The science fiction writer must avoid excessive explanation of the new world.In this zone of proximal development, the reader not only accepts but relishes being plunked in a new world, as long they are given just enough to figure it out.
I did a reading last evening, which was this: There weren’t any hours. They didn’t exist. Dee thought about that too much, every day she had been on this ship, every day if days had existed. But they didn’t. Those things, those ticks, didn’t exist, not anymore. And she didn’t understand what the point was of pretending they did. There were no months, no years, no millennia, no seconds. There was none of that. They didn’t have a sun, no weather, no storm coming, no frost, nothing like that, nothing that was real, nothing. They were relative to nothing. Absolutely nothing. She hated thinking about that, thinking it again and again. In spite of all of their schedules and notifications, their habits, despite what everyone said, none of that existed. They just didn’t have time anymore. There was no planet, no star, no system. They were relative to nothing. It was that simple. They no longer rotated. They no longer revolved around anything, and nothing revolved around them. There was no longer a gravitational field, nothing to hold them, to give them weight. They had removed themselves, purposely dropped themselves into the abyss. They had left. They were relative to nothing. And nothing was relative to them. They were separate, moving, independent, away, further, closer, something else, deeper, whatever the word would be, whatever they would concoct in the days, the not-days, the not-months, the not-years to come, that word that defined their current state, their collective morass, their disappearing, connected to nothingness, broken free, going too fast – .91 light speed? Really that speed? Really that?
One of the greatest challenges in writing is getting the sex right, which was an especially difficult matter in my bad side, because it’s a key aspect of the novel.
“But now let us go to bed.” He pulled off my blouse and kissed down my back and stayed at my hips and held himself just away, me standing, legs spread, naked and had me play with his penis. I opened my mouth, my jaw down, pliant, and ran my nails across his stomach and neck, watching the pink trail up his cheek until he had my thumb and forefinger in his mouth, sucking like a baby, getting frantic. He pressed against me hard, knocking us onto the bed, desperate, burrowing into my breasts, his tongue sloppily out, like a honey bear, unable to slow his thrusting, faster, kissing and licking my ear and then quiet, trying to pull back, to look at me and then just grabbing as hard as he could. He had his hand on my face and neck, almost choking me, and then pushed all the way in. I grabbed the edge of the bed, pulling the sheet up in clumps. I kept him in that ecstasy, on the brink, tight, and he was trying to lift us all the way to the ceiling and then crazed, holding my leg up like a post.
He snorted coke and wanted me to pose again and held himself exact above me. “Who has been taking my bed from the place in which I left it? He must have found it a hard task, no matter how skilled a workman he was, unless some god came and helped him to shift it.” His penis bounced wildly, and went into me, doing knee bends, carrying us into the bathroom. My shoulder and head were pressed flat on the ceramic tiles, white against my face, a coiling of green vines and branches against my breasts. “I was victorious over the Cicons. I vanquished the Cyclops, Telepylos and Circe. I have been to Hades. I have heard the Sirens.” He grabbed my waist, the cool of his ring against my bellybutton, and pinched my nipple, whimpered and was done. He filled the Jacuzzi with salts and massaged my back and shoulders and went down into my legs.“I have seen terrible Charybdis and Scylla. I was promised immortality by Calypso. I have come back to you.”
I’ve edited the opening to my bad side again, for the 30th time? I’ve lost count. I might have it now. It’s focused and clear, emotionally charged, paced, punctuated by effective dialogue; it has the right cadence. I watched my face in the window, fading in and out with the shadows, my eyes and mouth against the doorways, my neck and chest over the slumped scaffolding, the empty street and then Bowling Green, a rectangular line of light sliding down my arm, vanishing in a flash across my dress. The cab rattled heavily over a rutted grate and stopped in front of my building. The driver watched me through his mirror. “$9.40.”
“It’s a $7 fare.”
“What do you want with me?”
I gave him $8.
He snapped around, his white collar tip jutting up like a tiny paper airplane. “I’m not a beggar.”
“And I’m not a tourist.” I didn’t have time to close the door before the car lurched ahead, its wheels catching in a sudden threatening jolt.
“Are you all right?” George wore his uniform perfectly, tie tight, shirt sleeves just out from his jacket.
“Oh, he charged me out of zone.”
“I’ve heard about that.” He walked me up the steps to the apartment doors. “Mr. Walter looked very official tonight. I thought we were being inspected.”
“He said he would give Apollo some company.”
“He’s here now?”
George frowned. “I hope that’s all right, Miss Sinclair.”
“How long ago?”
“It must have been around 2:00, maybe a little after.”
“Thank you.”My hand reflected ghostly in the silver elevator panel. Derek knew that I didn’t want him near me. I had told him exactly that. When would he go back to his sad drunken life and leave me alone? I rotated my heel back on the stiletto, my foot angling sharply up, and thrust myself through the door before they were half open, my key already out, and pushed the apartment door in too hard.
I’ll go over it one more time tomorrow. Just once. Maybe twice.
An excerpt of a new scene for my bad side, with Dee and Crystal as kids:
“You have to help me, okay?” Crystal pulled her shirt over her head and twisted her back to me. “You see that?”
“You have to cut it off.”
“You have to, Dee. I think’s cancer.”
“You should go to a doctor.”
