I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Dead Ends

Sorry about the long gap in posts. Last week, I actually posted thirteen blog entries on the codexwriters blog, as part of a challenge to myself to write about thirteen angels in thirteen hours. I yanked them all down 24 hours later, chopped six angels and made a short story out of the entries called "Seven Angels."

So, in a sense, six of my angels were stillborn. Stories I started (and in some cases, finished) that will never again see light. The proportion is about right, though--I would say that about 45% of my story ideas never make it to a draft I'm willing to show anyone. I'll be all fired up and excited about them for a few hours, even a few days, but by the time I've written a few pages it all falls apart. Frequently, I'll even finish the damn things, only to realize later that they are hopeless, and no amount of tweaks or rewrites could ever save them.

Inspired by Luc Reid, who just published one of his aborted story beginnings on the Codex blog, I've decided to post some of these dead stories, or at least the opening lines. This ties in nicely with my earlier posts on ghost words. Because, in some ways, these are ghost stories--stories written but never read, or started but never finished.

On my desktop computer, I just trolled through the My Documents folder and found 13 dead stories. I know I have far more on my two laptops or hiding on old back-up CD's of my last few desktop computers. Still, even 13 seems like too many to feed you all at once. So, here are three story openings that no one ever got to read....

Story one:


1 In the R&D phase, God proactively initiated the implementation of the systems and processes that established Heaven, and its vertically integrated wholly owned subsidiary, Earth.
2 God commissioned a study of the feasibility of luminous emissions, then implemented luminous emissions.
3 God oversaw the development of Earth production systems.
4 God became the leading provider of grain and fruit solutions, vegetation-wise.
5 Animals were given the go-ahead by R&D, successfully cornering the market on meat and meat by-products.
6 God studied the balance sheet and declared Earth a win-win situation.

I went on like this at some length until Genisis 1:26, when God says to Adam, "You're fired!"

Somehow, it struck me as funny to rewrite the Bible in business-speak, but business-speak is so awful I can't quite lower myself far enough down to write it well. This is more a project for Scott Adams, I think. Godbert and Snakebert. Adam with glasses and a crew cut.

Story two:

An angry, full grown male can punch and kick his way through drywall in a couple of minutes. Locking him in the bedroom isn’t the same as locking him in a jail cell. These walls which seem so impenetrable and permanent are nothing but paper and gypsum, well suited for holding in insulation, hiding wires, and holding frames that display happy families—but they aren’t meant to hold back anger. They crumble and fail when confronted with rage.

This was from a story called "Papa Snorted Demons." It was a story of an abusive father who worked in a mine where there were demons trapped in the rocks. The miners would dig out the rocks, take them to an old witch woman in the woods, and have them ground into glowing spirits the kept in vials. They would snort the spirits in and get the strength to go back into the mines, strong as ten men, although the demons also made them mean and abusive. Alas, the story never jelled for me in a modern setting, where the father could kick through the drywall. I tried telling the story with more of a folk-tale voice, something from a the backwoods centuries ago, but it didn't hold my interest. And, after two runs at the idea, the whole thing felt too much like a dumb allegory for drug abuse. So, I let it die. No one has ever seen either version of the story.

Story three:

Look, I’m not going to step outside of this salt circle.
I know it’s strange. I know this is crazy. I know you’ve got dead people in the lobby and you need some answers.
Start jotting some of this down. You’ll never believe me unless you verify this. The first thing you’ll need to check out is this place about 40 miles east of here called Zeke’s Antiques. Down in my truck I have a sheet of paper in the dashboard with directions and a phone number. Get it and they can prove that we were there earlier today, about three in the afternoon.
Zeke’s probably isn’t in the yellow pages. I don’t know how Bud found it. It looked like it had been a barn at one time, a barn that got piled full of junk over the years until somebody, presumably Zeke, decided to put an antiques sign on it. Bud was fidgety with excitement as we pulled up to the place, but he put on his poker face once we got out of the truck. Inside, an Astroturf floor that had been laid down right over raw dirt. The place was packed with old farm tools, plows and pitchforks red with rust, the wooden handles pale gray and cracked with age. The whole place stank of cigarettes and dust.

This was another demon story. Bud is an obsessive collector and my unnamed narrator is his best friend. Bud got to thinking about the three monkeys--See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Speak No Evil. He wonders how they became so famous. He tracks back their origins, and finds that PT Barnum used to display three stuffed monkeys he'd acquired from a shrine in Japan. Bud tracks down the shrine in Japan, and discovers that the Three Monkeys were the avatars of some hideous monkey demon god who was the embodiment of pure evil. (No one is ever the embodiment of so-so evil.) Bud keeps hunting, and finds the PT Barnum stuffed monkey's at this antique shop. Later, he pulls away the hands and finds emeralds in the eye sockets of See No Evil. Rubies in the ears of Hear no Evil. A diamond in the mouth of Speak No Evil.

Bud then is compelled to jam the gems into various facial orifices and becomes the horrible monkey god. I never quite figured out what comes next, which was it's fatal flaw. I felt like I had a decent beginning and middle, but never could come up with an ending that wasn't tiresome. So, Bud's a demon monkey god now. The story could end there, but so what? Then its just a tiresome old horror story where the adventurer tampers with forces beyond his ken and winds up unleashing evil on the world. Ho hum. Or, it could end with nameless best friend besting the evil monkey god and saving Bud. But, again, ho hum. I never thought of the punchline or twist that would make the story worth telling.

Okay, I said three, but I'll give you a bonus. I have on my computer a file with the name "Dead Mimes. " I opened it. It read, in total:

dead mimes
promoting website
suddenly rich

Well, I'm sure it was a good idea at the time....

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