Boodlepax vs the Robot Conveniences (comic book rough draft)

Boodlepax vs the Robot Conveniences 8

Here is a rough draft of a comic book I wrote for #30DaysofSummerStories. Since this is the official part 20 of the 30/day 20 of 30, I’m obliged by rules (entirely imposed by myself) to share it. So please enjoy.

Boodlepax vs the Robot Conveniences

ONE

Panel 1 (full page): Boodlepax (a tiny, monstrous creature who looks like a horned barn own with big, wide, sympathetic, frightened, monstrously scaled eyes; no mouth; arms that seemed made a dozen connected squeaky balls with tiny, barely functional claws at the tip of each) stands at the bottom center as if posing for a school photo. To his left/our right is a full body picture of a disinterested, handsome dude present only to demonstrate that Boodlepax is only shin high.

Caption 1:                   Boodlepax was born a Living Nightmare. His favorite dreaming boy abandoned him long ago which made him very sad. He has worked most of his adult life as a Hell Torturer. Hell liked to employ needy monsters of any type. Stereotyping didn’t bother Hell. But Boodlepax loved humanity and never wished any harm on anyone. He was mostly very kind and wanted to uplift humanity. He decided to be a super hero. He was very tiny compared to humans and had no powers. The right mix of guilt and good intentions can turn anyone into a super hero.

Caption 2 (with an arrow): Actual size of Boodlepax compared to normals.

TWO

Panel 1: Boodlepax in his school picture pose but now with a cape.

Caption 1:                   Boodlepax started with a cape. He presented himself to the world as if the cape’s presence alone would draw superhoic necessities to him. Nobody noticed. Nothing much happened. He needed a villain.

Panel 2: Boodlepax surrounded by the Robots Conveniences (standard robots of any type).

Caption 2:                   He noticed a lot of humanity purchasing Robot Conveniences at the Robot Store which seemed to be enslaving their will and attention. He decided to destroy the Robot Conveniences.

Panel 3: Boodlepax holding a giant wrench and facing a single robot.

Panel 4: Boodlepax in the aftermath of having hit a Robot Convenience to no effect except the vibrating wrench causing Boodlepax to vibrate comically.

THREE

Panel 1: Boodlepax staring at the robot with a sword lodged in it (implying Boodlepax was responsible for the stabbing).

Panel 2: The same set up except the robot now has a second sword lodged in it.

Panel 3: Boodlepax holds a .45.

Panel 4: We see the aftermath of Boodlepax having fired the .45 to no effect except the trails of Boodlepax comically flying backwards from the gun’s force.

FOUR

Panel 1: Boodlepax in his school picture pose next to a giant blue rabbit. Proportions indicate that the rabbit is much, much bigger than a human being.

Caption 1:                   Boodlepax decided to employ a junior sidekick, a giant nautical rabbit called Ingypoo. His history as Living Nightmare and Hell Torturer meant he knew a lot of interesting monsters.

Ingypoo:                      I am a super hero! You shall call me Tuba Toothpaste! Tremble before me! O ye lowly masses!

Boodlepax:                  Please stop. Just follow my lead.

Caption 2: Ingypoo struggled to understand humanity and human languages. Boodlepax wanted to tell him that Tuba Toothpaste was a terrible super hero name. Just call yourself Ingypoo. Be yourself and the world would love you. These are lessons he would one day teach everyone.

FIVE

Panel 1 (full page): Boodlepax and Ingypoo standing before a street full of humans with their Robot Conveniences.

Boodlepax:                  Just beat up all these robots for me.

Ingypoo:                      Will do, boss.

SIX

Panel 1: (full page): Boodlepax and Ingypoo in the same positions, but now the whole page is red, implying Ingypoo has painted the world red in obliterating the bodies of all the present humans.

Caption 1:                   Ingypoo had a bit too much enthusiasm for super hero work and no compunction against blowing human bodies to bits and pieces.

Ingypoo:                      Everybody’s dead, boss. What next?

Boodlepax:                  Oh. Well. That’s not good. How bout we stop being superheroes now.

SEVEN

Panel 1: Boodlepax sitting on his bed staring into the distance.

Caption 1:                   A few days later.

Panel 2: The same shot of Boodlepax. Ingypoo now appears to his left/our right.

Ingypoo:                      Hey there, guy.

Panel 3: The same shot.

Ingypoo:                      So guess what I found out. Remember how I killed a ton of people the other day? Turns out those robots they bought were suicide robots. It’s this scam so they can kill themselves and still get insurance money. So I did all kindsa good for the world. Like a super hero. Right?

EIGHT

Panel 1: Same shot.

Ingypoo:                      Okay. Bye. Buddy. Partner. Boss. Call me? Yes? No? Okay, seriously, bye now.

Panel 2: Boodlepax, alone again.

Panel 3: Same shot as Panel 1, Ingypoo present again.

Ingypoo:                      Did I forget to mention I can bring people back to life? I’m, like, very magical. I’m talking insanely magical. All those people I killed, I can totally bring them back to life if you’d like. Just let me know. Yes? No? I’ll take your silence as a yes. Boom. Done.

NINE

Panel 1-9: Various slaughtered and rabbit-exploded humans pulling together, waking, coming back to life, etc.

TEN

Panel 1: A crate labeled “Robot Conveniences: Suicide Model. Return. Damaged.”

Panel 2: A wider shot of a human standing next to this crate.

Panel 3: The same human, head bowed, hands in pockets, walking along past disinterested crowds.

ELEVEN

Panel 1 (full page): The same human staring at a sunset.

TWELVE

Panel 1: The same as panel 3 from page TEN, anonymous human walking alone in a crowd, head bowed.

Panel 2: The same human stands before Boodlepax on the crowded street. They stare at each other a moment.

Panel 3: Boodlepax walking in the crowd the opposite direction, mirroring the anonymous human but traveling to the left of the panel. He is now alone.

Panel 4: The same crowd, no Boodlepax

Panel 5: Ingypoo bounces in as if following Boodlepax. He is chained to something off panel to the right.

Panel 6: Ingypoo bounces to the left again, revealing that he is hauling a tank even bigger than he is.

Panel 7: The bouncing progresses, now with only the tank visible.

Panel 8: Now only the crowd.

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The Porpentine Sisters :oR: The Purity of Raining Rainbow Corpses

Milly Triple Sixes had a sister named Josie Porpentine though none of her friends knew she had any family at all. Milly (according to Josie’s accusations) failed to come home for Christmas ever since she dedicated her life to (fake) Satanism. Josie revealed this lack of a Christmas return embarrassingly to Milly’s whole (fakely) Satanic rock band (Raining Rainbow Corpses) during one (random) garage practice (given greater importance (by Milly) considering the impending regional band battle (Band Battle at the End of Everything)). Josie was dressed in thoroughly unSatanic business attire. She could’ve been a legitimate business lady or a librarian or a senator, displaying the sort of conformity (at least according to this first impression) Raining Rainbow Corpses was supposed to rail against, but all in all she seemed like a nice and decent lady.

The problem was (at least according to Milly) Raining Rainbow Corpses might one day have fans. If these Christmas visits became common knowledge among these (fakely) Satan-worshipping fan legions, this would ruin her reputation for bedevilment and badassery (should that reputation ever actually come to fruition).

“It’s what good people do!” was the sort of thing Josie Porpentine would say between screams with the sort of passion incongruous with her put-together demeanor (but similar to Milly’s passion in screaming about “Bastards of Corporate America” (or whatever she screamed about in her ultraSatanic screamery)).

“Fans of Satanic rock bands don’t tolerate anything to do with Christmas!” was the sort of thing (or nonsensical blather (depending on your perspective)) Milly screamed back at her sister (with unsurprising volume).

Chastity Schwartzbaum, the bassist for Raining Rainbow Corpses, told a blushing Milly, “Our hypothetical future fans will understand if you indulge in some seasonal family love.”

“No,” screamed Milly Triple Sixes (though her voice was scream-scarred from the hours of practice she mandated and finally started to show it). “This band is our only family now!”

“Don’t be offended if I fail to actually live like that, the whole family abandonment thing seems a bit icky to me,” said Chastity holding an over-big bass she was not yet used to holding. “I mean bass playing is a weekend thing for me. I love it like a Victorian novel cousin maybe.”

