Friday, February 14, 2014

Inkblots: Vietnam, Russia, Zombies, and Indian War

Original Native Puget Sound residents
INKBLOTS, four of us tonight. We all expressed gratitude to be back together again and talked about getting together again in two weeks, twice a month instead of once. John shared about the PMWA Writers Resource ( that one of our remote 'Blots in Spokane area (Alisa, a former student of mine) discovered. Worth checking out, maybe, maybe-ish, maybe-ish-ness, maybe-ish-nessification.

Patrick shared more about using Kickstarter to fund self-publishing a book or album or whatever. He's jazzed about this and his enthusiasm is contagious.

Dougie Mac leads off reading from his Vietnam War novel. He expressed what I so often feel, the research is fascinating, stimulating, and a blast.  I totally agree with that. This yarn starts with two brothers from Georgia (former SS guy from Karl story from WWII, and the parallel story is two Vietnamese brothers, rising to a confrontation during the war. DM reads an episode in the swamp near their home in GA, cypress trees and spanish moss trailing into the water. I like the dead and dying trees from the flooding described as skeletons. Beaver warning against danger with a splash from its tale. Alligator on the beach, threat, foreshadowing of coming danger later in the war. I love the stare down with the alligator and the boy winning, the 'gater disappearing without a wake into the swamp. Well done thoughts on absolutes in engineering, and longing for everyone to work within the boundaries of the absolutes. It could have been overwritten and preachy but I feel like you kept good control and avoided falling into superficiality. Convincing and well written. Shooting the deer, reading all the signs, self talk about wanting her boyfriend not her, flicking tail, she knows something isn't quite right, clearly DM has been there bow hunting for white tale in Eastern Washington. I wonder if your references to Lewis and Merton might work better if they were kept anonymous, described and strongly hinted at but not quite so obvious. Just my initial impression on this part. Patrick comments about using an inclusio like musicians will resolve the concerto where it began. I suggested considering an opening chapter that created war tension and suspense, on the flight into Vietnam, seeing conflict from the air, a fire, smoke, troop movements even. Then second chapter goes to back story leading up to deployment. Also suggested creating more uniqueness to each of the brothers' voices, always a good plan to create individual unique characters.

John reads next, from his Russian novel. Origins of the governess, since there was some push back on authenticity. She could be a daughter of a diplomat. She could have been a French Huguenot immigrant. The governess terrified as her home is under fire, Nina has been hit and is dead. And Tamara is dead too. The governess is sick, weeping, then realizes she is in imminent danger as the troops advanced and would be upon her any moment. She is accosted by two soldiers who attack her to violate her. It is a disturbing scene and the chapter ends. The next chapter, the two rapists are interrupted by their commander and ordered to leave the girl alone. DM suggested a varied verbiage to avoid using the same words. The ideas for this came from a lengthy conversation with a Russian woman at work who just started spilling her family's history. Intriguing yarn. Keep going on this.

Patrick reads next a sci-fi short story he has been working on. Protagonist volunteers for suicide mission implied but not explicitly stated. Marines securing an area so they can evacuate civilians, and the soldiers know they are going to die in this operation. An explosion takes out some of Captain Su's unit has a flashback dream recalling his family and the family dog who seems pretty vicious, bites him for attention. His father counsels his son in the meaning of life, understanding purpose, repeating a mantra from his father's counsel. He awakens a prisoner. Interrogated. Patrick's characters though fantastic seem very real, and their speaking is intentionally odd, cold inhuman way of speaking implies robotic voices to my ear, well done.  Original sin, religion a pretext to meddle with nature of who we are. Mormons. Zombies attempting to convince the captain to embrace their scheme, they wanted him as a male specimen for their breeding plan to raise their kind of food. They offer him a good life, women to breed with, working for the Zombies, all will be well. The reader is forced to grapple with the offer, given the terminal situation he finds himself in. Patrick chose not to go inside Captain Su's head and show him grappling with the moral implicattions of the Zombies' offer. Let the reader do the grappling.

I read from my Puget Sound Indian War novel The Noble Savage, now in third person. Last time these guys urged me to write in first person, but some of the reasons they gave made me want to write in third this time. One fellow who had read Duncan's War recently made his case for me writing in first person because it worked so well in that book... which was in third person. Hence, I launched in using third person for this book. Here's a sample from chapter three, Charlie Salitat and William Tidd:

“White man walking in forest,” said Charlie, moments later, “loud like ox cart. White man on horseback, loud like railroad train.”
“Stalking me back there like you was, you was making heaps of racket yourself,” said William, falling in beside Charlie and his speckled pony. “And how do you know what a railroad train sounds like anyway? There’s no railroad anywhere near here.”
“Yet,” said Charlie. “No railroad yet, but I hear stories from James McAllister, other settlers too. Railroad train make big blast, chug-chug, clatter-clatter, screech-screech, like Hudson Bay steam ship Beaver using loud engine not whispering sails. Railroad make more big noise—clatter-clang, clatter-clang. Noclas tell me about railroad trains coming west. Soon will be here. More white people. No peace, no quiet then.”
Charlie was being Indian, so William decided it was time to change the subject. “How does an Indian know where the beaver will be?” he asked.
“Steam ship, Beaver?” asked Charlie. “Clatter, hiss, clatter, bang.”
“Ah, no, Charlie,” said William. “Beaver, the real kind, you know, big teeth, thick fur, flappy tail? Beaver beaver. How do you know where to find them?”
Charlie narrowed his eyes at William and brought his horse so close their knees jostled against each other. He lowered his voice, as if to keep the mysteries of trapping from the ears of an eavesdropping beaver...

No comments:

Post a Comment