Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Page 35: Chapter Three Is the Last Chapter, or Attack of the Hipsters

Chapter Three was actually the very last chapter I wrote for The Billionth Monkey. After I finished the story and began to re-read it, I realized that the beginning has a lot of silly things going on: missionaries, hermits, insurance salesmen, and kitchen demos, with a lot more silliness still to come. I needed something to remind the reader that these lighthearted events have a very dangerous and dark underbelly.

At that time, hipsters were the stereotype du jour, so having a couple of them in this new scene allowed me to include some wry humor and social commentary. Plus, Ione and Piper let me have two women talk about something other than a man.
Piper's t-shirt in The Billionth Monkey, as found on Behance.
Hipster references abound here. For instance, Pitchfork is a music webzine whose review style and focus on indie music have earned it a reputation as the music news site for hipsters. They’ve reviewed artists like DJ Rashad, Fuck Buttons, Robyn, Mike Patton, Charley Patton, and Patton Oswalt…these last few being how I came up with the fictional columnist Robyn Patton. Given the resurgence of interest in vinyl LPs and the “better on vinyl” mantra—especially in hipster subculture (at least so says the stereotype)—the lowly cassette seemed to me to be the next logical step in the “analog > digital” trend. So I made up the catchphrase “always analog.” Turns out I was a little ahead of the curve: the news media reports that there's now a “Cassette Store Day,” and even Newsweek has acknowledged the format's resurgence.

The third annual Cassette Store Day is just a couple of weeks away, on October 17.
This was a fun scene to write. While I feel very strongly that every scene in a book (at least a book that I write) should connect to the plot in an important way, this scene’s only tether is Lisa Atkins’ car…and even then, Lisa Atkins is but an incidental character. However, this scene not only served the intended purpose of foreshadowing the impending danger, but in retrospect it also has youthful resonance for me with Melf, the Elf with a Gun (created by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema), who cropped up in occasional one-page vignettes in the Defenders comics wherein he randomly killed strangers. The spree occurred across issues 25–46 (July 1975 – April 1977) until Melf was randomly hit by a car. He never encountered the Defenders, and these bizarre scenes thus never turned into anything at all. Yet I—and countless other readers—loved it.

Created by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema, the Elf with a Gun was a random sub-plot
of The Defenders comic books that wrapped up without ever involving the titular heroes.
Image © Marvel Comics, source: Marvel Database,
I’m very happy with how this chapter turned out. It shows that, after writing the other 80,000 words of this book, I was really in the groove. I’ve thought about posting or submitting this as a preview for The Billionth Monkey, but don’t know if it would stand up without the rest of the story for context.

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