“Few can live up to rock purity,” said Milly in a calmer voice. “I’m no one to judge.”

Chastity’s objection was thusly shut down with only mild condescension. Besides, this conversation between Milly and Chastity only punctuated more explosive fits between the two Porpentine sisters.

By the way (because it seemed like a by-the-way sort of thing) Josie had strapped to her belly by babycarrier a robot plush with long limp dangly arms. Why would otherwise-business-like-demeanor lady carry a plush in this way (like harajuku girls)(or like a baby-less lady who lost her mind and carried dolls around as void filler)(or like–not really like anything Chastity had seen before)?

Josie said, “Your sister wants to sing in your show” (now referring to herself in third person to further the sense of incongruity?)(or perhaps there was a third Porpentine sister?)(It was fascinating how the squarest person in the room could be the most baffling.)

Milly said, “Did Doohickey tell you this herself, or is this classic Milly emotional torture time?”

“She said it’s her only Christmas wish.”

Then the robot plush piped in, “It’s my only Christmas wish.”

A few things now made more sense while a lot of things made a lot less sense. This little robot plush was called Doohickey (Chastity (at least) pieced this together) and she was the third Porpentine sister. Why Milly’s little sister looked like a robot plush was still a mystery, but it seemed rude to ask. (“It has to be a birth defect,” Chastity told herself. “What could it be other than a robot plush birth defect?”)

“Hush now, Doohickey. I got this handled,” Josie said and patted the robot plush like a pet on a belly harness.

Milly said, “I can’t let Doohickey sing in my band. That’s never something I’m ever going to allow to happen as long as I’m alive.”

Josie said, “Why? What reason could you have other than your outsized bitterness about all the world’s crimes against you? For that reason, you’d deny your sister’s one wish, the only thing she’s ever requested in her life?”

Milly (despite all her rock and roll bravado and rage that led so easily to any silent space being filled with her ragey sound no matter how senseless) failed to answer.

The Lava Sisters piped in at this point (Chastity could never tell the Lava Sisters apart (though one played drums and one played guitar, they became a unified entity while standing side by side)): “Milly has never been well acquainted with reality. She’s only so desperate because the Prophet will be at the concert.” (The Lava Sisters always seemed like transcendent entities, like doubling was only a secondary function of their deity status, so mentioning the Prophet seemed only to naturally flow from their lips.)

Josie said, “Who’s the Prophet?”

The Lava Sisters (whichever one) said, “The Prophet is only the local music critic. There’s a lot of onlys in this situation that highlight Milly’s complaint as ridiculous: 1) The Prophet is only a Milly-like self-aggrandizer; 2) it’s only a Band Battle at the End of Everything, not like a real concert any real human would respect; 3) we only got in because we paid a fee; 4) we’ll only be the first of a dozen, and real bands will be headlining. This argument is purely your variety of idiocy, Milly. Let’s let your sister sing. It’s not like she’d be much worse than you. This is a four person band after all, and that’s two votes to one.” (Chastity couldn’t tell at what point they were speaking in unison.)

Milly Triple Sixes stared at the Lava Sisters (whom she’d known since all of them were smaller than Doohickey) with all the Satanic power she could manage to force through her eyeballs: “You don’t know the Porpentines” (one of many falsehoods (presumably (since Milly was full of so many)) but something about this seemed truer than the rest). Milly then turned her Milly gaze to Chastity (the new girl (the one who knew everybody the least)) and said, “What’s your vote, Chastity? Two votes to two makes it a tie, and I’m the tie breaker as the band leader.”

Chastity opened her mouth but had nothing to say. All of it left her boggled and blank. Whatever followed and all its tragedy was now piled on Chastity Schwartzbaum.

Doohickey did sing at the Band Battle at the End of Everything. She sang “Santa Baby,” too low to even make out the words (uncertain of how microphones work or incapable of holding one properly in limp arms). The audience laughed (uncertain of the type of irony applicable in the situation). Even the Prophet laughed. Milly and Josie stood in the back, powerless against the laughter, except for Milly to mutter “Idiots” and “Assholes” too low for anyone but Josie to hear her (more certain than anyone). Chastity could read her lips from stage and knew exactly what she was saying (uncertain of whether it was for the audience or the rest of the band). She and the Lava Sisters likewise did nothing to save poor Doohickey. They barely knew music to begin with, so improvising “Santa Baby” was sapping most of their mental and emotional energy (they usually let Milly’s rage cover any deficiencies).

Doohickey’s voice faltered like she was finally feeling the emotional effect of the laughter (a barelyfalter but the tragedy was unmistakable). She couldn’t leave the stage (legs too limp (hence why Josie carried her everywhere)) but it was Milly this time who rushed to lift her, pushed through the laughing crowd, slung Doohickey over her shoulder like a baby and walked out to the alley, angrier now at everyone than she’d ever been (Doohickey: “I liked it.” Milly: “Stop lying!”) and stomped like she could break the stones beneath her.

Chastity followed her out to the alley and tried to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t even consider the laughing.” But Milly was too fast and too monolithic a force to ever hear something so pitiful (and none of this was about Chastity anyway).

Then Josie passed Chastity, grabbed Doohickey out of Milly’s arms. Milly had no choice but to relent (she was the weaker one)(Chastity imaged a tugging that would tear the little sister’s body to pieces (but of course that wasn’t the real Milly Porpentine)(she became nothing but a crumbleheap the way Doohickey might’ve been had anyone resisted)).

Josie disappeared (as Doohickey’s little voice said “Merry Christmas” to all the new band friends she made) into whatever mysterious and purposeful life she lived.

Milly stood there (Chastity stood behind her) with nothing to say to shatter the world or the pure and silent and cold winter white around her.

The Principles of Particulate Stimulation (a Theory of How to Make and Understand Art)

I developed the system/concept I call “particulate stimulation” as, I hope, a practical tool for fiction writers – a way to understand the internal mechanisms of fiction’s interaction with the reader – but I believe these concepts are applicable to all the arts and to serious criticism as well (since I have yet to encounter a critical strategy that approaches the arts in this way).

In short, the concept rests on the notion that the primary, irreducible value in fiction (or in any experience of the arts) is in the direct stimulation of the reader (viewer, audience, etc.) that breaks down the barrier between self and other. This is an essentially irrational, gut-level act, so the irrational and the gut-level understanding of fiction (and other arts) is favored as a primary value. I call this value “primary” and “irreducible” because it is the first value to consider – whether or not it is the greatest value is up to the individual – and it is the one value that remains once other values are eliminated. If one were to ask “Is this piece of fiction (etc) good?” and “Why is it good?” one might name a large number of possible values, but if one were to say “Without this value, could this be good?” or “In the history of fiction (or art), has an example of a good work existed without this value?” and eliminate values in this manner one by one, the only one remaining would be stimulation. For example, values such as meaning, reflection of philosophical/social concepts, or universal model of behavior might be cited as a story’s source of value, but could a story be valuable without any of these? Yes, of course it could. However, could a story be valuable devoid of stimulation? Unlikely. So, in the practical sense of optimizing this irreducible value, the writer then considers them secondary. The role of meaning or social reflection, for example, becomes a secondary function to how these factors optimize stimulation.

The writer must also understand how the drive toward stimulation and the irrational breakdown in barriers between self and other meets the contradictory drive to eliminate stimulation (I simplify these forces below as “The Gut” and “The Mind”). To load a story with excessive emotions or completely irrational oddities, for example, might meet with the mind’s resistance to emotions and oddities, including the complex array of mental mechanisms designed for this resistance (such as subordination and categorization). To optimize the stimulation, the writer must strategically recognize these mechanisms for resistance and craft accordingly – to evade the gatekeepers, in other words.

This concept was designed to compensate for the massive deficiencies in my own creative writing education in which teachers would rely on superficial truisms or false universals without the capacity to explain or justify them. It was like teaching a cooking class by naming all the pots and pans but giving no clear understanding of flavors and the interaction between flavors. Following clichés like “show, don’t tell” might make a story more snappy, but why? I never got a good explanation, so I had to come up with one of my own: concrete imagery engages the gut while abstract narration engages the mind.

