MISC: Thunderclap #5 - Thoughts

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Mon Jan 29 09:00:08 PST 2007


Rick Hindle is improving by leaps and bounds.  His plotting, 
characterization, and prose with this issue of Thunderclap is so far 
beyond the work he did around this time last year or the year before, 
and, indeed, the work he did last month, that it's a little scary.

It is an absolute pleasure to read.  I enjoyed his work before, and 
tried to review it, and encourage it, because I could see some good 
things about it.  Some good and some bad, but always interesting.

With Thunderclap, I think he has delivered on the promise of that 
earlier work.

I think with his other stories-- with the Goddess and the Bomb, with 
the fantasy series, with COST-- that Rick was searching for the right 
story, for _his_ story: and I think in Thunderclap, he's found it.

The shifts from first-person to third, which I was always hesitant 
about, aren't bothering me now-- they're working and they have a 
point, which is to give the reader more information than Clay has.  
Information about the villains and information about his friends.

He starts this issue by slipping into it, slowly, working towards the 
first scene in a round-about fashion.

>         The inland side of the intersection of Empire and Fourth in Pinnacle
> City's financial district is hardly as well known as what's on the side
> closer to Pinnacle Bay.  Facing the bay is the massive Millennium Tower
> on one side of Fourth and the Taj Pinnacle on the other.  If you asked
> a hundred people what was across the street from either building, you
> might get one person to guess that the building across from the giant
> hotel is another hotel - the Roma Hotel.
>         It's the other building, directly across from the Millennium Tower,
> that people would never be able to name.  The fifteen story building
> was fairly nondescript, with a simple green awning trimmed in gold.
> The owners of the building, according to the Pinnacle City Hall of
> Records, is the Leoniv Trading Corporation, based out of Eastern
> Europe.
>         If the Hall of Records had done any background work they would have
> known that the Leoniv Trading Corporation was owned a couple levels up
> by an organization known as the Medusa Corporation.  The Medusa
> Corporation had long been the target of the federal government for
> violations of the RICO Act, as well as by the Department of Superhuman
> Affairs, and even the superhuman protectors around Pinnacle City and
> the world.  For years, the organization had hired and used superhuman
> criminals to commit crimes.  Due to the many layers of red tape and
> potential political land mines that laid around the company, very
> little had been done to bring down the corporation.

It's a geography lesson and a history lesson, but I don't find it 
boring.  Rick finds ways to humanize it-- "if you ask a hundred 
people", for example.  The sentences are nice and crisp and a little 
long, but the structure of each sentence is a little different, a 
little varied, and it is pleasing to the ear rather than monotonous.

And it's not wasted, because it tells us exactly what we're dealing 
with-- the Medusa Corp, and who--

>         Between the relative anonymity of the building and the protection the
> lawyers gave him, the man simply called 'the Baron' by his subordinates
> enjoyed his position.  It allowed him to enjoy his days at work,
> strolling in late in the morning, enjoying a light brunch, and then
> strolling out before three in the afternoon to pick up his daughter
> from the expensive Catholic school she attended.
>         The Baron was nearly six feet tall, his once lush head of hair was
> thinning and turning snow white.  He chose to wear expensive, tailored
> suits from Italy.  His driver wheeled him around town in a Jaguar
> sedan, with dark tinted windows and a noisy exhaust that was guaranteed
> to attract attention.

This is a life of comfort, of cushy luxury in the service of evil.  
Few things excite the ire of a reader than a rich man, a powerful man 
who has an easy life while the rest of us toil.  A man who flaunts it.

It is a stock character, to be true, a type-- but it's a type that is 
effectively characterized by the prose.  And by giving us a build up, 
setting up the location and the Medusa Corp first, it's almost as if 
he doesn't exist without them: as if he is an extension-- no, a 
personification of that evil entity.  Like he is their avatar.

It's almost like Rick's prose is giving birth to the Baron, and 
there's something very striking about that, about this old man being 
generated spontaneously.

> The door across the room from his desk slid open, and a trim
> woman walked in.  She was wearing a smart business suit, black framed
> eye glasses, and a pair of flats.  Her perfectly flat dark black hair
> was hanging down her back, leaving her face free to be seen.  The Baron
> noticed her face and complexion made her partially of Asian decent.
> She moved smoothly - there was no wasted motion.  He concluded that
> his appointment was in top physical shape.

There's some nice sexy bits in the prose, particularly the sentence 
"She moved smoothly-- there was no wasted motion."  I think Rick could 
have played this up a bit more.  Not that the sexiness is the point of 
the scene, of course; but when you have a sexy woman, why not make her 
as sexy as possible? ;-)

>         "The Corporation is extremely happy with you," he informed her.
>         A smile spread across her face. "I'm quite glad," she responded.
> "I take it the money will be in my Cayman account within the hour?"

Rassum-frassum rich people.

>         The Spider turned her eyes back to the Baron.  She breathed in deeply,
> weighing the answer.  She exhaled and then spoke, "The Fedora."
>         Now it was the Baron's turn to inhale.  He went over the list of the
> Medusa Corporation's business ventures in Pinnacle City that had been
> interrupted by the Fedora.  It was growing too long in his head, too
> quickly.  He exhaled - it was long and drawn out.  A bit too dramatic
> he was sure.

I like that little touch at the end there-- the Baron is a man who is 
always conscious of the way he presents himself.  Evil lives in the 
surfaces, in appearances.  I also like the way "It was growing too 
long in his head" and "he exhaled-- it was long and drawn out" echo 
one another.  It ties the cerebral process-- the list of the Fedora's 
interruptions-- with a physical one.  With appearances.

