Saturday, January 26, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Bobby, who lives in 7B across the hall, is a vampire. He was born as Roberto Santiago Amar del Imiani, about 850 years ago. I had slipped him a note under his door the previous week, hoping that he would grant me an interview, since vampires are very much in vogue these days, and I was in desperate need of a sale. He had left me a voice mail message last night, saying that he would see me this evening, as soon as he woke. That was quite all right with me, since as a writer, I was a nocturnal creature myself.
He arrived at my door dressed in a splendid evening robe of dark red velvet, and sporting a longish coif that must have required more than a handful of styling gel. I invited him in and offered him a chair, which he declined, and a glass of red wine, which he graciously accepted. As I sat at my desk, I took a while fiddling with pens and paper, in order to give myself an opportunity to steal furtive glances at him, trying to remember each shadow and line of his jaw, and the elegance of his movements, as he paced wretchedly in front of my mantelpiece, letting me see how tormented he was. I suppose, if you like men, he was beautiful. His skin was a translucent alabaster that showed the delicate pulsing of blood at his throat, and every feature was like a classic chisel cut, as though Michealangelo himself had formed this creature. His dark hair was cut just so it could droop wantonly into his dark violet eyes, giving him that boyish come-hither charm, which was so useful in luring his victims.
I finally pulled my favourite pen, which I had isolated earlier, from my pocket and cleared my throat. He looked up at me, those great, wide eyes glossy and almost weeping with his inner pain.
"I am glad you asked for this interview, Simon," he said. "I feel that unburdening myself to you will ease me greatly. I only ask that you do not reveal my true name in your article."
"Of course, of course," I crooned solicitously, and begged him to begin. He told me of his victims, and how he had taken each of them, and how some had been willing, and how some had cursed him even as they died, yada yada yada, until I felt I simply had to interrupt.
"Er, Bobby," I said, "this is all very interesting, but it's a bit disjointed. I don't suppose you have one particular story you'd like to tell, perhaps something dashing and exciting, like almost getting caught by the Inquisition, or something like that?"
"I don't think you even begin to understand me," he protested. "I loved each and every person I took, whether male or female, adult or child. I must tell you this, in order for me to reveal my innermost soul to you."
"Hem. I see." I clicked my pen a few times and looked up to see him glaring at my hesitation, his skin turning a dangerous mottled purple. I sought to console him: "Perhaps we can work on your autobiography later, it's just that I have a shot at a feature article, and it has got to grab the reader instantaneously. I'm afraid the editor won't tolerate a long introduction to your innermost soul. I've got to sum it up in a sentence or two, and then get on to a pointed episode of your life, one that will hook the reader, and then, bam! Out comes the book revealing the entire story."
He seemed to accept that, and relaxed again, making it clear that his continued co-operation was dependent upon my refilling his glass.
"Now then, Bobby," I said.
"Roberto," he corrected me.
"Forgive me, Roberto. Let's focus on one particular event in your life. Have you ever been caught while devouring one of your victims? Nearly staked through the heart, had Holy Water strewn on you, lost track of time and got home just before sunrise, anything like that?"
He chuckled at that and smiled at me with the patronising tolerance one gives to a convivial but stupid host.
"I am but a myth, Simon. Nobody believes in me enough to actually go after me in such a fashion. I've become the stuff of pop fantasy. No, I'm afraid not."
"Hmm. No one has ever shot at you with silver bullets?"
"No, that wouldn't be my department." He looked at me pointedly.
I sat back, somewhat frustrated and perplexed, scratching at an itchy spot on my scalp with the pen.
"Well, all right then. You've had many loves. Let's pick one and work with that."
"Ah yes, Amanita Dela Champagne. She was my fourth. I knew her when I was still very new to my immortal life . . ."
He rambled on again, completely losing focus and telling me irrelevant details of what colour Amanita's dress was and her cup size, yada yada yada, until I was forced to interrupt him again.
"So what happened to Amanita?" I asked. "Is she now a vampire roaming New York City? An undead prostitute horrifying her clients into never coming back, anything Oprahish like that?"
