Archive for April, 2010:
I am writing to let all of you know that someone – though probably not the government – was running an experiment on America! They want to know what they can slide by us, and just how awful it has to be before we are willing to speak up.
This kind of thing has been done before . . . there are old psychology experiments where the experimenters would run a series of simple tests that didn’t do anything except make the test subjects feel like something was really happening. Then an assistant would run in and tell the subject that they had just received word that his sister had died in a car accident. The scientist would carefully record the reaction and later say, “it was all part of the test! Your sister is fine! Ha ha ha.”
Yes, this is illegal now.
Except that maybe it isn’t. In my book, Resonance, I referenced a ‘gas leak’ in McMinnville Tennessee from some number of years before. It was reported on NPR and the CDC determined it was just mass hysteria. The problem was that the good folks at the CDC are better educated than that, and even the janitor there should know that mass hysteria doesn’t have entirely separate simultaneous multiple start points. It just doesn’t work that way. But I never heard anyone raising a cry about this.
A lot of people love bumper stickers. Or else they bought a used car from someone who did. There’s just too many of them out there to not be a secondary thought on social commentary. There are any number of ways to express yourself on your bumper.
You can shout your political preferences. I saw a “Black Women for Obama” sticker on a minivan, and I was so sure I knew who was driving it, but I was as wrong as I had been sure. It was a little wizened, white, redneck man. I like the bumper sticker even more for that.
You can ruin other people’s political and social expressions. You can buy a white circle with a picture of a screw on it to sticker over the heart on any number of bumper stickers. “I heart my Rottweiler” becomes “I screw my Rottweiler” and becomes much funnier in the process. Before all the drug charges, Rush Limbaugh fans could be seen with “Rush is Right” tags on their bumpers. Not too long after, you could get the word “Reich” in the same font, size and color. Which was awesome, because it completely reversed the meaning, suggested Rush was a nazi, and was indistinguishable from an untampered sticker unless you actively read your own bumper everyday to see if you had been vandalized.
Now my favorites are the ones that are unintentionally funny.
Different writers work different ways. I know, that’s not really news to anyone. One of my favorite quotes about writing (and I’m sure I’ve mangled it a bit) is the following: ‘I write it once to get the idea down, I write it again to make sure it says what I meant for it to say, I write it a third time to make it sound brilliant, then I go back a fourth time to make it sound like I just wrote it that way the first time.’ Sadly, I have no idea who to attribute that to. (If you know, let me know!)
I love that quote partly because it is so different from my method. Some writers are fast and some are slow, there’s the wordy and the terse, the action driven and the thoughtful character oriented. Some writers are disciplined, some just write when the spirit moves them. I was of the latter and am moving more toward the former. But then there are those times when I am a bit of both.
Those times hit when the end of the story approaches. I don’t map every little detail of the story when I start. I often don’t map anything at all – even for a novel. But as I approach the end, I see exactly how all the little pieces fit together – all the ties to the little loose ends and how to tuck them in so it isn’t too obvious. And that’s when the fever strikes.
That’s when I write furiously. The trash doesn’t go out. I don’t eat much, and my family realizes that I’m not really there. If they ask me a question they get waved away with muttered phrases about ‘killing this guy’ or ‘ending the world’. There’s actually a three-way sign on my office door that I can change to indicate whether I’ll answer questions. They are color coded, green, yellow and red, and the red states that there had better be a fire or a lot of blood before you even knock.