That being said, here is a simplified list of various factors to consider in understanding Particulate Stimulation:

Overview:

The Mind: Designed to eliminate stimulation (e.g. danger, discomfort, etc.) through:

  • Subordination (creating a hierarchy to organize the chaos)
  • Abstraction (elevation into the undying ideal)
  • Turning the irrational into symbols/metaphors
  • Categorization/Separation (favoring the safe over the dangerous)
  • Resolution of mystery

The Gut: Seeks stimulation (food, sex, mortal danger, etc.) by eliminating barriers between self and other (leading the reader to vicarious experiences):

  • Danger/fear
  • Rage
  • Desire
  • Gratification of physical needs (food, sex, etc.)
  • Unresolved mystery
  • Happy feelings (to a lesser extent)

Comfort/Discomfort: Though the mind seeks elimination of stimulation, one type of stimulation it accepts is comfort.

The Mind: Comforting stimulators:

  • Brief bursts of stimulation:
    • Conflict resolution
    • Mystery resolution
    • Fulfillment of desires
    • Epiphany
    • Catharsis (the false notion that art exists solely to eliminate stimulation)
  •  Function often as coda to end a story
  • Often mistaken as the main point of the story

The Gut: Discomforting stimulators:

  • More sustained source of stimulation throughout a story
  • A majority of the value is in optimizing discomfort
  • But also doing so without the mind rejecting the text (in its need for comfort)

Imagery:

The Mind:

  • Favors abstraction.
  • Concrete imagery is subordinate to abstract ideas.
  • Images stand in for or “mean” something

The Gut:

  • Parataxis: The juxtaposition of two seemingly unrelated image without a directly stated connection.
  • Dislocation (the surrealist version of parataxis): Disconnected images dislocate the viewer/reader from the present world, create a dreamlike effect

Characters:

The Mind: A character:

  • Stands in as a universal model
  • Represents the human condition
  • Learns a lesson so we can learn a lesson
  • Leads to vicarious catharsis
  • Resolves paradoxes.

The Gut:

  • Driven by irrational desire
  • Full of unresolved paradox
  • “Negative Capability”: “when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason”—John Keats

Repetition:

The Mind:

  • Mechanical Repetition:
    • Copies must be exact to eliminate possibility of failure/danger
    • This creates a diminishing return as stimulation reduces with each copy)

The Gut:

  • Organic Repetition:
    • Another stimulating irrational paradox: both unique and of a pattern
    • Repetition of some patterns while remaining individual (as with any living being) indicates the presence of life without overt mental control
    • The rule of threes: 2 occurrences might be coincidences and 4 verges on mechanical repetition, so 3 indicates the presence of life.
    • The most pleasing music has been historically based on a 3 part pattern

Tempus Fugit :oR: The Garfield Blasphemies

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The Garfield comicstrip always warned of the coming Life Abundance Apocalypse, a time (in creator Jim Davis’ lifespan (though Jim Davis only knew this in his most secret brain)) when civilization will come to an end, and the chaos of life will bloom worldwide. But a lot of people loved the Life Abundance Apocalypse, and that’s why three apocalypse-loving post-temporal travelers (a sentient prom dress, museum-bellied cannibal horse, and a disembodied lung) went back in time to stop the comicstrip from happening.

The problem was the sentient prom dress (whose name was Odi Whati) and the disembodied lung (who was the actual former president James Garfield) loved to party hardcorely much. The incessant chaotic partytime of the Life Abundance Apocalypse made the preapocalypse a quiet and quaint vacation spot and made Odi and President Garfield functional party gods (Odi’s body was partly made of sewn together corpses, so she could pass as human (other partygoers seemed to care little her party partner was a floating lung)). Planning for the Jim Davis mission kept slipping into the near future (linear pacing was always a struggle for the post-temporal). The cannibal horse (whose name was Oiam) had merely academic interest in history as his hulking body contained a history museum (actually Ilty, the tiny the curator inside his body, had the academic interest while Oiam retained the silent stoicism of apocalypse endurance with a body strong enough to keep humanity’s artifacts safe inside him).

Garfield (the comicstrip, not the disembodied lung) started out as a comicstrip about an anarchist in 1890s Boston named Jon Arbuckle trying to right the wrongs committed by President James Rudolph Garfield who in his third term had become America’s first emperor (in this fictional comicstrip eventuality, at least (the disembodied lung President Garfield only tried and failed to become America’s emperor)). It was Jon Arbuckle’s aim to create the Great Bartleby City, a floating utopia containing all the world’s knowledge and upholding enlightenment values like scientific determinism and perpetual progress to combat Emperor Garfield’s regression and dismantling of technology as a recapitulation of ignorant medieval superstition (this was not a very funny comic strip).

Jon Arbuckle built an army of clockwork animals for his Bartleby City utopia, the most prominent of which (though it remained unbuilt for most of the original comicstrip run) was Tick Tock, the Red Wooly Mammoth, upon whom Jon would ride in his raids against Emperor Garfield. Tick Tock the Clockwork Mammoth had a golden dynamo in his belly, and see through windows in either flank allowed audiences to see the golden dynamo spinning, World’s Fair style. That dynamo made a white dwarf star if allowed to go fast enough. A clockwork animal like that could surely bring down Emperor Garfield (hence why the emperor’s forces worked so hard to thwart Jon Arbuckle’s attempts to build it).

Not yet realizing the delights of the Life Abundance Apocalypse, Jim Davis inserted plenty of legitimate hints about the coming catastrophe in his comicstrip (as if a place where death and time had been abolished were anything the world needed to be warned about (sure, human civilization (as it was called by the delusional and machinesouled) had crumbled with time’s loss, but who needed that anyway? (Those stuck in the preapocalypse had little way of understanding this the way a dog learning his master’s language has no way to conceive what he means by “heaven” except to feel it himself))).

For example, the comicstrip claimed Garfield’s vicepresident was halflion/halfstag/halfMetatron and had a torrid love affair with a pumpkin witch (the way the real apocalypse happened/will happen).

Mr Sprinklers, the Pumpkin Witch, wasn’t as vengeful as his godlike position implied, but his sister, Easter, the Rabbit Witch, took delight in exploiting the elimination of linear time to travel history and take the most radical vengeance on anyone who seemed to violate the providence and benevolent dominion of his sister the Pumpkin Witch: Jim Davis, Garfield cartoonist and friend of children and animals, for example (or so the time traveling trio feared). Easter’s army of bloodthirsty godstags likewise delighted in such raw and terrible justice.

(Easter the Rabbit Witch lived with his godstag army in the Ricepaper Astronaut (a giant in whom godlike beings had built a timeshare apartment covered in red velvet walls and furniture made to look like internal organs (the Ricepaper Astronaut most of his life floated face down like a drowned man (because he was technically a dead drowned man) and in the preapocalypse he dressed in the yellowing astronaut costume of his original drowning in outerspace, but in the Life Abundance Apocalypse, he took the astronaut costume off and let his long blonde hair flow))).

Easter the Rabbit Witch once wiped out a whole village isolated in impassable jungle vines by mass crucifixion (the village’s isolation assured a one-by-one ecstatical murder experience as he crucified each citizen) just because one delusional old elder uttered half asleep “Beware the Pumpkin Witch” in a language only those villagers knew. Easter just made sport of that variety of awfulness.

Easter the Rabbit Witch wiped out the witches of Salem only because one witch citizen wore a pumpkin head in a mock murder play called “The Bedlam of Baal,” even crushed Carl Oldy Olsen beneath a stone because his scarecrow on his garden’s crucifix had hair that was too orange.

(Odi Whati speculated Easter was so unrelenting in his viciousness because he didn’t have a mouth (he was essentially a scarecrow, a bunch of snappy twigs wrapped in blue stuffed animal cloth (overly long arms and overly big hands with overly scary claws (granted, sure, all that, but still a scarecrow who had no mouth, floppy bunny ears, sadly drooping blank eyes, that sort of thing))) so Odi Whati figured anybody named after a candy holiday who could never eat candy must, by necessity, be bitter. He had to sit back and witness as others bit mockingly the bunnies’ brown ears and head off and bit their bodies to pieces. Little could he know this delight. He turned instead to torture.)

