Sunday, May 23, 2010

Meeting Roy

Roy and Noelle are the central characters in a web series I'm developing with a friend. The title of the show is End of the Line and our quick tag line is "Dexter Meets Twilight." There'll be a website in July.

Anyway, since I did a post last month about meeting Noelle, I thought in only fair to meet Roy. Since he isn't yet cast, he (like Noelle) morphs in my mind between different actors who would be good for the part. One of these is Jackson Rathbone. Another is Elijah Wood while a third would be Jamie Campbell-Bower .

What are you reading?
(Holds up the book, revealing the title: Midnight Glass by Mary C. Pryce)
Oh right. You haven't gotten the next one yet.
(Long pause) Excuse me?
That sounded wrong didn't it?
Well, since this just came out a few months ago...yeah.
A few months ago? Then you haven't met...oh. My bad. But you've got the job at the city morgue, right? I hope.
(Long pause) Yes.
I'm not psychic.
Well, I am kinda. In some ways. About some people. I know a lot about your past for example. A whole lot. And some interesting stuff about your future.
I'd be interested in what you have to say.
Youngest child. Second son. Raised by your mother after your father disappeared. By now you've probably figured out it was a mixed blessing that you look so much like him.
I'd call it a mixed damnation, actually.
Good one!
Thank you.
Wow. I hadn't realized.
How much you just watch and wait like that. I mean, that was the theory and all, what with your temper and the whole family dynamic you grew up with. But seeing it like this is just so...different.
Go on. Please. This is interesting.
You see? Most folks would be freaking out about now, looking for some way to make tracks from this stranger who claims to know so much about you, and then actually does! My guess is you're feeling that, just as much as anyone else. But there's more. You're very curious about how I know all this, and you're actually thinking about what it might all mean.
I like to believe I do think.
But you know a lot of people don't, right?
More or less.
They react, and then try to justify what they did later on. You noticed that...well, not a long time ago but not exactly yesterday either.
Alright. That is true.
Do you like the book?
Excuse me?
Midnight Glass, do you like it? There's a reason I'm asking. What is your opinion?
(Considers) It surprises me. Not all the time, but enough to keep things fresh. Makes for a good story. And I'll admit the world of these books is an attractive one. I'd like to visit there. Maybe even live there. What's funny?
Can't tell you. Spoilers. Sorry.
That is irritating. A bit.
Yeah, it would be. And again, sorry.
In a nutshell, not great literature but only very good, which still makes it way above average.
Ever said that before?
Not to anyone.
Thought so. That is just so you. Judgment rendered carefully and simply, with insight but relatively few words. All the more impressive because this isn't how you're hard-wired at all. Not at all! This is all nurture, not nature.
Say what you were going to say.
I did.
No you didn't. Say the first thing that spring to mind. Go for it. Really.
I don't like you.
Oh. But...good for you. Here's the tiniest little spoiler, for what its worth. You're going to have to learn how to be spontaneous again. Once you do, though, you'll be great at it. That'll be a rare combo.
But you say you're not psychic. So what are you?
You wouldn't believe me.
Don't be too sure.
Good point. Still, I'd better not.
You must be aware of how irritating this is. I mean, you must be. Am I right?
So let me ask you something. (Leans forward) Thousands of people, all over the world. Millions even. Billions. But you're only psychic or whatever about me. Why? Why me? Or do you even know?
Excellent question. But I can only give an indirect answer.
Better than nothing.
Because for reasons I don't dare explain, your story is personal to me. Even if we never meet again--and for the record, we almost certainly won't--the details of your life caught my attention. Everyone is fascinating, Roy, if you look in the right way. I caught a glimpse of you, of your life and some of what is to be. It will be a good story. A very good story maybe.
That is only a little bit better than nothing.
Just accept you are interesting. Meanwhile, this is my stop.
(Looking out) North Bank.
Doesn't mean much. Really. Here's to being a great story! For all of us.
(A few moments later) Medication. Is he on it, or does he need it? And what kind?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Character Music (May 2010 blog chain)

Last month's blog chain was all about meeting one of our characters. I chose to have a conversation with Noelle, the female lead in a web series in development titled End of the Line. This time the blog chain is "What does your story/character(s) sound like?" My own interpretation of this is to create a "playlist" of music which captures the essence of someone, in this case Roy Istvan--the other lead in End of the Line.

