…which became a sudden priority a few weeks ago. I finished last week. I figured it’d take me three or four days, it took almost two weeks. Or: three or four days of work with a week or so break in the middle to ponder mortality, question and doubt everything, completely forget that I even had the ability to draw pictures at all, and generally lose my shit.
I was kind of expecting it. I mean, you know: no pressure. Just the last book my friend will ever write.
I dunno what any other depressive does in that situation, but I play a lot of video games – at a certain point, I can’t even concentrate on reading or follow a whole movie or pay attention to a TV show, for god’s sake. But I can run around and shoot or throw magic at people or robots or dragons, or skate or drive or BMX around trying to get that one trick I never have. Or whatever.
It helps a lot, actually – especially with the late-model achievement/trophy systems everything has these days. If I can’t accomplish anything in real life, and it’s beer a.m. and I’m not doing that anymore, I can accomplish things in video games. Great big things, even. Things that have been baffling me and pissing me off and lingering in the back of my mind for months and years since I ragequit that game and moved on to another one, even. It helps. Sometimes it takes a few hours, sometimes it takes a few days, sometimes I don’t even accomplish a thing and that helps. Anyway: it leads to better perspective on the rest of my life, my real one. It gets me through bad depression, and it sometimes gets me through it faster by…mimicking the real world rewards I crave, I guess.
By which, should it need to be explained, I don’t mean loot. In either sphere. I mean: killing that boss or finishing that quest or solving that puzzle that’s been at me nagging me since 2012 sometimes leads to the Taking a Shower and Cleaning the House a Little and Getting Some Work Done and Not Being a Mopey Ass When My Wife Comes Home achievements.
Or the big three digit point trophies, even: for finishing something.
I’m waiting now to hear if I can post Doug’s book cover art. It’s really good, I’m very proud of it. Obviously, I had to feel like I batted one out of the park and into fucking Heaven on this one, and…I think I did. I had a lot of back and forth with and feedback from Doug about it to fall back on when he died, more so than I might on other projects. Because we were friends, I guess, and because this was the first novel of his seeing publication, even if he didn’t know it was his last book.
But also because this was such a passion project for both of us. When we met almost a quarter of a century ago, one of the things Doug and I bonded over, immediately, was our great shared love of invasion/oppression-resistance fictions. All kinds, serious, silly, anywhere in between, doesn’t even matter what the political position is, if there is one. We both loved Red Dawn (the original, duh) as much as Kanal as much as V as much as Nineteen Eighty-Four as much as OH SO MUCH ZOMBIES LATELY. (Although: I had more patience for horror tweaks of that formula and Doug liked alien-oriented SF ones better than I did.) I think Doug was maybe the person who told me that V started out as a TV miniseries adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here, a book we’d both first read and loved in junior high or high school. I think I was the one who told him about The Swoop!, P. G. Wodehouse’s spoof of Red Dawn from way before there was a Red Dawn.
We had endless and hilarious discussions of Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand, in general, over the years, and Doug grew up more reasonably Christian than I did (Lutheran, I think?) but was still…duh, given his other interests…as fascinated by rapture/end times fictions as I was. (And what’s Left Behind, really, but a reverse Red Dawn with a mass extraction instead of an invasion at the beginning? Plus Atlas Shrugged? Plus some Jesus on top? Oh damn, Doug won’t be around for the Nick Cage Left Behind, FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU)
And this shared interest continued, over the years. We both got into in the Australian YA hit Tomorrow series (everywhere but the US) and read a bunch of those before the Tomorrow When the War Began movie came out, we both saw that movie as soon as we could. We followed the whole stupid saga of New Red Dawn together. We watched the Oh My God, So Much Worse Than Rapture Movies first two Atlas Shrugged movies just so we could make fun of them. We both read The Hunger Games – I bailed after the second one, Doug
So it shouldn’t be much of a shock that when both of us started writing fiction, eventually our thoughts turned that way. I have my own projects like that going on that…may get done before I die, or not. Doug had his own extreme issues, but chronic depression wasn’t one of them, and he wrote two novels in the last few years set in an alternate 1980s fascist USA. The second one found somebody who wanted to publish it.
And small wonder: it’s great. It’s…a teen romance/action adventure story that’s all about being gay in the eighties, only this time around it’s for-real fascist. It’s about a Hitler Youth (except they’re call the Dawn Patrol) jock BMOC who falls for a punk skater dude who’s already on the human cull lists and…so’s anybody who Lieth With a Man, duh. It’s…fucking tragic and glorious and the end made me start crying, which never happens, the characters are great, it’s definitely a story-story, this ain’t lit…but it has such profound things in it, like the best story-stories all do. Some very harsh things, too, but…ultimately, not at all a sad story.
It is far and away the best fiction Doug ever wrote and…then he went and died all of a sudden, instead of going from strength to strength. Sometimes that story really happens, I guess.
And Chaffs (is the name of the book) has Doug’s love of those stories we both loved woven all through it. I’ll never be able to pay tribute as well, even if I get around to the attempt.
Specifically, there’s a lot of affection for It Can’t Happen Here in it. I will say just that.
Doug never got around to seeing the other somewhat more faithful TV adaptation of It Can’t Happen Here, the sixties movie Shadow On the Land. It’s never been released on video and is hard to come by. Online geeks have put people’s elderly recorded copies out on burned DVDs lately, neither of us ever got around to ordering a copy and watching the damn thing. We kept talking about it, just never did it.
I’m ordering a copy today. Some of Doug’s other friends online were talking about doing kind of an online wake thing when it happened, nobody was really in any mood to do anything like that, then. We’ve been talking lately about putting this movie up someplace a lot of people can watch it and everybody can hang out and watch the movie of that book Doug never got to see and chat and…rip the shit out of the movie if it’s terrible or whatever.
So I think we’re going to do that. I’ll post more about it as it develops.
And I’ll post the cover art for Chaffs as soon as the publisher gives me the okay.
When I’m not in your base on Mars, killin ur guardian dudes.