(The truth is Easter the Rabbit Witch was the actual Easter Bunny and produced eggs from an orifice mysterious in its origin as a presumably male scarecrow whose insides are composed only of snapping twigs and malevolence has little use for egglaying orifices. The eggs would sometimes crack open to birth a candy child not dissimilar to its father, the godlike Rabbit Witch; sometimes the eggs contained a blood thirsty little babylike insect creature called a Faberge or a Little Apocalyptic who could strip the flesh from an elephant in seconds. Since Easter was from before and after linear time, he could be in all believing children’s houses at the same time squirting out those eggs for a morning surprise.)

Odi Whati appeared to Jim Davis (as a vision in a waking dream (she broke into his bedroom and stood over him screaming))(this was the plan they came up with): “Be not afraid of apocalypse, Jim Davis! For it is the Life Abundance Apocalypse, ‬  and it means the end of death’s dominion and all ecstasies made manifest!”

“Why are you talking like that?” interrupted President Garfield, the disembodied lung.

(Jim Davis was cringing in fear (mostly because Oiam ‬ (the silent cannibal horse) was crazy frightening to wake up to)).

“I’m being prophetical,” Odi said. “Can’t you just let me be prophetical?”

“Just take him into the future,” said the president, being presidential and gratuitously bossy. “He’ll fall in love with the apocalypse, and that will be that.”

“I think my strategy is sufficient for eliminating his apocalypse garfieldery.”

“Hey, Jim,” the president said just diving head first into the sort of requisite selfcenteredness that turns all voices of others into silence. “Wanna go into the future?”

But Jim Davis was weeping in fear.

“We screwed it up,” Odi said. “Abort mission.”

“That’s my call,” the president said. “Abort mission.”

Odi and Garfield stared each other down (as much as a disembodied lung and dress can stare at each other) refusing to abort as the other had ordered.

Meanwhile, Oiam silently walked away and Jim Davis continued to weep, not changing his mind about the apocalypse.

Jim Davis later encountered Odi, Garfield, and Oiam drinking coffee at an outdoor café (drinking coffee in this way was vital to their party vacation lifestyle). It was hard to miss a cannibal horse, a disembodied lung, and sentient prom dress drinking coffee together, so Jim Davis approached the time travel trio. “Oh hey” they all said one by one (except Oiam because he was silent and less prone to such senseless exclamation). But the conversation didn’t progress beyond this since there was little sensible one could say, and only Oiam continued to sip his coffee.

Jim Davis finally sat with them at the table (he was rather kind and open minded and brave (for a cartoonist)) and said, “So…like…the Life Abundance Apocalypse…you love it then? That’s kind of weird.”

Odi said (back to her normal bright tone as the mission became (accidentally) so much easier), “Totally love it. You might not realize this, but I’m a sentient prom dress…”

“Oh, no, I figured that out.”

“Oh really?” It may be that Odi’s appearance was odd and obvious to everyone, but Jim Davis seemed to know certain things (to be drawn to their presence in that cafe, for example, or to know they (despite their monstrous appearance) only had benign intentions). “Anyway, there’s no such thing as sentient prom dresses in the preapocalypse, so I owe my existence to the apocalypse.”

“Why are you here then?”

“To keep you from warning people about the apocalypse.”

“By drinking coffee.”

“Why wouldn’t we take a break for coffee. You’re not our full time occupation, Jim Davis.” Odi could snap this quick especially for a man who knew her so well in no time and turn the next instant to smartassery, but could she expect any more than this, any deeper and more enduring connection, from the creator of the world’s greatest smart ass cat? “I mean, jeez. Talk about the ego of famous people.”

“I’m famous?”

“Just because you’re the creator of Garfield, the world’s most famous cat, doesn’t give you call to have such a fresh mouth, Jim Davis.”

“Garfield the cat? Garfield’s a president, and the strip is about a freedom fighter.”

“Oh…right…that’s what I meant. Forgot I was from the future for a second there.” Odi was fully aware she was terrible at time travel.

And so on.

So they took Jim Davis to the future to witness the Life Abundance Apocalypse first hand, and he spent his whole time at the Cat Volcano drowning in fur and purring warm bodies, laughing like a crazy person. Odi Whati said, “Dude, there’s a lot more we could go see besides the Cat Volcano, this is like one millionth of the cool stuff here,” but he refused to get out until the last bit of this particular variety of ecstasy was expended and Odi was too annoyed to show him anything else (this was their relationship, mother to child for whom everything is new and amazing (though prom dresses aren’t prone to mammal breeding or motherly affection)).

When Jim Davis changed the Garfield comic based on his newfound appreciation for apocalypse, to be about a gluttonous cat (based on his cat volcano love) big and orange (in appreciation of the Pumpkin Witch), Odi Whati said, “You didn’t turn him into a cat because I accidentally slipped and futurely said you were destined to, did you?”

“No, of course not. I forgot about that.”

“Good because that would create a jelly halo that would rip reality to pieces.”

“Really?”

“No. But maybe. But no. The truth is you can’t stop the apocalypse. Just give it a different personality.”

“Oh. Then why are you even here?”

“Good question. There’s kind of this rabbit monster and his army of bloodthirsty stags who might’ve come after you if you kept up your apocalypse-warning ways.”

“After me? I don’t understand what that means.”

“He’d kinda sorta gleefully slice you to pieces.”

“But that’s not going to happen now, right?”

“No. No no no. Of course. Totally. I mean I’m pretty sure. I mean rabbit monsters are fairly reasonable creatures, right?”

The real reason Odi Whati wanted to stop Jim Davis from making the apocalypse-predicting Garfield was her mother, Better Last, who was an Apocalypse Stopper by profession, and if Odi convinced someone not to stop the apocalypse, this might draw out Better Last so Odi could say, “Hi, I’m the prom dress you’ll make one day in the future when your apocalypse stopping fails.” (Of course an Apocalypse Stopper will know everything about her own future, so this will be no great surprise, but it will feel good to say it.) “I’m glad you made me/will make me with such uncharacteristic delicacy. I’ll become sentient because why wouldn’t I? But you’ll abandon me. Please don’t abandon me. I got married to a great guy. I want you to meet him. I want you to be kind to us and never leave this world.” And so many other things. Manipulating the destiny of Garfield’s creator might’ve been a silly way to do it, but it’s the best a sentient prom dress could think of.

The real reason Oiam visited history was the museum inside his body and Ilty the tiny curator (the microceratops) who was trying to gather all of the Trinkets of Interrogative Pronouns, a collection of mundane objects that granted the user amazing powers and together granted the possessor unlimited wishes. All this was a bit redundant in the Life Abundance Apocalypse where wish granting was just the assumption of existence. Few people appreciated the specialness of magical objects. Ilty loved the preapocalyptic people yet to be awe jaded. He got a lead on the Antineedle of Which which granted the bearer temporal manipulation which appeared to the observer like accelerated speed. It turned out to be a regular needle, but what delight he had in traveling through this quaint bit of history tracking it down. So far he’d only found one of the seven: a pipe reed that let the bearer pierce the permeable barrier fooling viewers into believing pictures were only pictures (totally useless in the Life Abundance Apocalypse where no such delusions exist).

President Garfield’s reason for traveling back in time was, no surprise, to take over the world and shape the apocalypse in his image. He had tried taking over the world once already back when he was president (and Jim Davis had amazingly seen this alternate eventuality) until Better Last obliterated every part of his body but one lung. Better Last cursed him to be a puppet conscience (that is: the Jimminy Cricket-like conscience of sentient puppets (though Garfield’s moral compass tended toward the despotic and the puppet population was too thoroughly permeated by blame fools to ever revive his world conquering by proxy)). He had taken power (back in his full-body president days) based on a sort of energy field called the Gravity-Antigravity-Retrograde or GAR field accessible to all animals with bilateral symmetry, but Better Last reduced him down to one lung, robbing him even of this. That’s why Garfield needed to find his historical self to re-access his old symmetry and his old glory. “Come with me my brother, my self, my future fellow king of all existence!”

But his historical self was characteristically skeptical: “Both of us are left lungs. That’s not exactly bilateral symmetry.”

“It’ll still work. Maybe.”

