Ha! Kino finally got to use that dang feather!
So, indulge me in another afterword?
I never meant for Old Haunts to happen. After "Land of Freedom" I knew I wanted to explore Kino's intimate life, and what sort of person she'd choose as a lover. I also knew that such a character couldn't hang around without altering the Kino's Journey format. Meanwhile I was also wanting to tell a story about a return to her home town. Neither story was strong enough on its own, but they slammed together in my mind and created "Reprise." Gia herself evolved to best suit the needs of that story. She was a throwaway character to be stuffed into Gail Simone's famous refrigerator at the end.
But she was still alive and honestly, I'm proud of that story. I had meant to explore Kino's gender-bending, and inadvertantly came up with something of a human-rights piece. Your humble author is very much straight, and in prior years I felt gay-rights was simply "not my fight." But I'm seeing here in the US and reading abroad of hate and discrimination approaching prewar Germany levels. As Christine said, at some point one must choose sides.
Well, I'd thought to see the last of Gia in the sequel, "Threnody." Have a rare peek inside the cutting room. I always start writing at the ending - here's how I planned to finish that story:
Gia felt someone sit down on her bed. She woke up and expected it to be morning, expected to see her mother smiling down at her. But It was still night. She blinked the sleep from her eyes and saw-
"Kino? What are you doing here?"
"Hi Gia," Kino whispered with a friendly smile. "I just wanted to check up on you, find out how you were doing."
"Oh. That's nice of you," Gia sat up a little and whispered back, "I'm fine."
"How's life been since your operation?"
"Just fine. My dad calls me his 'perfect little girl' all the time now. I'm very grateful." Gia smiled, and her smile reminded Kino of a Jack-o-Lantern cut by a careless child.
After a moment's pause Gia said, "are you alright Kino? You sound sad."
"I am sad." Kino began fiddling with some sort of device in the shadows. "I miss you. I wanted to travel with you."
"Sorry," Gia shrugged. "What are you doing?"
"I have a little chore," Kino whispered gently, her poker-face locked around her like an iron mask. She picked up a pillow and wrapped it around her arm. "I have to kill you now, but it won't hurt a bit, I promise."
Gia cocked her head. "Oh?"
Kino paused for a moment, watching, hoping against all odds for something more than that horrid inhuman "oh?" Then...
"Gia, can you remember something for me? It's very important. Promise me."
"I promise," Gia said. "I'm good at remembering." She looked like an eager student told there would be a quiz. With her free hand, Kino gently nudged Gia's head back down and brushed her cropped black hair tenderly.
"I want you to ask around for Hikari and Rakka. If you can..." Kino paused for a moment to settle herself. "...find them, they'll be your friends and take good care of you. Promise me?"
"Hikari and Ra—"
Silence. Then, a rattling noise.
Kino slipped out the inn's window and, with a single ragged sob, vanished into the shadows.
...sad. Right out of Old Yeller or maybe Cookoo's Nest. But King's Christine, originally just a cameo in "Reprise," was so much fun I was tempted to have her seduce Kino into abandoning Hermes for an episode. No. No! Bad idea! Toxifies the great relationship that was building between Kino and Hermes. But what about Gia?
So I discarded that original ending. Instead of dying, Gia was captured by the car and shown off as a final barb to snatch Kino's victory out of her hands.
The pair got one last scene, spying on Kino and Hermes and scheming, in "The Great Wasteland." And that, finally, was to be the end.
Yet that scene and their relationship both frightened and intrigued me. Gia remained a good person, but horribly damaged, with the operation and the car's evil to overcome. Christine is a macabre thing exploiting and dominating her. Yet... there was affection too. Such potential...!
Alright... I envisioned one last story, an epilogue to show them traveling just like Kino and Hermes. What happens when Kino's Journey, which preaches the gentle Eastern idea of accepting good with bad ("the world is not beautiful, therefore it is,") must confront the harsh Western concept of fiendish, diabolical Evil? What happens when Siddhartha meets Satan? Oooh, now that's interesting!
