Open Up and Bleed
Not that I didn't get distracted in the middle of it. In fact, I got halfway through it and was so in the spirit of it, enjoying the playfulness so much, I suddenly had an idea for a story I just had to write. Like now. I'm not quite sure where it came from, cause it bears no fucking relation to the book, but I guess I was thinking of PETER PAN, PETER PAN IN SCARLET, "Magic For Beginners", "The Annals of Eelin-Ook" -- you know, proper fantasy, with faeries in magic realms and shit -- and the conceit popped into me head, and the story just unrolled. I thought I'd better take some notes, fired up the laptop and at 8:30 in the morning was still writing.
Now I had intended to write a faery story for adults, one that would maybe have a little bit of melancholy, and, sure, a whole shitload of spice, plenty of the bawdy, punk-ass sensibility that refuses to let me write anything the Collision Of Mothers Fighting Against Masturbation, say, would consider safe (And yeah... COMFAM... I shit you not; these whackos just tried to friend me on MySpace; I'm so tempted to accept just so I can post a comment with a link to myHomosexual Agenda rant) -- but I was thinking of this story as basically pretty whimsical and playful. That was the intention, honestly.
When I got to the rain of corpses, it was pretty clear the story was going in a whole 'nother direction.
So, about 48 hours and 11,300 words later I have me one of Those Stories. You know Those Stories? The ones that you tried writing when you were younger but it was just embarrassingly awful, because the subject matter was too close, too personal? The ones that you avoided writing as you got a bit more skill, because you realised Oprah Winfrey self-help bullshit and writing a good fucking story are not compatible? The ones that you kinda sorta almost write when you mature a little and -- with a bit more competence, a bit more nous and a bit more distance -- realise that you can address certain themes in other ways, write something which is pretty damn personal without it being self-indulgent autobiographical shite, and so you start writing about the Big Things -- Sex and Death -- in a way deeply informed, maybe even driven, by your personal history, but not transparently and directly referencing or representing it? The ones that maybe you never write, because to do so could be a bit like Iggy Pop on stage, carving up his naked chest with a broken drumstick and singing "Open Up and Bleed"? Yeah, one of Those Stories.
I mean Iggy is my main man, and "Open Up and Bleed" is only barely pipped by "TV Eye" as my all-time favourite song. Fuck, I believe in it as a fucking mantra for a singer or a writer, for an artist of any kind. If you're going to make art you should put some fucking heart into it, and if you have to go in through the sternum with a scalpel and a crowbar to rip that heart out, man, that's what the game is all about. But the aim of the game is not therapy or self-mutilation as a spectacle, just brutal honesty and committed passion, so if it's just going to look like attention-seeking bollocks, well, fuck that shit. And not all songs are "Open Up and Bleed". Not all stories turn around and challenge you to give them the whole heart, all of it, if you're not too much of a chickenshit pussy. I just got monster-trucked by one Those Stories that does though.
It's an extremely weird feeling. It's not that I found it a gruelling ordeal or a cathartic release or any of that shit. It's not like the personal history I found myself dealing with wasn't long since, well, dealt with. My inner demons have been on my side for years, smoking cigarettes, playing poker and telling tall tales about kicking angel arse. If the scars were reopened for the duration of the writing, they were healed again at the end of it, no less and no more so than they were before, just smooth and pink as ever. So while the story was pretty affecting at points to write, the weird feeling isn't from any sense of release or closure; rather it's just the weirdness of having a story that's that personal. Like, holy fuck, did I just write that? Where the fuck did that come from? Well, OK, I know where it came from, but what the fuck made me go there? Well, OK, I know the story itself was just obviously going there, but... I mean... did I just write that?
So, yeah, one of Those Stories. Now I just have to mail it off tomorrow and see if F&SF are looking for a faery story with a fuckload more Sex and Death than I was really rather intending.