Odi (lazily hanging out in history with her new best friend Jim Davis) hear on the news: “Cleveland today declared a new emperor who conquered the city despite only being a pair of lungs and a raving madman. His gravity power sent the Flats space bound as he screamed, despite a mouth lack, ‘I just made Grover my b word.’ The meaning of this mysterious phrase is still being deciphered.”

But Odi Whati, normally not predisposed to supporting the despotic ways of organ tyrants, liked the disembodied lung as company and so chose to ignore his city conquering. After all, he was so great at parties (his gravity/antigravity powers were a hit at bubble parties (as they made the bubbles blop around all kattywampus) and earthquake parties (providing the personal earthquake)) (he had his own booth at every discotheque in the city) and to a sentient prom dress who lived most often in a Life Abundance Apocalypse ‬ , someone with the ability to bring the party to the preapocalypse party amateurs always earned extra forgiveness.

Then Odi Whati’s mom showed up. Like that, not a whole lot of fanfare. She had a red mammoth with her with a solar dynamo at its center, but when she and the elephant showed up in front of the same outdoor café where Jim Davis happened to see him, she seemed more like some random lady walking a pet. Odi Whati said, “Oh hey mom.”

“Are you trying to start an apocalypse, young lady? You’re a prom dress, Odi, you know nothing about responsibility.”

“Yes, mother.”

“Now I have to murder Jim Davis, and it’s all your fault.”

“But all those future Garfields you’ll cut short. All that comicstrip joy and cat grouchiness. Why rob the world? Plus murder is kind of bad, and I like Jim Davis. He’s my friend. Plus Jim Davis doesn’t predict anything anymore. He only writes about a fat cat.”

Odi didn’t realize but Jim Davis was still inserting subtle predictions of the Life Abundance Apocalypse in his Garfield strip (many of which he witnessed firs hand due to Odi’s timetravelry): the lasagna obsession, for example, prefigured the way Emperor Garfield layered his victims’ bloody flesh and skin when he fed them to warthogs (an act recreated semiannually in the Lasagna Hog festivals when the long deceased Emperor Garfield became an object of cult worship).

The “I hate Mondays” catchphrase prefigured the way in which the moon weekly during the Life Abundance Apocalypse released the creatures who lived in the moon’s bones (now endowed with too much life to remain immobile) (a sort of giant insect shaped like orange wedges and layered with light blue glowing rock) to pick up victims to bring back to the moon’s arena at its boney core to perform in baffling circuses before being eaten. Everybody hated Moon Days for good reasons, for good bloody murdery reasons.

Garfield’s fear of spiders was a legit fear of spiders. They were crazy scary in the Life Abundance Apocalypse.

“This is what it has come to,” Odi Whati confessed to a priest, the only one who’d listen. “To keep my mother from assassinating Jim Davis, the only thing I can think to do is blaspheme the Pumpkin Witch.”

“I don’t understand any of that.”

“I know…nobody does.”

Later: “Did you call Easter the Rabbit Witch to keep me from murdering Jim Davis?” said Odi’s mom Better Last (after she totally did).

“No” Odi said and giggled because of how bad she was at lying even though it was totally awkward to giggle while discussing the invocation of apocalypse monsters to stop a murder.

So Easter the Rabbit Witch came along to bring Odi’s whole world to an end. It was a rather dramatic variation on the classic “You never like my friends, Mom!” argument but in terms of world endings and world famous cartoonists.

But one world-ending force (Easter the Rabbit Witch) met another world-ending force (Emperor Garfield), and that would have been especially dramatic if Emperor Garfield (as a disembodied lung) had any hope in abating the savagery of Easter. Even with Garfield’s gravity/antigravity powers, Easter was just too much of a badass; even with two Emperor Garfields, future and present, Easter only busied his murderclaws for a minute and a half. The dying speech of each one, impaled at the end of the Easter’s right and left claws, was very dramatic and heart rending: “Oh what folly that I’ve spent my life in such vain pursuits,” etc. and “Oh that the world had known the beauty of my glory,” etc. Too bad they both delivered their speeches simultaneously, no man willing to cede the floor to the other so it came out as gobbledygook

Long story short, Easter the Rabbit Witch and Odi’s mom battled a lot and it was awesome. To humans caught in the middle, it was a little cataclysmic and tragic and all that, and maybe Odi could’ve done something to stop it, but she was kind of into it.

Odi Whati, torn in pieces by motherneeds so no motion was in her capacity, got yanked aside by Oiam, ‬  and Ilty the Museum curator inside him said, “I think I have a way to save us. Catastrophe Puppets in ancient times created the Trinkets of Interrogative Pronouns based on patterns handed down to them by their mother, the Tailor Angel Yttriel. I’ve been trying to find them all since Garfield told me about their existence and how they’re hidden in plain sight (he learned all about them from his puppet conscience days). The only one I’ve been able to find is the Pipe Reed of Where. Smoke from this pipe allows you to pass through the barrier to any picture, including drawn pictures. In other words, you can travel to any world you imagine as long as you’re able to draw it.”

At that point, they all turned to the world-famous cartoonist Jim Davis.

“I guess this is what they call the 3rd panel inevitability.”

“Who calls it that?”

“Cuh-cartoonists. Cartoonists are the ones who call it that. Never mind. Tell me what I need to do.”

They worked together to sew Odi back together in kindness, delicate and steady hands in contrast to the chaos around.

Odi Whati then interjected herself in the amazing battle between Better Last and Easter the Rabbit Witch and said, “Ahem, excuse me, this battle is pretty great, don’t get me wrong, but we have an offer: if you stop battling, thus saving humanity from your apocalypse-stopping apocalypse, Jim Davis is willing to draw worlds full of Pumpkin Witch blasphemers for Easter to slaughter to perpetually satisfy his slaughter hunger, and your part of the deal, mom, is that you love me and never abandon me ever ever.”

“No deal,” Better Last said though she had no reason once Easter jumped right in the genocide Jim Davis made him. Better Last was left rejecting Odi Whati for rejection’s sake alone, and Odi knew Better Last better than ever, a final gift despite itself.

And so the years passed. Jim Davis daily drew his scenes of blasphemers for the Rabbit Witch to eat and every slaughter stabbed him deep and made him age a little more, smoking that awful pipe he never grew to love.

When the apocalypse he long waited for did come (and hopefully Odi Whati would return with it) Jim Davis climbed to the top of the tallest building in the city to get the best view, but it wasn’t the volcano of cat birth he fell in love with so many years ago. It was wave after wave of some apocalyptic force (whichever of the many possibilities it ended up being) wiping out humanity piece by piece.

Odi Whati was appeared on the roof with him now.

“What happened to the apocalypse you promised me?” Jim Davis shouted over the noise.

“There’s something I forgot to tell you,” she said. “There were a couple of years (back when people still believed in years) when the Life Abundance Apocalypse struggled to be born. My human skin is made out of corpses from that time. I didn’t want to tell you because I was afraid you…wouldn’t like that.”

He didn’t.