When I left Kino and Hermes roaring up I-Five north of Los Angeles, and Gia and Christine in a desolate heath, my thought was to revisit Kino's adventures and have the demon-car undo any good Kino had accomplished. Start by murdering Nimya... ugh, no! Creatively sterile, depressing, no fun, not even for a single story. Bad way to finish Curve. Perhaps that would have been Christine's plan, but I didn't want even to read that story, let alone write it.
October. For Hallowe'en I showed some friends The Haunting of Hill House. If you've read the book or seen the excellent Robert Wise film, remember the scenes with Nell driving, a half-crazy, harried girl-woman talking to herself in a car...? Other such scenes reverberated in the echo-chamber of my internal theater: Carnival of Souls, the hitchhiker from The Twilight Zone, Marion Crane's flight in Psycho, all fusing with Arnold at the wheel of his beloved Christine. Old Haunts grew from that seed. What if... what if Gia and Christine revisited sites from old horror stories, now an indefinite number of decades later? Ah, now that sounded more promising! Finally, I was ready to begin a new series, a dark reflection of Kino's Journey. First stop – Hill House.
That's how lucky Gia was promoted from redshirt to leading role, and Christine went from cameo to... anti hero? Anti villain? Yandere? Magnificent bastard? She's vastly more complicated now than in her original novel. And Gia got to do things that Kino never could, like join a family, something Kino desperately wants, but can't have without ending the show.
As a side benefit, in Old Haunts I also had a license to mimic the authors in question. How fun! And perhaps in doing so a little of their magic would rub off on me?
In writing these tales, I've come up with some thoughts on the evolution of prose style. Most likely what I've discovered will be old news to even an English undergrad, but I'm enthused and I might even stumble upon something useful, like the archaeology minor who goes to a dig and happens across a find.
The eldest writer I sought to capture was H.P. Lovecraft. Now Howard I know. The dark master from Providence genuinely frightens me because his tentacled monsters embody a materialistic nihilism supported by astronomy. When Neitzche proclaimed, "God is dead," Lovecraft dared to explore what that meant to humans, and populated his cosmos with vast maggots devouring the corpse.
But his style... antique even in his day, influenced by colonials like Poe and Dunsany! To mimic him, why, simply grab your thesaurus and substitute plain adjectives with overblown, flowery ones. To mimic him well you must choose your adjectives more carefully, of course. He was honestly trying to give a reader their time's worth with beautiful, thought-provoking language. Good stuff... in his day. But our definition of beautiful, elevated prose has evolved since then, and left poor Howard behind.
Along came Strunk and White – omit needless words! Along came Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" – any verbiage used to conceal rather than reveal meaning is a deceit! Along came Hemingway. "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." Devastating!
Keep it pithy! Minimalism became the order of the day, perhaps in a reaction against the romantics like Hawthorne and melancholy post-romantics like Lovecraft. Their overgrown heaps of purple roses and nostalgic marigolds were hacked away with a machete and burned with the trash.
The result was a generation of superb artisans and craftsmen, but not poets. Shirley Jackson vivisects her characters with clinical coldness, then smothers them with a pillow. Richard Matheson stabs his readers with sharp switchblade sentences, and whatever redemption his protagonists find comes only from accepting their lot. Neil Gaiman once called writing for comics an exercise in "draconian economics." It shows in his prose too, no matter how grand or whimsical his story. Ellison seizes center stage like a Jewish Victor Hugo.
I'd told my friend who goes by the pen name "Aubigne Spratling" my thoughts about a Robert Bloch story and she insisted that I add it. She's a big fan of showtunes, so the Phantom riff was my little gift to her.
Stephen King, as overrated by his fans as underrated by the literati (who I suspect curl up with him by night after a hard day's Proust), sounds like a particularly talented uncle telling ghost stories around a cub scout camp fire. I flatter myself to claim that my own style, such as it is, parallels his more than the others. Those italicized thoughts are his hallmark. Sigsawa by contrast never lets us see Kino's innermost thoughts, preferring she look outward rather than inward. King detests adverbs, and I dare call him a bit excessive there. But dang, he can take even a silly idea like a haunted car and turn it into a tragic love story!