“I’m not going to a doctor. I’m not.” She pressed the knife into my hand. “You owe me. I saved your life, right? Didn’t I?”
“Crystal, you have to go to a hospital or something.”
“Look.” She grabbed my fist in her hand and twisted it to her back. “You just cut around it. Make a cut down one side and then the other and then cut it from underneath, okay? It should take like a minute.”
I hunched over and stared, frozen. “I can’t.”
The time has almost come to get an agent. The book needs to be pitched…
Crystal and Dee Sinclair started life as a news story.
SACRAMENTO, June16, 1978 Two young girls – one an infant of 14 months – were found alive on Wednesday afternoon, beside their recently deceased mother, Dorothy Keynes, 33. Ms. Keynes was undergoing treatment for depression after the father of the children, Mr. Raymond Sinclair, was killed in alcohol-related single-car traffic accident on Sunday, May 4.
Lillian Murton of Sacramento Social Services made the discovery on a monthly wellness visit. Neighbors along the 7400 block of 21st Avenue expressed outrage that Social Services had not been to the home in the past week.
The elder sibling, 3 years of age, is believed to have fed both herself and her infant sister in the days following their mother’s death. The children are currently being treated for dehydration at U C Davis Children’s Hospital; their names have been withheld. Mrs. James Keynes of Pittsburgh, the mother of the deceased, has filed for adoption of the children.
My Bad Side begins many years on. Crystal, now 27, defiant, knows that her life was borne of tragedy and accepts that with a drink. I’ll tell you what everyone is like. Ever think about torture? Ever think about what that is? People torturing others, I mean, people actually willing to literally torture another person, strap someone down and torture, tear off their fucking fingernails, put wire through their flesh, burn their fucking eyes out, what the fuck else? These people will watch, just watch, another person freak out and scream. And for what? Because they fucking can. Because they can get away with it. That’s who we are. That’s what this is about. We’re fucked. We’re so completely and entirely fucked. (201)
Dee, desired and adored, was too young to remember, and yet the memory persists. She chases after it like a childhood dream, desperate for contact and pushing everyone away. I had a tightness creeping inside. It wasn’t bad. It was more like almost remembering something, not what I had been told; it was more of a biological thing, molecular. It was spinning in my head. Words wouldn’t go together; the sounds were broken apart. I wanted this. I wanted to move into this, whole, that glacial wall of light, the sex, in and out in one pristine act. It was my promise. (157)
The sisters try to understand each other, but they don’t know how to forgive and feast on their addictions instead.
The Bad Side film short was shot last night, everything in 5 hours. Mike Deminico (Director) and Adam Holz (DOP) – and Joe Schiffer (AD) at the start – worked through the shot list like machines – some 50 shots in all – an impressive feat indeed.
Gardiner Comfort (Derek) and Megan Hill (Dee) worked through the scene again and again,delivered on all of the fighting and yelling, through every shot – mediums, close-ups, point of views – with a professional focus, getting closer and closer to that feeling of loss and anger. Biba struggled in her role as a badly wounded serval, wanting to either get up or go to sleep, whichever wasn’t needed. Micaela Martegani graciously took on the role of the doorman (woman) at the last minute. She was precise in her delivery and the jacket was a perfect fit. (Thanks, David.) I helped too. I drove. It was a nice car, a Mercedes C250 RWD, but the traffic was terrible – due to the on-going blackout and cleanup efforts in downtown Manhattan – and I missed the final set of shots. It was an interesting experience for me in the end, allowing others to take over my ideas, seeing the characters brought out, the framing choices made. It was not exactly as I envisioned it, but there was a moment listening to a scene, Dee yelling, that it felt like something really had come to life. Post-production is next.
We just had the first rehearsal for our short film, Dee, based on the novel, My Bad Side. The actors are excellent. Megan Hill is Dee with Gardiner Comfort is Derek, while David DiGregorio will play the doorman. Biba decided not to rehearse for her role of Apollo.
Megan and Gardiner work very well together; it is something to see actors give life to characters, not exactly what you anticipated and something more as well. Mike Deminico directs the production with Adam Holz on camera. There will be a lot of handheld work and a lot of movement. It might be black and white; that hasn’t been decided. But there will be close ups of high heels on the pavement and a struggle for the knife.
The shoot is on Wednesday. It doesn’t seem real. I wonder if I should have left Dee alone on the page.
I’m still in limbo, still waiting to get back at the book, another week to go, maybe more, but I have to admit that I have slipped in and messed around, adding details, taking them out, putting them back in.
One scene I have spent the last few days over-writing is the night of Dee’s Grad Cruise. It’s a background moment, something I hadn’t fleshed out previously, and now in which I’ve added a classmate and dialogue to the counselor. She’s alone on the deck and then joined by a classmate who she doesn’t know. He gives her a cigarette, and the supervising counselor shows up.
“I thought we were allowed.”
“You thought wrong.” He looked back, almost like he was smiling; he wasn’t.
This last line is what I’m going back and forth with at the moment. I’ve tried each of the following:
He stared back, like he was smiling, but he wasn’t.
He glared back, close to smiling, although he wasn’t.
He waited, almost smiling; he wasn’t.
…and a few variations in between. I keep going back to the first because it’s neutral and still expressive. I don’t know. I know I should just leave it alone. And I will…very soon.