8FOLD/ACRA: Jolt City # 19, "The Little League of Doom!" (1/3)

Andrew Perron pwerdna at gmail.com
Fri Jul 9 18:59:18 PDT 2010

On Tue, 6 Jul 2010 06:32:26 +0000 (UTC), Tom Russell wrote:

> Thank you very kindly for the kind words, Andrew.

No problem at all! ^-^

> It's a tricky alchemy, to be sure, in this installment in particular
> but also in JOLT CITY in general, which has always been, well, fairly
> downbeat.  Even amid some of the crazy-awesome (well, stuff I intended
> to be crazy-awesome, how well I succeeded, of course, is up to the
> reader) stuff like the unicycle jousting match way back in number
> four, it's always been a mite bit darker and sadder than, say, the
> Human Zeppelin.

This is true, and this certainly isn't a bad thing.  It's definitely an
interesting balancing act.

> I wouldn't blame LORD OF THE FLIES for the ROYALEs of the world,
> though, just like I wouldn't blame WATCHMEN for the grim-n-gritty
> craptaculars that followed in its wake.  Because I think if LORD OF
> THE FLIES is making a Big Important Statement About The True Nature of
> Humanity, that statement isn't that human beings are, at base, evil,
> but that we have within us all the capacity for it; and, further, that
> said capacity is mitigated by Civilization-- by laws and systems that
> give us order.  Sometimes, these systems don't work-- look how they
> fail poor Fish in my story-- but they're far better than no system at
> all, than total anarchy.

See, I don't quite see that, simply because all its examples of
Civilization involve failing and falling, the evil of men overthrowing the
system; first and most obviously, in the system set up on the island by the
boys, but also in the world at large, in whichever war stranded them there
and in the similarity of the men who pick them up to Jack's gang.

And, again, it seems more like they needed more decent people than a system
of order.

> Now, of course the question I was trying to raise, and that Pam
> explicitly gives voice to, is, "Is it worth dying for something
> abstract, for a principle?"  Because if taking a stand accomplishes
> nothing, is it really taking a stand?  And, conversely, does that
> excuse you from responsibility for not taking a stand?

And there's always the fact that, inevitably, there is something you could
do that *would* accomplish something.  That you have no way of knowing for
sure what that would be is, of course, the sticking point.  It's a complex
thing, and you portrayed it well.

> There was a time in the months I spent writing this installment that
> Martin didn't survive it, a time when his suicide mission really was
> just that.  It wasn't in my original outline, but rather arose during
> the process of writing.  I decided against it, of course, not least of
> all because I thought it would feel like one of those cheap, shocking
> deaths I railed against in the above paragraph-- even if it WAS Martin
> choosing to go into his probable doom.  The loss of the hand, however,
> ensured that he didn't escape unscathed-- because that wouldn't have
> been believable, and would have rendered all the preceding violence
> and intended meditations on his vulnerability meaningless prattle, a
> trick, a false attempt at dramatic heightening.

And, honestly, it really works for me - sacrifice that's not total, but is
still painful and has an impact on the storyline.

> (Of course, one could definitely say that Derek and Dr. Fay's solution
> to the problem _does_ wish my way out of the bed I made, but I think
> there's a crucial difference, in that this resolution doesn't take
> place until after Martin has made his decision and suffered the
> consequences.

Well, also, you set it up; it wasn't pulled out of nowhere at the last

> Part of that is, again, committing to the story-- those other boys
> being who they are and the group dynamics leaning so heavily against
> Fish in the first place, they weren't about to own up to their actions
> and absolve him at their own peril-- and part of it is trying to
> agitate the reader's sense of justice, to make them retroactive
> advocates for Fish, who, following his acts of cowardice/self-
> preservation, especially in the case of the woman who is gang-raped to
> the point of dismemberment, has probably lost some readers' empathy.
> (There is a reason, of course, why he ceases to be a viewpoint
> character at that point.)  I want the reader to regain some of that
> empathy in the third part, to reach a more nuanced view of Fish, to be
> shouting at the screen/page, "No! Fish didn't do it!  Someone figure
> this out and make it right!"

And I definitely understand about the sitation, but it seemed like it went
too far; the tendency towards listening to the bad guy and ignoring the
good guy was more pronounced even than X-books bystanders.  It seemed like
they immediately trusted Jack, swallowing what he said whole, not stopping
for a second to think about other interpretations of the evidence.  Which
would be fine if it was one person, but it's the entire system.

> Until about an hour before posting, there was a scene in this third
> part in which Fish, now the scapegoat for all the evil that was done,
> talks with the one-handed Green Knight.


> And that scene was, well, just way too much.  My missus convinced me
> to jettison it, and I think she's right.  While it makes perfect sense
> for Martin, the reader, who knows better, would be outraged with him,
> would think his behaviour unreasonable, unconscionable.  (Which is one
> of the traps of having an mostly omniscient narrator and less well-
> informed protagonists.)

Yeah, Martin is a bit bullheaded about these things.  He's not one for the
subtler shadings of good and evil, guilt and innocence - which is part of
his problems, since his personal history is stuck in the middle of those
shadings.  Derek, I've noticed, is more flexible on those.

> I think this structure makes the various threads clearer and easier to
> follow, and results in a more compelling emotional journey--
> especially ending with the sex scene, which I personally think is
> rather sweet, and adult, and loving, even amid, and perhaps because,
> of their apprehensions and disappointments.  

Yeah, that was cute!

> I am, as you can see, still rather proud of this story-- and if I've
> tooted my own horn too much, or have taken pride where it was
> unfounded, I'm more than happy to invite interested parties in laying
> the verbal smack down.
>> Also, I'm kinda disappointed that there were no actual super-powered
>> softball games in the issue.  Ah well. ``
> I haven't kept count, mind you, but I think most of the splash-page
> descriptions in JOLT CITY never actually happen in the story
> itself. :-)

But super-powered softball! ;.;

>> Andrew "NO .SIG MAN" "Juan" Perron, good stuff.
> Thank you again, sir.  It's very much appreciated.

I speaks only the truth~

Andrew "NO .SIG MAN" "Juan" Perron, psychic frustration!

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