All craftsmen. All fine. All (like myself) incapable of poetry. Road-runners and emus incapable of flight.
And there are those who rebel.
Enter Ray Bradbury. He has learned the spartan lessons of the twentieth century, yet he dares, almost with childish truculance, to say "no!" No, you cannot have my poetry. You cannot take away my dinosaurs or my Buck Rogers collection; would you rip out my heart?
He's not the best plotter in the bunch. For the creativity of stories and scenarios, and despite "The Shadow over Innsmouth" ticking along like a swiss watch, I'd give the laurels to Matheson, who just barely noses out King. King can miraculously make a clunker work; Matheson miraculously doesn't make clunkers.
Bradbury's voice was hardest of all because his is, quite simply, the best. He uses pithy, carefully chosen and simple language, yes. But he makes it leap and prance and sing! Cecy, for only one example, exults in her flights and we must, if we be human, exult with her. Montag falls for Clarisse in only a few short pages, and so must we, for she burns with a love of ideas as her creator does.
Bradbury's nouns – lo, great leaping lists of nouns! – he is as much in love with nouns as Lovecraft was with adjectives. The man is drunk with words. He chokes the furnace that burned all those roses with his summer dandelions.
I do not have the honor of knowing any of these people except as a fan at book-signings. I can boast friendship with the real-life "Tom," one of Mr. Bradbury's friends, a southern gentleman of literary tastes who keeps company with the living treasure in his decline. Through Robert I gave Kino's Journey in translation to Mr. Bradbury for his eighty-ninth birthday. No idea if Mr. Bradbury read it, but the least Robert deserves is my dedicating "One of Us" to him.
I but poorly aped Mr. Bradbury here. He makes me write above my humble ability and it's impossible to sustain. And however much I enjoyed Gia and Christine's bickering, inevitably my dialogue interrupted the magic dance with cold splashes of naturalism. Indeed I wish I'd better captured each of these authors, to better show how much I admire them and appreciate what they've given us.
Well, this is fan-fiction after all. We're here to have fun and to show our appreciation, with whatever broken music we can muster.
Credit where it's due:
- Nathanial Hawthorne, "The Birthmark"
- Stephen King, Christine
- Aeschylus, The Eumenides
- Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
- Richard Matheson, "The Children of Noah," along with "Prey" and Hell House
- H. P. Lovecraft, "The Shadow over Innsmouth"
- Ray Bradbury, From the Dust Returned and Something Wicked This Way Comes
- Harlan Ellison, "Along the Scenic Route" (with a nod to "You Drive" by Earl Hamner Jr for Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone.)
- Robert Bloch, "The Animal Fair"
- Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, with a final salute to Ira Levin's The Stepford Wives.
- and of course Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
Musical credits for the songs Christine's enamored of: "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" composed by Doug Ingle. "Wake Up Little Suzie" by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. "Wooly Bully" by Domingo Samudio. "Hound Dog" by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller. "Here, There and Everywhere" by Paul McCartney. "Scarborough Fair" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Paul Simon, the former adapted from British Folk. "In the Good Old Summer Time" by George Evans and Ren Shields. "All Along the Watchtower" by Bob Dylan. "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe. "Revolution Calling" and "Breaking the Silence" by QueensrŸche. "The Banana Boat Song" adapted from Jamaican Folk by Irving Burgie. "Splish Splash" by Bobby Darin. Whew!
Although the story of how Gia lost and found her family has reached a happy conclusion, it's not necessarily finished. Another chapter might occur to me somewhere down the line. There are so many writers I'd love to learn from this way. So check in every now and again. As always, don't be shy about asking questions or leaving reviews or suggestions. Writers live on compliments and coffee, and I'm all out of coffee.
