atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#6620: Busy night.

Well, I was busy last night. I had not intended to be; what I'd intended to do was to sit in my rocking chair, listen to some music, and relax a bit.

But it had occurred to me that the computer downstairs--which boots Win10 but then goes to a black screen and hangs--might need an adjustment to its boot order. I went down there and did that, adjusting the boot order so that UEFI was first, and it did the exact same thing.

Out of ideas again, I decided I wanted to listen to a little music, so I went to the CD rack to find the album I wanted and--to my surprise--it wasn't there. Now, I did go through the CDs when I put the CD tower back up, and some got relegated to offline storage (ie a box in the spare room) so I went in there to have a gander.


...Richard Marx. Okay? Okay, Mr. Fucking Sky pilot??? His first album, the eponymous one. I wanted to listen to it; haven't in decades. My copy of his second album was there, but his first was nowhere in evidence, and I could have sworn I owned a copy. It should have been there, next to the first one, but it wasn't. So I looked in the box, and it wasn't there either, and I started to wonder about my sanity.

Thwarted, giving up on the disk, I looked at the boxes on that side of the room, and moved them around, and regained access to the closet I never go into; and right there, atop the stuff in it, was the printer I'd been looking for, so I put it in the computer room.

Fiddled around a bit, then put everything in some semblance of order and figured that now I'd go sit down and listen to music.

But the printer was sitting right there and if my notions were correct all I had to do was plug it in....

Got up and went into the computer room and started fiddling with that, but no matter what I did, the computer would not recognize that the printer had been connected to the network. I spent maybe half an hour with various software utilities and so forth, but got nowhere and gave up. At that point, more or less, I discovered that there were no blinking lights on the printer's network port. Cable? Heck with it, I'll worry about that tomorrow, I decided, and resumed sitting in my rocking chair.

By now it was after 2 AM. At some point in all of this I'd thought to watch some anime but realized that it was too late in the evening to start that, so again I resolved just to listen to some music and relax a bit.

The Evolution of Frank Gimbel is a novel I wrote in 1986, and it had occurred to me at some point over the past couple of days that I have not read it since--when? I could not even remember the last time I'd read it. As I sit here I can't remember what even brought it to mind, but sitting in my chair last night it occurred to me that I knew exactly where it was and could listen to music while I read it, so I went downstairs again (remarking to myself that I certainly was going up and down the stairs a lot tonight) and retrieved it.

I wrote the story, as I said, in 1986. I wrote it using Paperclip on my Commodre 64. I printed it on my trusty Epson RX-80F/T printer. It's three-hole punched and crammed into a binder; at the time it was the longest story I'd ever written. I punched it 10-15 sheets at a time with a single hole punch, using a sheet of notebook paper as a template. There are corrections strewn throughout the manuscript. There's a good chance that the C64 disks are unreadable, so this may be the only extant copy of the story.

Anyway, grabbed the little CD player and sat in my rocking chair and started reading the thing.

The story was meant to be a comedy. The main character, Frank Gimbel, is a loser nerd, universally despised by his peers; but in the summer after his junior year of high school, everything changes for him, and it all starts with him getting arrested after his beater car self-destructs on the last day of school.

The writing--especially in the first ten chapters or so--was embarassingly sophomoric. There were some passages that made me cringe. There were scenes where I was blatantly trying to crowbar plot elements into place, and it showed. Some of the characters were caricatures (though I had done that on purpose, in spots they were too over-the-top) and it suffered from some other deficits besides. And yet--

And yet, when I realized it was going on 4 AM and the words had stopped making sense to me, I was disappointed that I had to stop reading.

There had already been one moment in the story where I'd laughed out loud, for minutes, at a line in the thing (which was, it must be said, meant to be funny).

And what really caught me was the youthful vigor of the story. This was the first time I wrote a story with no rules, where I cast off the restrictions that I'd held myself to when writing previously. I wrote about the characters having sex (not graphically) and used all the bad words and wrote in a setting where I could justify doing nearly anything I wanted. It wasn't science fiction; it was plain old fiction with a twist of fantasy in it. God and Satan are characters in it.

And it's entertaining. I haven't read it in at least thirty years and I don't really remember the plot, so it's the coldest cold read I ever did--but as sophomoric as it is, I'm enjoying it even as I cringe at this or that juvenile turn of phrase. And those instances get fewer and further between as the story progresses, as I find my voice. It's undeniably my writing, I can see that...but embryonic, or at least natal. Unrefined. Flawed, but not bad.

But I'm not reading it like I normally read my stories. I'm reading this the way I'd read a work from another person, for entertainment. Reading my own stuff I'm constantly looking for ways to fix the text--but here, I'm not. I'm not thinking about what to do in the rewrite, or how to edit it to avoid a rewrite, or anything.

And despite all its failings, it's good. It has suspense, it arouses curiosity, it keeps me turning the pages; even the caricatures aren't quite cardboard cutouts. The dialogue is pretty natural and the plot flows reasonably well.

What about its future?

In all probability this story is destined only to languish. I don't have any designs on it; this is one of those things that an artist of any kind has to produce--to learn his craft--but never does anything with. If a writer hits the big time and has a huge following, this is the kind of thing that gets tightened up by another writer and published after his death.

But only "probably". Everything I've written is fair game (with one notable exception) and you never know; I might just go back and rewrite this thing, turn it into something that could be sold. Assuming that the disks can still be read, I don't expect it to be an easy task to convert them to a usable form, so I'd have to manually re-type the manuscript anyway. That might--or might not--work.

Most of my extant work prior to 1990 is on obsolete formats. 99% of it is on C64 floppies; the rest is on Atari ST floppies. But for a few exceptions most of it has been printed, and the prints are stored in filing cabinets downstairs. (Elevated at least two feet from the basement floor, too.) I made a habit of printing out everything I did; so when I wrote something, I'd print a copy immediately afterward. There were times when I didn't have paper or printer ribbon, so some stuff probably got missed.

Still: worth reading, IMHO.

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