Roberto paused for a moment, blinking rapidly. Apparently I had completely derailed his thoughts.
"Er, no. Actually she died. I would have made her a vampire, but she was shot through the heart with a silver-tipped crossbow bolt before the transformation could be made complete."
"Ah! Now we're getting somewhere! So, you were in love with her, but you couldn't save her! You knew she was being hunted, but could not reach her in time, and warn her of her impending doom! I love it! This is going to work quite nicely!" I said.
Roberto turned his back on me.
"No. I did not try to save her."
I paused to let that one sink in.
"So she dumped you? Say, if silver-tipped crossbow bolts work, why not silver bullets? I mean --"
Roberto whirled around and cut me off.
"God! Enough with your silver bullets already! And she did not dump me!"
"All right, all right," I said, and waved him back soothingly. "Let's pick someone different and try that."
Roberto humphed and crossed his arms, one hand reaching up to rub at his nose. After a moment, he sighed and said, "David of Rimms."
"All right, David." I paused to write this down. "What did you do to David?"
"Well, as I said before, I was in love with him."
"You realise that I will only be able to sell this to a liberal sort of magazine," I said mildly.
"Look, do you want the story or not?" he demanded.
"Yes, I do. Please continue."
"And NO silver bullets!"
"Of course not. No more of that."
This time his monologue was definitely better, and I believe he was beginning to understand what it was that I wanted from him. As he spoke, I jotted down quite a luscious love story of forbidden behaviours and desperate joy as he and David roamed the French countryside together for over 50 years, until in a fit of jealousy over one of Roberto's casual lovers, David left him for a woman who was actually a decoy from the Catholic Church, and who had led David to his tragic death.
It was a fabulous piece.
I was intrigued by the roaming bit, and wanted to get some more detail, to give the reader a heightened sense of really being there. I think Roberto was flattered that I truly loved his story, and wanted to get it just right. He co-operated in answering my questions, only giving me an annoyed glance once when I asked if he and David had ever howled at the moon. I backed off of that topic, sensing I might lose him and got more detail on blood sucking and flying at night, which he revelled in, then forgot myself and made a bit of a mistake, by asking if he could only fly when there was a full moon.
"Of course not!" he retorted hotly. "You're getting us mixed up again."
"Look, Simon, it's almost dawn. Is there anything else you need?"
I looked at the clock on the mantelpiece, and indeed, it was almost dawn. I stretched and resisted scratching myself, just now realising how tired the wine and interviewing all night had left me. I suppose my brain was not functioning quite right, as I searched it clumsily for any last questions I might have, and supplied the following: "Did you and David ever transform into hounds or bears or anything, when chasing down your victims? Kinda like that movie version of Dracula with Winona Ryder in it?"
I knew I had lost him for sure then. Roberto's shoulders sagged, his mouth hung open, and the wine glass dangled from loose fingertips. He certainly wasn't posing for me anymore. No more strutting and elegant hand waves, he just stared at me with disbelief and utter disgust.
"Piss off!" Bobby said finally. "If werewolves were so hot, why is it that no one has ever tried to interview you!"
Saturday, January 12, 2008
I had tracked Arconna to just outside of Leeds, despite reports he'd been seen in Australia. The harrowing journey had made it obvious why he'd come here. 1) The satellite imagery in this area of the UK was crap. 2) I'd gotten unconfirmed reports of a romantic interest. Despite a superhero needing to keep such things tightly under wraps, I had managed to extract it from the guy who hooks up everyone's internet in exchange for a copy of Guitar Hero III. I was able to use the latter piece of information to triangulate the possible location of his hideout, and that's what had gotten me out of bed on the wrong side of the Atlantic this ridiculously early.
If I were going to make a sighting of Arconna, or "L'Arconne" as he was known in Switzerland, I expected it to be somewhere on top of a tall building, as most emotionally tormented good guys are usually found in such places.