- The Blue Footed Booby
The Fury Tisiphone hails from Greek mythology. She and her sisters Alecto and Magaera feature in Aeschylus' play The Eumenides, though it is Virgil who names them in The Aenead.
How to Win Friends and Influence People is the archetypal self-help book on harmonious human relations.
The "Veracidelitarians" of course cannot be named directly as they have aggressive lawyers. The various quotes, neologisms, jargon, and the use of "M-Paths" for "accounting" aren't far from the mark. Nonetheless, the author they revere deserves his place here.
Oddly, I personally hold no ire toward the organization he left us at present, because I believe they perform a service for those who wish to be relieved of the burden of being themselves and making their own decisions. The felonies they (including their founder's wife) were convicted of in the seventies in Clearwater, Florida are on public record.
Cecy and the rest of the Elliott family have quite the literary history. First created by Ray Bradbury in a series of short stories, the publisher commissioned one Charles Addams to paint the cover. Addams was so taken by the Elliotts that, with Bradbury's blessing, he went on to create a series of cartoons for the New Yorker called "The Addams Family." When it grew into a television series, another network countered with "The Munsters." Mr. Bradbury recently brought the Elliott saga to a close with From the Dust Returned.
The protagonist of Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" was named Robert Olmstead, and he carefully researched his genealogy near the end of that tale. Imagine my joy when I saw he too was of an "Eliot" family.
Sadly, the film version of Something Wicked This Way Comes was not successful. The pre-Eisner Disney company rushed the production, botched the ending, until finally Mr. Bradbury himself ventured into the editing room to salvage the final cut. Glimpses of the masterpiece it might have been may be seen in Mr. Dark's galvanizing monologue.
The hazards of the "badlands" references several of Harlan Ellison's post-apocalyptic tales, including "Repent Harlequin, Said the Ticktockman," and "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream." The dog in "A Boy and His Dog" spoke, and I capitalized on that to draw a connection with Riku in Kino's Journey.
And the shot I had the temerity to fire across the great writer's bow? I really do feel Mr. Ellison dwells too much upon his past misfortunes, and uses them as a convenient excuse for his legendary bellicose behavior. It mars his work and legacy, in my opinion. Rather than let her misfortunes define her, Gia chooses to define herself.
And yes, he really did end one of his more snarky editorials, this one on ecology, with "and fuck you too." How could I resist swiping that gem?
Rod Serling's magnificent Twilight Zone series featured a "haunted car" episode. I revere that series and I'm glad I could tie it into Christine's history.
Gaiman's Morpheus often played a supporting role in The Sandman. The protagonist of the day faces some crisis, but at the halfway point in the tale, a dream sent by and featuring the Dream King alters the character's destiny. I adore that! Dream demonstrates his power while barely even showing up. The Furies also appeared in the series, as referenced by Horo and Hanyuu back in "Threnody."
Again I let cold reality intrude upon poor Kino's idyll. The Nazis forced female homosexuals and "vagabonds" such as the Romani to wear black triangle badges.
Kino's recurring high school dreams incorporate Sigsawa's own tongue-in-cheek Gakuen Kino stories, in which stoical Kino becomes a magical girl in a high school anime setting. Her plea to Kana for help deliberately echoes the miraculous climax of Haibane Renmei.
Inanna and Erishkigal is a Sumerian (modern day Iraq, but pre-Babylonian) fertility myth, among the oldest stories we can still remember. The theme of empowerment by embracing our Jungian Shadow-self and our mortality resonates even today. No better parallel exists for the romance between sunny Kino and her dark reflection, Gia.
Kino finishes the tale as she began it, by driving toward an all-too-familiar town. Levin satirized the smothering of women's spirits and potential in a paternalistic society, and Sigsawa admirably has Kino's "hometown," Japan itself, stifle its citizens with enforced conformity and socio-economic castes. Kino will feel "right at home" in Stepford, oh yes! Hope she brought plenty of ammo.
Ray Bradbury left us on June 6th, 2012. The world and Los Angeles especially is a richer place for having had him.