I should mention Roy is a twenty-two year-old college student, who's working two jobs to live and pay for school. He's estranged from his family, not least because he resembles most the father who abandoned them. More, he's a dreamy person, who lives in his imagination and spends a lot of effort finding bridges between this world and that of his mindscape. Hence music, such as this list.

"Suzanne" by Leonard Cohen really sums up how Roy sees romantic love. Or not "see" so much as "feel" because deep down in his bones he longs for a girl who will rock his world, turn him into something new. Interestingly, it also hints at how he sees religion--Roy is a mystic who takes faith seriously (unlike his family who attend Church but little else).

Meatloaf's "I Want My Money Back" is pretty much the anthem of Roy's rage, which has gotten him into enough trouble he was forced to control it. This is really a symptom of how passionate Roy can be, despite his seemingly calm exterior. At the same time, he's likes rhythm and melody, even in his darkness.

"Crucify" by Tori Amos strikes a chord in Roy because of his homelife and childhood. Not a good situation overall. His mother had profoundly mixed feelings for him, especially as he grew up more and more like the man she so desperately loved yet vanished without a trace. His older brother wanted to protect him, but this meant having Roy obey him and do exactly what was most unnatural to Roy's sensibilities. The middle sister played mediator for years and years, until she finally escaped via a teenage marriage. After that, the balance collapsed.

Concrete Blonde's cover of "Everybody Knows"
embodies how Roy at his darkest feels the world is and will always be. Of course this doesn't mean he is a cynic. He cares and cares a lot, but at times he gives into despair. This song kinda/sorta is a way to vent.

"Cloudbusting" by Kate Bush probably has more to do with Roy's longing for a father than he realizes.

"Pennies From Heaven" sung by Bing Crosby is in some ways the anthem of Roy's hope.

The AW May Musical Blog Chain's Fantabulous Links Are:
Aheïla: and direct link to my blog chain's post
Stefanie Gaither: and direct link to the blog chain's post
AuburnAssassin: and direct link to her post
xcomplex: and direct link to her post
Proach: and direct link to her post
8thSamurai: and direct link to her post
vfury: and direct link to her post
CScottMorris: and direct link to his post
Hayley E. Lavik: and direct link to her post
FreshHell: and direct link to her post
LadyMage: and direct link to her post

Aimée Laine: <<<>

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Books Anticipated

Just a list I thought to share, of novels that will hopefully see the light before too long. Each remains an object of desire on my part.

A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin, the next (and theoretically next-to-last) novel in A Song of Ice and Fire, a fascinating epic among fantasy epics. Really. For one thing Martin is something of an expert on the real Middle Ages instead of the silly stuff you see in flicks like Willow or Camelot. Some inspirations include the Wars of the Roses as well as I, Claudius and Ivanhoe. I often dislike novels with more than one POV character, usually because the author rarely manages to maintain different voices. Martin pulls it off with aplomb, in the process trashing some cliches. A woman knight? Okay, but don't expect her to be beautiful a la Xena or some such. Likewise just because some politicos are masters of the scheme and the lie, it doesn't mean all have that style.

Against All Things Ending by Stephen R. Donaldson, next in The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. Experience tells me most readers love or hate Thomas Covenant--the Anti-Frodo in some ways. He's not cute. His flaws are not small. The wisdom he's learned is dark, hard-won and often disturbing. Likewise his world, or the world to which he was transported against his will, manages to be anything but simple or straightforward. In these last chronicles, more is afoot than merely the schemes of Lord Foul (the dark lord who makes Sauron look like a truant bully). As of the most recent novel, it would appear the destruction of the world has actually begun. Or has it? I cannot wait to find out! Well, yes I can but I don't want to...

CryoBurn by Lois McMaster Bujold, the first new book in The Vorkosigan Saga in a long, long time. Miles Vorkosigan is a great character--a space age Lord Peter Whimsy, born deformed in a warrior culture that loathes mutation, yet the fierce defender/servant of the world that seems intent on killing its most unlikely knight. Does he sound a tad insane? He is, but in a glorious way that makes fantastic reading. Mind you, I'm also a tad afraid because Bujold made clear some time ago what the next logical event in Miles' life would be--and I no more looking forward to that than he is (or Bujold herself).