4:41 am. I caught a brief flitter of dark blue, somewhere towards the spires of the basilica I was staking out. I quickly adjusted my infrared telephoto lens and snapped off a few shots. The digital display on my camera showed me I had gotten nothing that would sell any higher than the National Enquirer. If I photoshopped them a bit. I would have to get closer. I tucked the camera back into my supply case and flipped down my night vision goggles. I knew I looked like a dork, but it was so dark out here that it was unlikely anyone would see me anyway. I got to the base of the monument and looked up, trying to sight where I thought I had last detected movement. An icy chill crept up my spine.
There, silhouetted against clouds moving past a full moon, I saw a dark cloaked figure crouched against the side of the building. Two round glints of green reflected back at me, right where his eyes should be. Did he also use infrared visual enhancement? And if he did, how come his gear was so much cooler than mine? In complete defiance of gravity, Arconne stood up, perfectly perpendicular to the side of the building, turned and walked away from me. I ran to the side of the building and kicked open a door (OK, so it took me a few tries. And I hurt my foot.) then ran up the spiraling staircase until I reached a reinforced metal door, upon which were embossed the initials S.M.D. I knew I had found his lair. Of the three other superheroes I had interviewed, all of them had marked their secret hideouts in such a manner. He already knew I was here, so there was no point in pretending I wasn't. Just as I reached out to knock on the door, a quiet hum erupted from some hidden mechanism, and the door slipped upwards.
I stepped into a lush utopia of ferns, accented with tangles of hanging bromeliads, and was duly impressed. QuantoMan only had lame-ass potted violets in his secret underground base. Arconna was sitting in an oversized leather chair with his feet up on a lacquered wooden desk, facing a 52" screen and watching the unfortunately discontinued Firefly series. A copy of Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game" sat on the desk.
"Mr. Arconna," I called as I approached.
"You can call me Shaun," he responded, indicating with a gesture that I should take a second chair. "And for the record, I'm not that emotionally tormented like those other super guys. It's just part of the image, you know."
I have to admit, he had a pretty good outfit. It was all done up in matching shades of blue, and looked like body armour designed by Dolce and Gabbana. AND . . . his mask was off! I scrambled for my camera, but he just laughed at me. "That won't work in here." Disappointed, I considered trying anyway, but knew that he probably wasn't fooling me.
"So, um. I guess you're going to let me interview you then," I ventured.
"Yeah, sure," he said.
"So what do you do when you're not saving the world?"
"I write. I contribute to blogs and I have some works of fiction that I'd like to get out there."
"Really?" None of the intel I had purchased had indicated this. I quickly got out my Axim and began jotting things down.
"Yeah. I want to be published. Legitimately published. Meaning, not a vanity press or Lulu.com or PublishAmerica or one of those places. I want a real press, big or small, to publish my work. Or a legit magazine to publish a short. My biggest hope for the future is to actually make a living writing. I'd love to do that. For now I'm going to continue school, keep writing, and get my degree. I might be a teacher one day, or an editor, or something else. Regardless, writing is in my blood somehow and I won't ever give that up, even if I spend my whole life trying to get published and never do. I keep coming back to it, so it's obviously something that I should do. Plus, I have thick skin. So, I'd like to be published and to be one of those guys that sits at home and writes books and stories for a living."
"Would you tell me about your stories?"
"I'll just mention some of my favorites. The World in the Satin Bag: A young adult fantasy novel about a boy who discovers that his home town has a mysterious past with a magical land inside a satin bag. When his best friend is kidnapped into the world he resolves to go after her, because nobody else will, and his presence begins a war that has been waiting to start for hundreds of years. Here's what I imagine the World looks like." He punched a few buttons on his desk, and the TV image changed to show the following map:
"And then there's Marx Ignatia: A cyberpunk novella. Marx Ignatia is a detective in the Third Domain, one of the fourteen AI controlled levels of a Matrix-like virtual world where you can literally live any fantasy life you can imagine, as long as you're willing to work for it. When a man named Palmmarrow, a hated man by a lot of people, including the AIs, is murdered she finds herself dealing with a violent rogue AI named Rapture and the threat that the Third Domain may collapse and destroy everyone jacked in. The Lies of Venicia: SF novel. Actaeon is a backwater world left to fend for itself after mysterious entities known as the White appear and begin terrorizing the populace, forcing Actaeon to become a world of illegal tech just to survive in a vast human empire. But things are not what they seem when the Elders of Venicia begin wiping out citizens under the guise that an infection of the White has taken hold, and three innocent people are thrust into an interstellar conspiracy to spread that infection to the rest of the human empire."
