, featuring a group of people with some very special powers.

So far there are 60 episodes, and I like the story. What I like best is the model. I have read about other writers who release their writings for free as electronic downloads or books, and the testimonials indicate that, rather than hurt their hard copy sales, it has actually improved them. I find that fascinating. I have big plans for my own serial project to kind of experiment with this idea as well. I think this could be a look at the future, or one future anyway, of books and publishing. I know I will probably spring for the hard copies of this story as well, so Warren (and the folks at Avatar Press) have definitely hooked me. I might even spring for a t-shirt or book bag.

I’ve been reading a ton of comics lately. What I love best about them is the mechanics of telling a good story. You only have so much space, and so many images, to get the job done. That takes some skill to pull off. I am definitely a fan of “less is more” so I pay close attention to what I think works and doesn’t. To be able to tell a compelling story in that format takes real skill. Scoff all you want, oh ye who think comics are dumb. Soon as you can turn off your fucking TV, we’ll talk.

Celebrity Death

I’m mentioning Farrah first because I think her death bums me out more than MJ’s. Not that I’m that bummed, necessarily. Yeah, it sucks when people die before their time, and it sucks that she suffered for so long with cancer, and it sucks for the family . . . but it’s not like she was a part of my life or anything. Still, I’m glad at least that her suffering is over. What a horrible way to go.

I remember when she hit it big. Everyone, I mean everyone, seemed to have, or want to have, her famous poster. It was either Farrah, or the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.

I was more into Jacqueline Smith from the Charlie’s Angels cast, myself. And for cheescake, neither one of them could hold a candle in my book to Lynda Carter!

I didn’t have the Farrah poster on my wall. I had one of Morgan Fairchild instead. I think I won it at the fair throwing darts at balloons, come to think of it. This is the one I had; it cracks me up to remember that thing hanging on my closet door among all the KISS and IRON MAIDEN pictures.

Michael Jackson

The uproar over this guy’s death really, really surprises me. Yeah, he was an artistic genius, yes it is tragic that he has died so young, and yes his life has always been something of a tragedy (train wreck?) despite his huge success. But tragedy (train wreck?) or not, he was also a guy who basically bought his way out of a couple bigtime convictions over being, allegedly, a freakin’ pedophile. All these people getting weepy over his death seem to want to re-write history about the guy. I mean, if one of the people

who have meant a lot to me since I was young — say, Paul Stanley from KISS, or Steve Harris or Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden — were suddenly charged with that kind of thing, with plenty of evidence to back it up, I think they would fall rapidly from those lofty heights. And believe me, those guys have all been a biiiiiig part of sections of my life that I have really loved. I’m curious how one reconciles that kind of thing. I mean, OJ Simpson wasn’t convicted of his high profile crime either, yet that hasn’t stopped anyone from throwing him under the bus (and rightfully so). Two weeks ago Michael Jackson was little more than the butt of a bunch of vile jokes, and most would have likely called him a has been. In death he has reclaimed his “King of Pop” title, though. That is just really weird to me. I’m sorry you died young, man, but if you were a pedophile or some other kind of freak whose money saved you from having to be held accountable, then I hope somewhere you are being held accountable now.

 

When I think of Michael Jackson, honestly I don’t even think of his music. I think of the video to the song “Thriller.” And I don’t think about the zombies or the dancing (which has been awesomely recreated by a dance group during the Dia de los Muertos parade in Missoula the last couple years), I think of Ola Ray. Ola Ray is the girl who was Michael’s date in that video.

Ola Ray was Playboy “Playmate of the Month” for June of 1980. This is significant because that issue was first “girlie” magazine I ever acquired on my own. I was in 7th or 8th grade, I guess. I don’t remember if I bought it, or if I stole it. I know I had it stashed in my closet, and then after cleaning out the closet my dad went through what I was throwing away and found it. I think I told him it wasn’t mine, that a friend had given it to me. It remains to this day one of the most embarassing episodes of my life.

What is also significant about this issue is that it is the “Playmate of the Year” issue featuring Dorothy Stratten, who is a tragic story as well. A couple months after this issue came out she was murdered by her estranged husband, Paul Snider. A couple films were made about the story; the one you are most likely to have seen was Star 80.

And I know you perverts want to see Ola’s centerfold shot. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

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