A Method for Madness by David Gerrold, the next book in The War Against the Chtorr. Scheduled for July 2011, eighteen years since the last book in the series! Arrrgggghhhhh! Cannot tell you how much frustration Gerrold has inflicted, not only upon me but countless others! Notice how I don't even have a cover for this book? Why? Because it is too far in the future! And I cannot even be sure this isn't some elaborate practical joke on the part of the author, just a sadistic bit of teasing for those who long so to learn what else awaits the remnants of humanity following the Chtorr invasion...!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What If I Were A Serial Killer?

This does not contain spoilers per se. But most folks will find it disturbing. So you have been warned...

Something about serial killers fascinates as well as horrifies. How many films, books, t.v. episodes about Jack the Ripper have attracted audiences over the years? Sir Anthony Hopkins' acting career is full of brilliant performances, but don't we most think of him as Hannibal Lecter? Some very popular t.v. shows, including Profiler and Criminal Minds, recount the hunt for serial killers. Lord knows the attraction of the serial killer as a character seems proven. Actors can really show their stuff by portraying one well. Likewise writers such as myself often delve into such as a marvelous source of stories.

Perhaps that explains this odd exercise.

Imagine for a moment that instead of the person I am now, the person typing these words was the serial murderer I might have become in some alternate reality? To begin, I am pretty squeamish emotionally. Certain types of humiliation remain intensely uncomfortable for me to watch in film, television or on stage. It physically hurts to see some scenes, even though the events are unreal and the people involved clearly aren't myself. This is pretty much the opposite of a sociopath, to whom others remain eternally other. One way to describe it is that a sociopath is the only human being in a world of walking, talking mannequins. Emotionally, that is their truth. No one is more alone than a sociopath. I have been lonely virtually every day of my life, but I've also had friends, enjoyed their triumphs and good news, felt their tragedies and disappointments--often keenly. But without that, methinks I would be a far more angry human being than I am (and my temper--although under control--remains something to be feared).

This gives my first clue to that alternate Dark-Me. A far more desperately lonely person, one boiling with much more rage and many times more frustrated in an almost-instinctual desire for connection with others.

Hiding my true nature--in this scenario, for serial killers are generally master chameleons--would have required more discipline than I've probably ever wielded. But that would also fuel the rage. Imagine putting water under greater and greater pressure.

Now--what kind of fantasy? Serial killers are trying to live out a particular fantasy, over and over again. Jeffrey Dahmer, for example, was not a sadist but a necrophile and sought a perfect zombie/love slave. An FBI profiler was interviewed for the special features of the DVD of Red Dragon, noting that Hannibal Lecter's fantasy was of superiority, reducing his victims in effect to nothing more than livestock. Edward Kemper evidently was killing his mother over and over, and when he finally killed her in reality turned himself in. John Wayne Gacy and Andrei Chikatillo had, at least as I see it, similar fantasies of potency (albeit in very different forms).

Methinks I know myself well enough to see the darkest of my fantasies would be a blend of revenge and sex. Honestly, I've even found the idea of the place where pleasure and pain bleed into each other intriguing. Stories with some sense of erotic submission and control do attract me. Somewhat. Having dipped my toe ever so slightly in those waters, I can tell you they do little or nothing for me in reality. But then, I am at most only very mildly kinky. Had my psychological development shaped me into a serial killer then my status would be "Definite Full On Wildly Deviant Pervert."

Dark-Me then would be a rapist-killer, probably with an element of torture in his kills and aiming his/my rage at women who somehow were the incarnations of those who were my greatest source of frustrations. Who would that be? Almost impossible to say. My own tastes in the lovely gender are eclectic in the extreme--heavy, skinny, tall, short, dark, light, etc. Women to me are absolutely delightful parts of the universe, a reason to have a planet and a human race to start with! Mind you, I suppose that is also a clue as to Dark-Me's issues. I have never found myself attractive, nor men in general. I've always found it slightly odd (emotionally) that anyone at all was attracted to males. Had I been born with the double X chromosome my suspicion is that I'd've been a lesbian. So perhaps my alternate self has a similar personal issue, but taking a savage and warped form? Perhaps has an alternate "identity" as a woman, one who visits lesbian bars and hunts for the most attractive women he can find there?

Wow. This thought experiment is turning creepier by the second!

Mind you, the point should be made that this person isn't really a cross-dresser. He might don the persona of a woman, but in his case this is akin to a wolf hiding in sheep's clothing. Or a better example--the so-called Hillside Stranglers often masqueraded as police officers to stalk their victims. So Dark-Me becomes a woman (and in the process tasting a little bit of female power) as camouflage.

