Saturday, May 4, 2013

Odd Dreams

I'm back for more. A couple years ago I basically concluded my participation in tabletop gaming because I just couldn't get a decent group together, but right now I'm writing a novel and I need a release valve for my non-novel ideas.

 Today's topic: weird dreams I had. I'm writing them down so they'll stick--and stay useful as idea-fodder, not because I expect you poor people to care.

 The first was (or resembled) a Truman Capote novel, a sort of late-period 20th century meditation on declining male sexuality seen through the lens of either anthropological fiction or magical realism--I'm not sure which. In it, Capote (or "the narrator", since it was a Capote novel only by implication) finds himself in Tibet, or a place like Tibet. At first believing he is the only white man, he instead finds himself in the shadow of a fellow-researcher of whom the narrator has always been jealous, who attracts more attention and respect from the people there, especially from the young women. The narrator finds himself in a Watson-like role, recording the exploits of his friend while growing increasingly frustrated with both his friend and himself. Despite its meager plot, the novel spoke powerfully to the frustrations of people who, thinking they had escaped themselves, experienced something that once again made them who they always were. The novel ends abruptly with the two in burial shrouds, though it is implied that the narrator faked his own death--the friend did not.

 The second is a trashy genre or perhaps book-list called "Havaoc," a 70s spy/martial arts thriller in the tradition of Clive Cussler, full of books with alluring covers that feature too many men in turtleneck-suits. The stories are full of beautiful women, barely coherent plots, and secret temples, with an emphasis on popular interpretations of martial arts techniques and a lot of technical information that is as detailed as it is nonsensical.

 These two dreams amuse me not because they're particularly interesting, but because I can see my usual writing process in them, working even while I'm unconscious. Both are no more than combinations of things I've seen, tossed together as a bunch of interesting images, themes, and moods, with little in the way of a coherent plot-structure. I'm no good at plots. (Tabletop gaming will do that to you--plots aren't my job, after all.) The "Capote" novel is a combination of a handful of things I recently experienced, from In Cold Blood to Steven King discussing the origin of Carrie's themes to a David Foster Wallace article on the decaying trajectory of 20th century "literary" fiction to the new Great Gatsby movie (that "Watson-like" role is probably more "Carraway-like") to an article I read on sky burial to the hardcover copy of the book Alive, which I grew up staring at as a little kid and which, returning to my mother's house the other day, I saw in the same spot it always has occupied. By contrast, I think the "Havaoc" books (boy were they bad!) is my brain screaming at me to write a novel that normal people would want to read, prompted by Richard Kadrey tweeting that he found his books at an airport kiosk--a great triumph for the legitimacy of an old cyberpunk!

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