Glutton For Punishment
Actually, OK, those 18,000 words aren't really mine; they're the public domain translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh which I'm currently rolling my sleeves up to go through line-by-line, phrase-by-phrase, with an aim to cut, fold, splice, dice, graft, torch, weld, distress and generally fuck over until it's entirely my own, being, as I am, an unrepentant myth molestor. So all I really have right now is the bare skeleton of one thread of the text, hacked up into bite-size chunks which will be maniacally -- sorry, lovingly -- tweaked and teased into those, um, whitespace-separated sub-sub-chapter things I do and interwoven with the two other threads of the narrative.
Which is where the fun starts.
Cause, yes, the next novel is, in part, a retelling of the Gilgamesh Epic. Sure sure, I know, it's been done before, and by people like Robert Silverberg no less… so it's kinda old hat and all… and after redoing Inanna and Tamuz in VELLUM it might sound like I'm on some mad quest to rewrite all the ancient myths from the Year Dot onwards... but listen -- no, no, listen -- honestly, I've got this stonking idea as to what to do with it.
It's a classic tale and all: boy meets hairy boy; boy loses hairy boy; boy goes mad with grief and goes on quest for magical plant of immortality; boy fails and mopes off home to Uruk. It's timeless, I say, timeless! So it's just begging to be updated, and what I wanna do -- and I know this sounds bugfuck crazy, but bear with me, really, bear with me -- is add two other threads to the story. OK. Fair enough. Not exactly a blinding newsflash for anyone who's read VELLUM. But here's the thing: one of these threads is fairly sensible, transplanting the action to pilgrim America, so the Gilgamesh character would be mapped to one of those uptight buckle-hatted settler types, while the Enkidu character (aforesaid hairy boy, wild man of the woods, and Gilgamesh's close-and-cuddly companion) would be mapped to a Native American. It's the other strand that has the tendency to raise eyebrows when I tell people about it and which gave me the first working title for the project…
Gilgamesh And The Furries.
Cause what I wanna do, see, is set the third thread in the present / near future, with Enkidu -- Gilgamesh's fuzzy fuck-buddy -- being a member of the furry community -- furries, for those of you who don't know, being fans of anthropomorphic animal art, some of whom (though not all) like to dress up as animals, and some of whom (though not all) like to dress up as animals and have sex… or yiff, as they call it (although I understand yiff also applies to petting that ain't really heavy at all). So I'm thinking that the modern-day Gilgamesh character is an academic, an anthropologist, sociologist or something, some kinda intellectual studying totemism in primitive and modern societies, ya know? I mean…
You're not listening anymore, are you?
You're thinking, "Hang on… you're going to rewrite the first known epic of written history and you're going to make it about people who dress up as animals and have sex."
You're thinking, "Are you off yer fucking trolley, mate? Are you a complete fucking mentalist? You're going to rewrite Gilgamesh and make it about FURRIES?!?!?!"
Trust me. Just put your preconceptions to one side, lift that dropped jaw back into place and come with me for a wee stroll through the crazy logic of my mind. I swear to God it makes sense. And I swear to God this could be a fucking stonker of a book if I can pull it off.
I mean, what's Gilgamesh about? Ye've got the Big G, who's King of Uruk, and Enkidu, the wild man of the woods who becomes his, um, close companion (it's one of those David and Jonathan, "closer than brothers", "like husband and wife" relationships where, OK, maybe it's not explicit but it's so goddamn suggestive that… well… fuck it… they're gonna shag like bunnies in my book). Anyhoo, it's the "civilised man" versus the "noble savage". What distinguishes a "man" from a "beast"? Those sorta questions.
Gilgamesh clearly represents the whole neolithic culture of kings, priests, scribes and so on, anthropomorphic and sociomorphic deities. He's part man, part god and in terms of the "civilised" religion of Sumer that god part of him can be understood in fairly modern terms -- spiritual, divine, "higher", immaterial, blah blah blah. Enkidu, on the other hand, is the wild man of the woods. He's paleolithic culture, animistic, totemistic religion. The fur that covers his body, the way he hangs out with the animals at the waterhole -- this is humanity as animal, man as not-so-naked ape, at one with nature. So the European Settler / Native American thing is a no-brainer. "Civilised Man" with aspirations to fleshless eternity meets "Primitive Man" whose whole belief system focuses on animal spirits. Simple.
So thread 2: the journals of aforesaid European settler, detailing his friendship with Native American Enkidu character, interwoven with the original, rewritten epic.