I could go further along with these thoughts. For example, he probably kills by strangulation. The feel of life leaving the body is viscerally right there and then. Likewise no blood to clean up or hide. But more details would pretty much require a reason more than any thought experiment. Like a potential story. Nothing I'm working on right this second justifies this character. Not yet. And without that "reward" of a good story, methinks I've gotten as much as feasible or (for now) desirable from such a dive into the unconscious. Interesting. Even educational. Spooky in all kinds of ways. But perhaps a bit valuable. Hey--writers are like this. We juggle atomic bombs of the psyche, and mine our nightmares for enlightenment.

It is what we do.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Let The Right One In

Spoilers ahoy!

In several months time, an English language adaptation of the Swedish novel Let the Right One In will open in theaters. Written and directed by Matt Reeves of Cloverfield fame, the film has a slightly different title--Let Me In--and stars Chloe Grace Moretz of Kick-Ass and Kodi Smit-McPhee of The Road.

They have a lot to live up to. Last year a Swedish adaptation of the same novel won the devotion of many fans, including yours truly. I easily placed it on my list of "Ten Best Vampire Films Ever Made" and will probably remain there.

Forgive me while I gush.

In the early 1980s, a lonely twelve-year-old boy endures the attention of bullies. Oskar is precisely the kind of child who attracts such predators -- sensitive, intelligent, with a morbid imagination. He dreams of revenge, of lashing out against his tormentors. One night, a man and his daughter move into the apartment next door. Soon after, Oskar meets the daughter, Eli. Unwashed and strange, she stands in the snow without shoes and doesn't seem to notice the cold. Strange murders soon have the town buzzing, but at first no one connects them to the stranger and his "daughter." No one but Oskar. He figures out that his one true friend, the girl he has come to love, is a vampire.

A film simultaneously similar yet totally different from Twilight would be difficult to imagine. We have a romance between a human and a vampire--but instead of teens, they are children. Oskar isn't this shy, secretive figure everyone finds attractive. He's a weirdo, trapped in a situation (divorced parents, neither of them really understanding him, no friends) pretty much guaranteed to twist him into an unhappy, violent adult. Yet enter Eli--a reluctant but ruthless monster, who sees in Oskar perhaps an echo of herself. Her other half? A soulmate? That is what their relationship more-or-less becomes. Other, crueller vampires? No. The other monsters in this film are not undead, but very much alive. Anyone who ever had the dubious honor of tasting a bully's attention, at precisely the time in life when one is most vulnerable, least able to cope, should be able to sympathize. More, there is another monster. Eli's father/keeper, Hakkan--his precise relationship to her remains ambiguous. But he will certainly kill for her, does do so. And more. My own impression at the time was that here was a pedophile who'd fallen in love.

The love here is not saccharine. No classical piano pieces composed during sleepless nights. Eli does spend at least one night in Oskar's room--but not watching him. He asks her to get under the covers with him, and they simply snuggle the way children do (in many ways Eli remains a child, no matter how long she lives).

Another point of comparison/contrast--both films end with the vampire rescuing their love from danger. But Eli doesn't kill another vampire in hand-to-hand combat. No, she takes out human bullies who haven't a chance against her--the fight isn't the important point of that scene but her motivations. No "I must leave you to protect you" nonsense, but rather "I am here to protect you, and I always will be."

Both films are beautiful to see. LTROI however has the tougher job. The forests of the Pacific northwest are inherently lovely to behold. Not so a barren, planned suburb of Stockholm during the winter--dingy, uniform, lacking history and showing it. Yet somehow those barren lines and stark shapes become beautiful. Just as (leading again to the heart of this story) the feelings between a murderous child and a nascent serial killer make for a startling love story.

Coming from a theatre background, the thought of another film version of such a great story bothers me not at all. Lots of actors get to portray Cyrano de Bergerac, Ophelia, Willy Loman, Emma, etc. Why not Eli and Oskar (renamed Abby and Owen for the American version--relocated to New Mexico during the Reagan years, a time when we looked always outward for darkness, rarely at ourselves--part of Owen's dilemma as explained by writer/director Reeve).

Go out and see the movie. Or read the book. Or both. And get ready for the new version, for which I have high hopes.