The Importance of William Carlos Williams to Fiction Writers: Letting Go the Need to Mean Something

Diego Max

As a fiction writer, I consider William Carlos Williams the most important twentieth century American writer. This is a statement likely to meet with much disagreement, and perhaps isolating the statement to the second half of the twentieth century might turn the competition into a no contest, but there is no reason to isolate a poet’s influence to poetry. He’s just as important to fiction and theater. His importance is best summed up in the statement “No ideas but in things,” the letting go of ideas as the central value of literature and with them all those persistent Greek infinities indelibly inserted as central literary values for centuries: the supposed ideals by which literature and all beautiful things were to be judged; the structural goldenness that tied literature to nature’s order; the timelessness and universality literature was meant to achieve as if relating to another human regardless of different setting were some secondary function to all humans conforming to generalizable features; components like imagery subordinated by mechanisms like metaphor and representation to concepts outside of the text itself. Williams’ “No ideas but in things” and all its connected implications represented a sea change, letting go of all those old, worn out, unnecessary notions. Letting go of ideas meant literature didn’t have to be subordinated to concepts; images didn’t have to be subordinated within metaphors to abstractions. Images could then be images for their own sake, for the stimulation of their beauty or ugliness. What they mean could then be secondary. A red wheelbarrow doesn’t have to mean anything other than itself. Letting go ideals meant questioning how these ideals were created. Beauty, the good, perfection – these weren’t manifest by some eternal force outside of the perspective of humans (and Christian European males most often accessing supposed objectivity to justify their subjective ideas of the universe’s functionality, subordinating anyone outside of their group as outsiders, servants, fools, or savages). “No ideas but in things” localized ideals subjectively within humans and their varied concepts of perfection opening up multiplicity of possibilities. This, as significantly, meant letting go of the need to be perfect, closer to the Japanese concept of beauty, wabi sabi (hence why I’m qualifying Williams’ influence to twentieth century America – he was more an adamant propagator of this concept than an originator). Letting go of the old structural ideals so important to the Greeks led to the innovation for which modernists are most commonly given credit, and this might close-mindedly limit the perception of Williams’ influence on fiction since the collapse of poetic meter might seem irrelevant to fiction, but the dissolution the ideals at the source of this development marks Williams as iconoclast regardless of genre. Letting go of timelessness meant literature could be about the present moment; letting go of universality meant both letting go the notion that universality is possible and narrowing focus on interaction between writer and reader. Instead of writing something for all people at all times, an impossibility only the arrogant can believe is achievable, the writer now needs only to write for one person at one time. This is one of the major points Charles Olson focuses on in “Projective Verse” and credits Williams and Ezra Pound for their developments in this direction. Olson is credited with being first to use “postmodern” to refer to literature, and “Projective Verse” in 1950 essentially inaugurated postmodern literature (though postmodern literature is most often discussed in a very limited way based on some concepts by a handful of French philosophers catching up to Olson about twenty years too late and making claims that only ever worked well with a small portion of postmodern fiction—no wonder Williams gets lost in that). Frank O’Hara’s “Personism: A Manifesto” is another important essay in postmodern poetry which gives significant credit to Williams – O’Hara says only Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, and Williams are “better than the movies” – though O’Hara’s importance is too often limited to promoting spontaneous composition, something O’Hara identifies at the beginning of that essay as an irrelevant distinction compared his apocalyptic, if smart ass, attack on universality.

Williams, the avuncular family doctor with his quiet and simple poems, seems like an odd figure to place at the top of this revolution, hardly ever as aggressive in his promotion of it many other revolutionaries, but it’s there in his poetry. “The Red Wheelbarrow” perhaps receives too great a place as masterpiece since its importance is too easily isolated to its structural innovation and its strong use of concrete imagery – its “red wheelbarrow,” “rain water,” “white chickens,” and so on – but as important as adapting the structure and imagery of haiku (and more important when considering fiction) is the concept of how imagery works adapted from haiku, taking the essential content of poetry from metaphor to parataxis. Metaphor traditionally requires imagery to be subordinated to something outside of itself, concrete or abstract; it either represents or means something and has much less importance than the thing it represents or means (in I.A. Richards’ terms, the vehicle must stand in for the tenor). This is also how we frequently understand fiction: a realistic piece must either represent something “real” accurately or some convenient generalization/false universalism called “the human condition”; something imaginative must function as metaphor for some abstract concept or some real human experience other than what the imaginative piece directly depicts (Alice’s experience represent childhood experience, for example). With parataxis, the value of the imagery is the imagery itself. Williams said he wrote “The Red Wheelbarrow” because he saw a wheelbarrow and thought it was beautiful. The readers can certainly feel in what “depends” on the red wheelbarrow, as the first line certainly invites them to do, but for Williams, it was the wheelbarrow itself, and for other readers, that’s all it has to be. It can be as many things as there are readers, and this approach breaks from the classical concept that ideals are set outside of the reader. A better place to see the way parataxis works is in “Spring and All” which starts with “By the road to the contagious hospital” and then presents images of a winter landscape where new plants are preparing to grow. This might easily be read as a metaphor for the abstract concept of regeneration, but Williams presents only the images. Whether or not the abstraction is necessary is up to each individual reader. The value is in the beauty of the juxtaposition, sickness next to rebirth and no philosophizing to guide the reader’s reaction. Likewise, fixating only on timeless and impersonal poems like this may make his influence unclear on later postmodern poetry in which confession and tying poems to the present moment are mechanisms by which poets reject the old ideals, but one need only look at Williams’ great epic Patterson, a palimpsest of fragments that are very personal and bound to a particular time and place. Patterson is essentially most of the seemingly contradictory strands of postmodernism in one book.

Isolating this influence to just Williams is, of course, a convenient over-simplification since so many other American and non-American writers have been integral in promoting this concept. It’s a centuries-old taken for granted truth of art in Asian cultures. There are plenty of European writers who might take this same position of importance. I would nominate Tristan Tzara for his vigorous attacks on reason and tradition (identifying Williams and Tzara as the American and European figureheads of this revolution, promoting similar concepts in very different ways, might more clearly unify the development of the so-called “postmodern” fiction, poetry, and theater, for the sake of simplification). Other American writers who are candidates for this position include Ezra Pound, for example, helped adapt Ernest Fenollosa’s ideas of how Chinese language – as an interplay between images instead of a subordination to abstractions – in a highly influential (if somewhat inaccurate) way, but Pound was too thoroughly married to ideas in much of his work to function as a consistent anti-idea iconoclast. Wallace Stevens, likewise, made similar statements about the relationship between ideas and things, but struggled to accurately understand Surrealism. However, the factor that might alone make Williams’ the most important American poet of the 20th century is biographical: Stevens can’t claim the same legacy of mentorship. From the Beats to the Black Mountain Poets to the New York School to the San Francisco Renaissance to countless other poets beyond, Williams directly mentored and inspired younger poets who went on to mentor and inspire many generations after them. The spiritual children of Williams are so numerous that it’s hard to name a single significant American poet who started publishing in the 50s and after who was not connected back to Williams by at most two degrees.

The poet who more often gets the credit as most important twentieth century American poet is T. S. Eliot, and isolating focus to the first fifty years might make the contest somewhat even. Ask anyone in the poetic establishment in the 1940s, it might seem ridiculous to claim some obscure provincial poet like Williams could have the same impact as the great champion of High Culture and indirect founder of New Criticism, but starting in the mid-50s, when Williams’ spiritual children came of age and started publishing in overwhelming masses, it might seem equally ridiculous to think that High Culture and New Criticism were ever considered the eternal standards of great literature. True, Eliot is important in challenging traditional form in his poetry and criticism, but Williams’ impact is equal in this realm through his direct mentorship of young poets, giving his flavor of anti-traditional form a longer impact. The problem with Eliot’s legacy as significant influence is he’s too thoroughly married to the subordination of old. His mission was to save high culture from destruction by finding some way to represent the fragmentation. In this way, Eliot would always be tied to the past, always retrogressive, making him less and less important for the forward progress of poetry. One way in which Williams is most significant is shifting poetry from metaphor to parataxis, but here’s a metaphor describing Eliot’s place: it’s like an armada of Greek ships got shattered to pieces, and Eliot’s plan is to keep patching the ships together. This may seem inspirational to other survivors who wish to retain the integrity of Greek structures and seem to have few other options, and they might start patching boats together too, but a survival plan like that has diminishing returns; soon the fragments will cease to function as proper sailing vessels. Meanwhile, Williams, who was perhaps part of that armada’s original disintegration as well, has found an island where he’s growing crops and raising children. Eliot’s line is bound to die out, and Williams’ line is bound to thrive.

This whole claim is based on a concept I have taken for granted, that moving away from ideas is the natural development of literature, but the arts seem to leap forward starting with the visual arts, then poetry, then fiction. Any visual artist who places ideas, high culture, or representation as a central value would seem old fashioned today, but that has been true for 150 years. For poetry, that has been true for about one hundred years. For fiction, that has only been true for about fifty years. William S. Burroughs most aggressively promoted this concept in fiction (see, for example, his piece “Apocalypse” which summarizes this concept most effectively: “everything is permitted because nothing is true,” etc.). Whether or not Naked Lunch was the beginning of postmodern fiction is up for an unnecessarily complicated debate since “postmodern” as a term is so poorly defined, inaccurate at its core, and overly fixated on relatively recent developments in fiction and criticism; regardless, Naked Lunch marked a major break in the old concept of what fiction could be and opened up countless worlds of possibilities. “No ideas but in things” has been slower to catch on in fiction as so much of it seems fixed forever in the nineteenth century. Likewise, much of what followed Naked Lunch relied heavily on gimmickery. I would never bemoan the fun of gimmickery, but it’s not built for the long haul and collapses easily under its own weight since its bones are so brittle, but the alternative has offered little to replace it but rehashing Flaubert. Somewhere beyond the same old Victorian novel and the weak gimmickery is the gloriously irrational future of fiction.

