Tuesday, July 11, 2006

JP's Palimpsest

Link to the Original Story: Palimpsest - JP

This pitch gave me absolute hell. I wracked my brain the entire time, trying in vain to come up with something that would be cool. Perhaps a story of the overlay of modern life on the groundings of the natural world? Yah. A meditation on how we truly become different people built on the ruins of our own selves? Too hard (but see JED’s for an excellent treatment). Finally, I was running out of time, and at the last minute, I sat down and this idea just came to me, and out it flowed.

This is one of my favorites of my own pieces so far, honestly. Originally there were only two voices, normal and italic (the first couple words shouldn’t be bolded, but for format). Then the other two just kind of popped up out of nowhere. While you can’t read the fragments of each type separately, I think each one tells its own story, and gives its own attitude. One voice sees the rest as compatriots, and takes comfort. Another views the probe with suspicion. Still another is hoping it will reach another of its own kind, and the last, of course, is the original. Can you tell who is who?

To make this comment yet a little longer, I think this story is what the Game is all about for me: I love it, I had a blast writing it, and it simply isn’t something I would consider right to market. The Game allows us to share the things we’re proud of (and the ones we aren’t) in a setting devoid of commercial interest, and there’s something about that which makes the whole thing feel so awesome. Not that I’m against money (in fact, I love it!), but it’s really nice to have someplace to just right without that pressure.

This story is short, but I think it's an excellent showpiece for JP's newfound artistry with words. By which I don't mean to imply that he wasn't a good writer before - he certainly was. It just seems to me that recently he's reached a new plateau. In the words of RPG dorks everywhere, he's leveled up. And apparently this has bestowed upon him the ability to play with text in an almost e.e. cummings-esque way. This artistry also makes an appearance in his genre drabbles, and in a few other stories that only I know about just yet (yes, we have secrets). But this piece exemplifies it. Here you can see how he layers the words and fonts to create a pastiche of multiple cultures, revealing aspects of the individual, blending into a concerted chorus. Honestly, that's the best analogy for what he's created here - a multicultural cosmic chorus, all singing a dirge of lost life and memory...and hope. I think that underlying message, the deeper connectivity is one of the most beautiful things about this story. In it you can hear an almost mournful and individual loneliness, all these worlds like castaways lost and alone, never finding another living soul. But in their common destruction they achieve unity and in their death cries, immortality of a sort. The tragic beauty of this is moving. It takes a melancholy mind to concieve of such, but also a heart tinged with hope to bring out the better angels of such a eulogy. Frankly, though I feel this story is complete, it left me wanting more. I want to visit these places, meet these people, get to know them before they freeze or burn, hear their stories of discovery and loss and triumph. In the end, this story transports you, and isn't that what it's all about?

JED's Palimpsest

Link to the Original Story: Palimpsest - JED

It's interesting how stories evolve. I was sitting on a bus, riding home in the late afternoon, twiddling my thumbs (whatever that means) when I had the seed of this idea. I thought, wouldn't it be neat to do it as a diary. A person reading and re-writing a diary. Onto that core I added layers; an introduction from a conversation with a counselor, a lost sense of identity, a touch of Frankenstein-ian construction and human arrogance, a dash of similarity, a smidgen of loss and love. Bake for 40 minutes and *poof*, this is what you get.

I liked writing in two voices that were really one voice. It was fun to make them similar and yet different. Similarly fun to play with the idea of consistency of self. One of the ideas I was trying to reach here is, basically, what makes you, you? There are disorders where we no longer recognize people known to us, thinking them, against all reason, to be perfect impostors. There are disorders where we imagine our own limbs to be in someone else's control. What if that was turned even deeper? The narrator here has no loss of memory. He recalls everything from his previous life, he simply doesn't claim ownership of it. Some of us can relate to that quite strongly. Was it really YOU that stole candy from the corner store when you were a kid? Really you who wanted to grow up to be spider-man? Really you who kissed her under the porch light, that first time? Beliefs change, personalities change, so why are we who we are? Memory is owned; it has a label and sense of possesion. This story might have been a little over ambitious in trying to make you consider what that sense of possession really means, but hopefully it's entertaining. Making you think is part of the point of a story, but if it isn't entertaining I don't think it can do that so readily.

I’m impressed at the crop this pitch turned out. I think JED’s story is great; he deals directly, both literally and metaphorically, with a subject I toyed with and ran screaming like a little baby from: the idea that we each are palimpsests of the person we use to be, a new person, a new document, written on top of the old, with the original, down to when we were little, showing through all the time. One thing I’m particularly fond of is the fact that the new man, the palimpsest man, really isn’t a different person than the “original.” He isn’t an amnesiac trying to understand this stranger he once was. He’s the same guy. He just can’t see it. He’s built an idol out of his old self, and has deluded himself into thinking “that isn’t me, I’m not like that.” But that was him, without mistaking. Imagine yourself when you were younger, the person you were the things you did. You’ve changed since then; you’re virtually a different person in many ways. Here, the protagonist is the same way; he just takes it a little too literally.