Archive for Robot Missionary

Memory Lane

Posted in Words with tags , , , , on February 1, 2013 by bradellison

Reading my old drafts is like stepping back in time.  Specifically, back to around 2006-2007, when I was a lazy college kid just figuring out that his life plan needed to be drastically reworked and not having any idea of how to do that.  I had left high school planning to become a well-educated cop, and I was three and a half years into getting my BS in Criminal Justice before I realized how bad an idea that would be for me personally (if I had become a cop, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that I would have become a completely intolerable asshole by this point, and possibly an Objectivist).  I had delivered pizzas, written movie reviews for the school paper for Taco Bell money, and done some amateur theater.  At this point I was in no way prepared for life, and while I knew I liked writing and seemed to be good at it, my portfolio consisted of two mediocre short stories, a couple of well-received pieces of Batman fan fiction, and a Dirty Harry / Highlander crossover story that was frankly awesome.  The fan fiction is still be on the web somewhere, but I’m sure not going to tell you where to look for it.

Somewhere in the intervening six years I guess I became a man, and I’ve definitely grown as a writer, though not as much as I should have if I’d been more diligent this whole time, and it’s fascinating to open up what amounts to a message in a bottle from myself.  The really satisfying thing, though, is looking at this old stuff and realizing that it’s actually good.  Rough, unpolished, sometimes embarrassingly amateurish, but there’s some decent stuff to be polished up and fixed here.

I am looking now at a hardboiled slacker narrative I started writing about ten minutes after the first time I watched Brick.  At the time I was heavily into Kevin Smith as well, so that seeped in along with the first- and second-hand Hammett and Chandler, and there was a fair amount of semi-autobiographical detail there too, stuff like my delivery job, favorite video store, and the tobacco shop I hung out in at the time, and the end result was half of a story about a video store clerk whose murdered roommate and best friend has accidentally dragged him into a Maltese Falconesque MacGuffin hunt that somehow reads like a Big Lebowski pastiche even though it would be at least a year before I watched The Big Lebowski for the first time.  But it’s got some good stuff.  The narration is kind of ridiculous, but it’s snappy, and there are some clever lines scattered throughout, and it’s pretty well paced.  I’m going to finish it now, and when I do I think it’ll be something I can take pride in.

Then next on the docket is what I think has to hold the record as the oldest coherent story idea I haven’t discarded for being embarrassingly stupid (such as my adventure series about a gunslinging badass waging war against the Ku Klux Klan after they take over the country, or the one that was basically Stephen King’s Dark Tower series without coherence or a plot).  I took my first crack at this idea when I was about twelve or thirteen, and then I took  couple of additional swings at it over the years until finally I sat down at the age of twenty-two or twenty-three and began to write the thing out in longhand during my lunch breaks at Wal-Mart (I worked there before their marketing trolls decided they should drop the hyphen).  I had a crisis of faith around that time that kind of mirrored what the protagonist was going through in the story, and hit a point where I could either write a dishonest ending, or a depressing one, and so I left it at that for six years.

I’m ready to finish it now, and finish it optimistically and honestly at the same time, which I guess took a six-year journey from where I was to where I am.  I started it as a middle school kid obsessed with Isaac Asimov’s robot stories, continued it as a directionless college grad dealing with existential angst, and now I’m ready to finish it.  The story of Father MRK-17691, robot missionary.  Fired from orbit onto the surface of a colony world separated from human society and regressed to an iron age culture, he’s a mechanical monk programmed to administer the gospel in hostile environments, and I’ve left him and his questions of faith and personhood hanging unresolved for too long.