Summary of #TwitterFiction stories: #ForeignPlanets, #PopulatedWound, & #FertileCrescent

Planets (collage)

Presently, I have three #TwitterFiction pieces cycling as an #EchoChamber (in which pieces are posted daily at a certain time which echo one another verbally, visually, and/or thematically): #ForeignPlanets (daily at 5:30 a.m.), #PopulatedWound (daily at 4:30 p.m.), and #FertileCrescent (daily 11:00 p.m.). They have been ongoing for several months, so here is a brief summary to catch you up:

#ForeignPlanets (5:30 a.m.) is the story of Far Clooney, a matter transmuter and  inadvertent destroyer of planets, and her adventures in an unexpected version of outer space with gravity, breathable air, and an abundance of animal life.  As Far’s powers and awkwardness lead inevitably to planetary destruction again and again, she is given a task by Teddy Roosevelt (or one version of Teddy Roosevelt, a bitter and cantankerous old space pirate called King Antiphon) with stopping the Red Rage Moss from turning outer space thoroughly unpleasant and chock full of murder. Teddy Roosevelt suspects the responsible party is the Great Grambell and his Alchemy Robots who live in the Gravity Planet, a Jupiter-sized mechanical planet responsible for the unexpected gravity effects in this particular outer space. After several diversions in which Far Clooney has a compressed long term relationship with a nightmare named Cosby Rose (whose Bleeding Ghost powers allow him to possess inanimate objects and become a giant), kills an evil creature called Michel the Mountain of Screaming Mako Sharks, and meets her sister Greta who likewise has the ability to transmute matter (even more clumsily) and bend time, Far and Teddy Roosevelt (along with Teddy Roosevelt’s companion, a giant composed of putti angels called Clarke) arrive at the Cancer Planets, a series of eight planets connected by bridges orbiting the Gravity Planet (the Monster Planet, the Birth Bridge, the Planet of Mercuries, the Planet of Crystal Music Boxes and Sleeping Lion, the Marriage Bridge, the Planet of Falcons and Shadows, the Supplication to God Bridge, the Planet of Blue Marsupial Pockets, and the Planet of Captain America Shields). The planets are tumors, and the person who has grown these tumors (who lives at the center of each planet) may be able to give Teddy Roosevelt info about his old friend/rival Taft. Teddy Roosevelt claims Taft can help them invade the Gravity Planet though each Cancer Planet is inhabited by creatures created by Taft himself because Taft may have powers similar to Far’s. Far’s exboyfriend Cosby Rose also happens to be on the first Cancer Planet, making things as awkward as they always are with Far.

#PopulatedWound (4:30 p.m.) is the story of the Birth Monsters of Hell and one particular nightmare named Boodlepax. Hell is a tangible place where customers pay to be tortured. The system is maintained by connemara stars which heal any injury, and the whole place is run by Hell Corporate who employs as grunt workers Birth Monsters, humans with complex and absurdly grotesque birth defects. Boodlepax, a nightmare (which is a type of Birth Monster born concurrently with humans in Nightmare Land) looks like a barn owl with more human mouth and arms, and his poor communication skills and timidity make him ineffective in his job as Hell’s Devil’s Advocate, convincing customers they don’t need to be tortured. When two torturers named Judson and Europa inadvertently kill a customer, Boodlepax feels indirectly responsible, so he goes on a quest through Nightmare Land for the Resurrection Star, a type of connemara star that brings back the dead. When he comes back to Hell with the Resurrection Star, he finds an apocalyptic messiah named Sophie Echo has already destroyed it, so he tries to find Judson and Europa. Meanwhile, another messiah named Joy Metzkey (with her best friend Hope Lesko who has no power and only seems present for the sake of snarky quips and requests for Joy to kick somebody’s ass as she seems most adept at doing) is digging up a buried wolf named Fenrir who was presumed dead though a connemara star has kept him alive underground. Joy is a member of the Communion of Saints, agents of angels who protect birth monsters. They are also allies of the Salvation Wolves, an organization of benign and hyper-intelligent wolves (and secretly all the world’s wolves are part of this same organization) who have vowed to protect all that is good while committing no violent acts. Fenrir had infiltrated a group of Promusaurifex (the same group responsible for creating Hell) to investigate the theft of Tiny Hotels, a mechanism by which the Promusaurifex enslave shrunken humans to ride inside of their bodies (in some extreme cases creating whole cities inside their bodies) and the mechanism by which Salvation Wolves send those they eat to a paradise inside their stomachs. He has discovered that a mysterious entity called Father Hospital is trying to steal the secrets to creating Tiny Hotels in a plan to murder the sun (the sun is secretly a Birth Monster named Twelvedoe). Now Joy, Hope, Fenrir, and Boodlepax are on a mission to find Father Hospital, stop him from murdering the sun, resurrect her with the resurrection star if need be, and perhaps in the meantime find out the fate of Judson and Europa. They are inspecting all the groups that use a Tiny Hotel to see if Father Hospital has attempted to steal their secrets (and each of these groups parallels a Cancer Planet in #ForeignPlanets), starting with Ken Champion, a Father Hospital devotee who has used Tiny Hotels (given to him by Father Hospital in a an act of kindness, he claims) to turn tiny sentient puppets into a sort of anabolic steroid to strengthen athletes for the coming apocalypse.  One of Ken Champion’s clients, Holt Hefter, has told them that the next best group to investigate is the Forgiveness of Sins (long time enemies of the Communion of Saints who allow people to work off sins by externalizing them as monstrous deformities, giving them access to great power, and doing grunt work for an entity called the Blackhole Rainbow) because they may have enslaved his crush, Lisa Porpentine. Strategically, Joy is spreading the word that Boodlepax has destroyed Hell singlehandedly and is likewise aiming to destroy all of Hell’s allies and enemies.

#FertileCrescent (11:00 p.m.) is a murder mystery featuring eccentric detective Burdeneye Parnassus who has rented a house in a neighborhood called Fertile Crescent to spy on brother and sister Tom and Amanda Wood who live side by side only three streets down from Burdeneye’s new house. Their estranged father wants to find out if the Wood siblings are happy (and advances only as far as hiring the flaky and frustrating Hope, Tom’s wife, as a babysitter). Burdeneye uses trips with his one and a half year old son, Cole, around the neighborhood in his wagon as pretense for spying, and he uses his son’s geniality and curiosity to overcome his own intense social anxiety (for which taking on the detective role was meant to be a remedy). Burdeneye gets sidetracked, however, when Cole finds a piece of broken ceramic dentures with the word “Oloi” stamped on the side. This coincides with observation that the woman who lives on the dirt road behind him has ceased her regular 4:30 a.m. appearances, and the hefty, often-scarred man who lives with her, her son perhaps, seems to bury something big around the time she goes missing. Burdeneye decides he must pursue this murderer to keep his young son safe because protecting his son is the only happiness this broken man has ever managed. A conversation with the burly son, Holt Hefter, sheds little light on the situation but gives him the names of two residents of Fertile Crescent as clues: Murdergod and the Bird Man. After finding a manuscript called “The Birth of Murdergod” in which the author describes an attempt to create a mountain of corpses, Burdeneye discovers a mass grave hidden in a communal garden behind the Woods’ homes. He then meets the “Bird Man,” Goose Faberbacher, a former kids’ show host who tells Burdeneye that Murdergod, who lives in this neighborhood, once came to him for advice on performance but was too arrogant and short tempered to take advice. Burdeneye concocts a plan to host a talent show for the neighborhood’s children which the egotistical Murdergod couldn’t resist, and then Goose Faberbacher could point him out. Suspecting Holt Hefter is secretly Murdergod, Burdeneye invites him, but Holt in turn invites Burdeneye to “The Train,” which he claims is a literal train out in the woods surrounding the neighborhood, woods too thick to even walk through. Later, Burdeneye discovers men carrying coffins down the street late at night and dressed as weird creatures are part of a group called the Opopanax Conies living in the thick woods near The Train, so Burdeneye agrees to go with Holt Hefter, assuming all of this is connected somehow. It turns out, however, that The Train is a very popular performance space, and entrances through the thick woods are disguised by optical illusions.  The performance space is used for wrestling matches, and Holt Hefter seems to be the most beloved hero, Doctor Axehandle, fighting villains like the masked Father Dragon and Big Baby.