But think about that whole totemism thing. Aren't furries basically identifying themselves with animals in a manner not too unlike the totemism of nomadic tribes. Hell, there's a lot of furries (from the brief (and sometimes scary) interweb research I've been doing) who seem much closer to proper totemism than any of the New Age wind-bags wanking off about dream-catchers, crystals and what-not. I mean, the New Age tossers always have wolves for their spirit guides, or maybe stags. Something cool and powerful which serves the old compensatory power-fantasy nicely. Ya don't hear these people saying that their animal spirit is a squirrel, do ya? Well, cracked as it sounds, a lot of furries do go for animals like that -- squirrels, voles, badgers. "My furry self is a marmet." WTF?! Point is, if ye can look into yerself and see a marmet, yer probably a damn sight closer to totemism than the twat who thinks he's Grey Wolf Bloggs.
Anyhoo my point is just that if you happened to be an anthropologist, looking at the whole animal-as-identification-figure, as-metaphor-for-personality, looking at the clash between modern religion and totemism from the neolithic (as evidenced in, say, the Gilgamesh Epic), up through Native American cultures (as evidenced in, say, the letters of a European Settler who got rather chummy with a totemist dude), well, furry culture is an obvious modern day area of investigation. And if you take an academic, an intellectual, and dump him in at the deep end of this culture, in the more extreme, the "wilder", parts of furry fandom where the "yiffing" ain't just a wee tickle under the chin, then bingo-bongo and hey presto, you've got the "civilised"/"primitive" theme right there and ye've got thread 3: the journals of an academic doing a study on totemism, looking at the Gilgamesh Epic and the journals of European settler man as material for his thesis about the transition to "civilised" religion, and gradually getting dragged into a futuristic world of living fursuits, fetishistic fandom and hedonistic excess.
I mean, what -- if we wanna fuck with this and make it more interesting -- if yer animal self is an ape, or an apeman, homo Habilis or somesuch? Enkidu as a chimp furry. Enkidu as a dope-smoking, hard-drinking, mosh-diving monkey-boy. Meeting this academic character -- this intellectual Gilgamesh analogue -- who would be likely, if asked , to say his furry altar ego was, well, I guess, a human being. And being a monkey-boy, a fuck-like-a-bonobo, fight-like-a-chimp, bona fide, balls out, banana-in-hand monkey-boy, dragging our hero into scenes of sordid abandon.
Ye see where I'm going now?
(Update: I've noticed this post is getting a shitload of hits through LiveJournal links. If yer a furry reading this: don't worry. That initial jaw-dropping "Furries?!" reaction is not the point. Sure, I can't say I don't relish the gopsmacked reaction from folks who generally think that no-one in their right mind would treat furry culture as a serious subject... but this isn't, I assure you, a freaksploitation book I'm talking about. Fuck that shit. Yes, the Enkidu character's going to be a wild one, into all sorts of crazy shit, but he'll be treated as exceptional, not an exemplar of furry culture as entirely composed of scary weirdos. Yeah, I know. I'm an outsider. Yeah, I know. I've seen *that* episode of CSI. Just trust me, OK? I don't do cheap laughs. I do the human condition and all that poncy stuff. Like this:)
But there's more. The whole turning point of Gilgamesh is the death of Enkidu. People die. People are animals, whatever bullshit smokescreen we throw up between "Man" and "Beast" (and, man, it pisses me off, annoys the fuck out of me when some fuckwit fucking asswipe motherfucking brainless eedjit comes out with some line of crap which works on the assumption that there's human beings over here and there's animals over there… makes me wanna smack them upside the head with a rock and jump up and down on them, pissing on their face and shrieking like a goddamn chimp… but ANYWAY…), so the single, central, thematic fucking CRUX of the epic is Gilgamesh's realisation that, just like Enkidu, he is gonna DIE. Two-thirds god don't matter a fuck; it's that one-thirds mortal man that's the killer. We're all animals. We're all monkey-boys when it comes down to it.
So I think we got us a whole heapload of interesting material to explore now. The civilised and the primitive, the human and the beast, the domesticated and the wild. Seems to me like that first ever story has a pretty cool grasp of the human condition at the core of it… with an idea, basically, that humanity, maturity, civilisation is predicated on an awareness of mortality. As Gilgamesh stands on the walls of Uruk at the end, knowing he's going to die, the one thing that comforts him is the legacy of the great walls he's built. He's gonna die. We're all gonna die. It's understanding that, it's the sorrow, the empathy, the insanity, the raging against the dying of the light, and even plain old acceptance that makes us human.
So, anyway. That's the new project. Gilgamesh and the Furries. I'm not gonna go into it any further as I'll just expend all my energies. And, yes, I do know that it sounds seriously cracked. But, come on. Ye can see it, can't ye?
I'm gonna fucking love writing this book.