"Cool! And what about your blogging? Why do you do that?"
"You know, I have no idea. I enjoy it I suppose. I don't even remember why I started blogging. I think I started to make my little blog novel (The World in the Satin Bag). I've sort of moved on to other stuff now, but I am going to write the second book in the series...starting this month. I think now I write because I have a place I can write about things I enjoy. I like science fiction and fantasy and I can use my blog to discuss them and share what I know or what I find with other people. It's fun that way. I love comments on my blog because it's like an open dialogue with people of similar interests."
"Speaking of interests, I'd like to know what helped develop yours. What was your favourite book, comic or TV show as a kid?"
"As a kid I didn't really read very much, to be honest. I was one of those kids that hated reading because I never was allowed to read anything fun in school, or what I thought was fun. It was always the same stuff over and over. But for TV, goodness. Anything on Nickelodeon! I fed on Nickelodeon like it was candy! Probably my favorite show was The Secret World of Alex Mack or Doug (the original). Sliders was awesome too!"
"Did you like the movie Transformers?"
"Actually, I did. It was a fun movie. I can't say it was the best movie ever, but I enjoyed it. Shia Lebouf was pretty hilarious."
"What is your opinion of Wuthering Heights?"
"I don't have one. Never read it or seen the movie."
"What is your opinion of Star Wars? LOTR?"
"Both are completely awesome. I love Star Wars and have since I was a kid sitting at home with Asthma. It was the first SF movie that just pulled me in. I was quoting Darth Vader for half my life. The originals still make me smile and I still can't help remarking at how amazing the effects were for a move so old . . . LOTR, however, is just as amazing. Peter Jackson managed to take a highly influential fantasy series and turn it into one of the best movie trilogies ever. I love them all and all the special features and documentary stuff on the extended box sets is awesome."
"And do you have any heroes? If you could meet anyone, who would it be?"
"Oh good lord. That's a hard question. Right now I'd have to say Tobias S. Buckell. He's kinda my hero right now. Well, at least someone I look up to. Either that, or some big shot director who wants to turn some idea I have into a movie...but I think the first is the more realistic one."
"What about your superhero origins? According to the Database of Superheroes, you're not a spontaneous mutant. You inherited your powers. Who is the strangest person you're related to?"
"My Grandma. She is the most bizarre and amazing woman I have ever met. Literally, she's absolutely insane. She's the only person I know who would sit down and say 'we're having octopus eyes on toast'."
"What's your favourite planet?" (Yeah, I ask weird questions. So?)
"Earth, because I live here and because it's the prettiest from space. Let's face it, this planet rules."
"Who taught you the most valuable lesson in your life? What was the lesson?"
"I did and I'm still trying to figure out what I taught myself...I know it's important, I just don't know what it is..."
"What do you think is the most important quality a person should have?"
"Intelligence. That's not to say you have to be a genius or know how to do calculus problems, but if you are able to think for yourself and be able to do something that not everyone else can do, well that's intelligence. Isaac Asimov remarked on the IQ test that he thought they were really stupid because they were designed for those with a problem solving, academic type mind. But if his mechanic were to create an auto-mechanic's IQ test, he (Asimov) the genius would fail it miserably. Intelligence is varied, I just think many people lack it or hide it, which is stupid."
An alarm sounded, and Arconna leaped to his feet.
"Well, that was kinda fun, but I've got to go rescue some very important politicians. By the way, I reviewed your book on one of my blogs."
"What? You know who I am?"
"Of course. Do you think I'd have let you in here otherwise?"
A domed section of the ceiling was sliding to one side, revealing the early morning sky in varied shades of pink and orange. Arconna ran towards a springboard and made a graceful flip out into the burgeoning dawn. It looked like it was going to be a nice day.