>         As the door closed, the Baron turned and looked out the window, the
> vial still sitting on the desk behind him.  As the sun reached its
> apex, the Baron smiled and enjoyed the sunlight reflecting off of the
> Millennium Tower across the street.

This easy, facile glamour reminds us of the opening, reiterating the 
geography; it also contrasts neatly with our hero, dodging rain 
puddles a couple paragraphs down.

>         This went on for a little while before I decided to walk down the
> street to Lido's to grab coffee.  It was the first time I had been
> outdoors since my encounter with the Red Samurai.  Of course, it was
> raining.  So here I was, on my own and outdoors for the first time in
> days, but I was spending my time dodging puddles.

Clay, the hero, living in an apartment, recovering from injuries and 
dodging puddles vs. the evil Baron wrapped up in his warm sunlit 
luxury.  It wouldn't dare rain if the Baron was near.  This pretty 
effectively strengthens the divide between good and evil.

Let me quote this nice dialogue scene at some length:

>         The Fedora looked up as I strolled in and handed a cup of coffee to
> Gretchen. "Your friend has a knack for bandages," he informed me.
>         I smiled, "She's a better nurse than a student," I returned.
>         Gretchen's eyes opened wide as she whipped over to look at me as I
> settled into a comfortable chair.  "Well, I'd be able to go to class
> more often if I didn't spend so much time patching you up," she
> retorted.
>         "Wait, this was only the first time you -" I responded, a look of
> fake shock on my face.
>         Gretchen's face showed that she wasn't pleased where this conversation
> was headed. "First time?" she replied. "You've been doing this
> for, like, a week."
>         As I shrugged, I responded, "More like two weeks or so."
>         "Two weeks," she repeated. She turned to the Fedora, saw a slight
> smile on his face, and then turned back to me. "Two weeks?"
>         I shrugged again, "Well...um...uh...things happen."
>         "Really?" Gretchen turned to look at the Fedora, "So tell me,
> Mr. Fedora, how long did it take you before you needed some serious
> medical attention?"
>         Before I could interject that bandaging my shoulder could not be
> considered 'serious medical attention', the Fedora mumbled, "Six
> months."
>         Gretchen's face lit up, "I'm sorry.  Can you say that again?
> Possibly louder?  I'm not sure someone has super hearing over there."
>         I tried to say that I didn't need super hearing to hear him, but he
> responded anyways.  "Ahem...um, six months into my 'career'," he
> used air quotes around career.  I don't like air quotes.

That last bit about air quotes is cute.

But the dialogue has a playfullness to it, a degree of comedy, and I 
haven't forgotten that Rick once titled a story "Pain, the other, 
other, other white meat".  He can be very funny when he wants to be, 
and in this story, he's found the perfect occassion for humour, 
melodrama, character, and theme.

If there is a theme shaping up so far, it is, why is Clay doing this?  
A question which is implicit in the dialogue excerpt above, and one 
that is echoed by the third scene, which centers on Clay's friend 

Unbeknownst to Clay, Tommy (that's a pretty good name, by the way) is 
a retired speedster superhero.  He gave it up for love, and, at the 
end of the scene, it looks like he's going to be taking on the mantle 
again.  Tommy actually wonders during the scene why Clay is doing 

>         And why?
>         Suzie kept asking that question, but Tommy never had a good answer.
> It didn't make sense, sure.  Tommy originally had done it for the girls
> and the fame, but he had quickly realized that having the first meant
> giving up the latter.  At least Clay wasn't tied down right now.  There
> was nobody in his life, right?

And then his thoughts (and, remember, this issue is entitled 
"Thoughts") verve onto his himself--

>         Tommy smiled at the thought of being single.
>         Not having to make your plans around someone else.  Eating what you
> want and none of their health food, low in carbs, high in protein junk.
>  Being able to get absolutely hammered at noon with your best friend.

At which point he turns back to Clay.  Something's nagging him--

>      What if someone he had told had
> told someone else about Clay's other identity?  What if one of his
> friends was a superhuman criminal?

This is quickly dropped as the thought about a friend with a secret 
turns Tommy's thoughts back inward:

>         Tommy's mind continued to whirl, now he was back thinking about being
> Velocity.
>         He had had fun back then.  Tommy had enjoyed being Velocity, being
> able to test his physical abilities.  Sure, it was a reckless thing to
> do, but he had enjoyed it.  He remembered fondly the pure joy of
> running at top speed, of racing the wind as it crossed MacHammond
> Airport's runways.  One newspaper had even called him "The New
> Rush".  But that was all before Suzie.

Rick does a good job of characterizing the "wild oats" yearning that 
accompanies any long term relationship.  The thing that brings Tommy 
back to being Velocity is the fact that he rediscovers how much fun he 
had.  In a way, he's lapsed.

He is reckless, and I think the conflict between recklessness (fun) 
and responsibility will be paramount to Tommy's character.  It's 
responsibility that makes him give up being Velocity, and recklessness 
that brings him back to it, recklessness that characterized it, and 
recklessness that is responsible for revealing Clay's identity.  Tommy 
is a character that needs to keep his recklessness in check, and the 
return to superheroing doesn't bode well on that count.

What will become of it?  What will become of Clay?  Will Clay discover 
Tommy's secret?

I, for one, am anticipating the answers.

This is great stuff, and I'm glad Rick's writing it.


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