Summary of the “Seven Mountains Echo Chamber” Stories

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Presently I’m live tweeting a series of stories called the “Seven Mountains Echo Chamber” in a structure I invented called an “echo chamber” — in other words, a series of stories posted in increments over time that echo vertically but horizontally tell a linear story (see for example “Seven Minutes to Midnight” or #7m212 from last fall). As this is perhaps a hard structure to follow, here’s a simplified guide to make it easier to jump on board midway. This is the basic schedule:

5:30 a.m. #ForeignPlanets

3:00 p.m. #UnknownWorlds

4:30 p.m. #Babylon

7:30 p.m. #PopulatedWound

11:00 p.m. #FertileCrescent

Here’s a summary of each of the stories already in progress:

#ForeignPlanets (5:30 a.m.) is the story of Far Clooney, an inadvertent destroyer of planets. Far discovers one day she has transmutation powers just as she falls on a small ice planet ruled over by a monstrous space pirate named Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt takes pity on Far, but Far soon destroys the planet  in a misguided attempt to save it. They flee through an unexpected version of outer space with gravity, breathable air, and an abundance of animal life. Teddy Roosevelt finds out from a comprehensive library inside a nearby tree planet that Far and her sisters, Claire and Greta, may together be able to eliminate the threat of red rage moss wiping out the teeming animal life, but they must find Claire and Greta and fight off the Alchemy Robots, creatures upon whom Far’s transmutation powers seem to have no effect. As Far’s powers and awkwardness lead inevitably to planetary destruction once again, she is plucked out of this adventure and placed into another by a godlike doe named Sevendoe who recruits Far to build a body planet — a planet made from a giant body — to infiltrate the army of Vampire Gorillas ruled by Michel, the Mountain of Screaming Mako Sharks, to save a monster called Old God from being turned into a body planet himself. Far finds out, likewise, her two sisters, Claire and Greta, have been recruited to make body planets with their own transmutation powers, but they both believe they appeared magically in their own perfect place: Claire on an isolated island where she gets everything she demands and Greta in a heaven full of babies. The Vampire Gorillas have agreed to allow Far to visit her sisters as long as she doesn’t reveal the paradise is fake on threat of execution of her friend and fellow adventurer and former lover, Cosby Rose, the Bleeding Ghost. Now that she’s convinced Claire to explore beyond the island and climb a lapis lazuli mountain, she must somehow find Greta, save Old God and Cosby Rose, and escape the Vampire Gorillas.

#UnknownWorlds is the story of Old God and The Broken Heart, two birth defect monsters who work as villain thugs because it’s the only work they can do. Old God is a giant who walks on all fours and wears a diaper, but he can summon lightening when he pounds the ground. The Broken Heart is a giant, disembodied heart who floats around inside a silver gyroscope-like machine; his tendrils can send victims into a heart broken paralysis. Old God and The Broken Heart love each other — as best friends and brothers in a common effort — because no one else will. Their job requires them to be beaten up and mocked by heroes, and the villain who hires them too often screws them out of the pay they’re owed. This has made Old God bitter and cynical, trusting no one but Broken Heart. Broken Heart is more often compassionate and tries to find the best in everyone despite knowing there’s little chance of any situation turning out well for them. Old God does have one other person he admires, however: a villain named Unknown Worlds. Unknown Worlds is a Promusaurifex, meaning he has a whole city full of slaves living inside his body, giving him power — except unlike the normal Promusaurifex, Unknown Worlds is filled with imaginary creatures. When Unknown Worlds displaces and flattens the entire country of India, Old God wishes somebody like that would hire them instead of their normal duplicitous a-holes. As if in fulfillment of this wish, Unknown Worlds soon arrives and whisks them off to his flattened India. He reveals that he’s actually flattened India to shock the world but created a paradise for all the residents below the surface. Unknown Worlds now considers them all his children though Broken Heart doubts his sincerity. Unknown Worlds hires Old God and the Broken Heart to discover who has made a mountain that has suddenly appeared on his flattened India. As they ascend the mountain, they discover a mysterious empty city and floating above this mountain, as if inside of a sphere, seven mountains pointing inward at each other. They then discover that the one who appears to be responsible is Broken Heart’s brother Hank, a hero who bullied Broken Heart his whole life. He has with him a team called The Orchestrals — a ragtag team of superheroes bent on revenge against Unknown Worlds including remnants of the Hospitalers, a team based on medical/crusader gimmicks, and “Murdergod” Ford Fordham — though their role in the creation of the city has yet to be revealed.

#Babylon is about Packer Seen in the small town of Oloi who makes an observation that brooks don’t babble, they whisper. Vivaldi, the local crazy person, tells him he just brought an end to the world. Later, Packer is sitting in his quiet place on a small hill outside of town when he sees Vivaldi, whom he views with pity and curiosity because of an exile status to which Packer relates, riding a horse up and down a nearby brook. Packer then observes a sideways tower growing out of the brook winding along the same shape as the water’s path. Vivaldi tells him this is the Tower of Babel which took an ancient war to suppress in its previous incarnation. He also says Vivaldis are fruits from a tree called The Red Priest that grows near the Vatican. Vivaldis are tasked with keeping the Tower of Babel from returning to existence. Packer comes back later alone and finds the tower has now grown bigger than the brook, and there is a monster in terracotta armor lurking, still and silent, on the tower’s side.

#PopulatedWound is part of the “Boodlepax and the Birth Monsters of Hell” series about a small, barnowl-like monster tasked with convincing customers not to pay to be tortured in Hell. His mouth is a paper rectangle floating an inch outside his face through which he must force his words, so often others fail to hear him or simply ignore him. He’s undaunted by the obstacle of his small size and weak voice because the torturers in Hell are so kind to him: these torturers include Mr. Peyzer who wears a red wedding dress and uses needle and thread to torture, treating each torture like the perfect aesthetic creation; then there’s Judson Almanac, the pacifist burnout with giant immobile stone wings who always finds a way around torturing customers. One night when Boodlepax has an especially unpleasant experience at his poetry group, he visits Hell looking for company and ends up helping deliver food to prisoners whose life is less pleasant and whose torture is less beautiful than paying customers, and there he encounters a mysterious woman named Sophie Echo whose prison cell is set up like the luxurious room of a captured princess.

#FertileCrescent is a murder mystery featuring eccentric detective Burdeneye Parnassus who rents a house in a neighborhood called Fertile Crescent to spy on brother and sister Tom and Amanda Wood who live side by side only three streets down from Burdeneye’s new house. His job is to find out for their estranged father if the Wood siblings are happy. He uses trips with his one and a half year old son Cole around the neighborhood in his wagon as pretense for spying, and he uses his son’s geniality and curiosity to overcome his own intense social anxiety for which taking on the detective role was meant to be a remedy. Burdeneye gets sidetracked, however, when Cole finds a piece of broken ceramic dentures with the word “Oloi” stamped on the side. This coincides with observation that the woman who lived on the dirt road behind him had ceased her regular 4:30 a.m. appearances, and the hefty, often-scarred man who lived with her, her son perhaps, seemed to bury something big around the time she went missing. Burdeneye decides he must pursue this murderer to keep his young son safe because protecting his son is the only happiness this broken man has ever managed. Now, he must somehow complete his investigation into the happiness of the Wood siblings while trying to find out if a murder has even taken place only a few feet behind his home. A conversation with the burly son, Holt Hefter, sheds little light on the situation but gives him the names of two residents of Fertile Crescent as clues: Murdergod and the Bird Man.