Work In Progress – ChainBlogging

I’m not going to tag anyone specific, but if you’re reading this, consider yourself tapped and feel free to play along.

My pal Hobie Anthony passed this along to me, and it looks like fun, so here we go:

What is the title of your WIP?

Do I have to pick just one? I have a novel, a large story cycle, two finished chapbooks and two nearly finished chapbooks, the basis of a graphic novel (if I can ever sort it out and find an artist), and the bones of another story cycle and another novel, all floating around my computer, taunting me.

But for today, we’ll stick with the second story cycle, For All It Reminds Us Of, since it’s the next thing I’m going to be working on.

Where did the idea for the WIP come from?

Hosho McCreesh. Specifically, the poetry from his collection For All These Wretched, Beautiful, & Insignificant Things So Uselessly & Carelessly Destroyed. But I’ve written at length about this before.

What genre would your WIP fall under?

I have issues with genre labels. To me, they’re a bit like music labels these days. I mean, what makes something speculative or slipstream or postcyberpunk or femslash? And what distinguishes any of those from literary fiction? There are answers, I know — good, lengthy, complicated answers — but I keep thinking of Chris Cornell’s acceptance speech in the early `90s when Soundgarden won an award for best alternative album: “Thanks, I guess. I don’t really know what alternative is. I just thought we were playing rock ‘n’ roll.”

Anyway, in this case I actually feel pretty comfortable with the genre of this book: it’s apocalyptic fiction. But I certainly hope it’s literary, too, and maybe a whole bunch of other things as well.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I don’t know that I think in terms of actors anymore. I get pretty visual in my writing, I think, and I’ve written a few things I think would look pretty cool on film, but that’s not the end game when I’m working. A lot of smart people have made good points about basing character descriptions on actors you’d like to play your characters, because you never know when Hollywood might start trying to stuff your pants with money, and why not help them see your book on the big screen? But a book is not a film, and I think you hamper the writing when you try to conflate the two media.

There are exceptions, of course. Charade and No Country For Old Men both began their lives as screenplays, became novels when no one wanted the screenplays, and then got optioned as movies. Oh ho ho, the joke’s on Hollywood. But again: they started as film, not prose. If I’m sitting down to write prose, I’d rather pattern my characters on real people, not actors.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your WIP?

When global cataclysm decimates and scatters humanity, those of us left know we can survive, whether alone or in groups; what we need to figure out is how to live. (Or something like that. It’s not an action-y or political apocalyptic book; it’s about the human struggle — not the struggle to survive but the struggle to regain, and probably redefine, some sense of human normalcy.)

Is your WIP published or represented?

Nope. It’s not even finished yet. I mean, there’s an absurdly rough draft, but it’s mostly bits and pieces, not as tied together as I’d like and nowhere close to polished.

How long did it take you to write?

I wrote it last November during NaNoWriMo, so, one month? But like I said, it’s a mess. I’ve played around with it off and on over the last several months, but I think I’m going to get serious and try to knock out a wholesale revision before this coming November.

What other WIPs within your genre would you compare it to?

Nothing. I suppose, since the book is a story cycle, it has that in common with my finished book-length collection. And a lot of my work is about disconnect between human beings and the desperate attempts to reconnect — this book just takes that literally and to an extreme.

Which authors inspired you to write this WIP?

Hosho, of course. There’s also an interesting book by Helen Phillips, And Yet They Were Happy, that sort of touches on some slightly similar themes and uses the story cycle structure. Her book is tonally and stylistically completely different, and the stories in the cycle are all multi-part flash pieces, kind of cycles-within-a-cycle. But I was reading it while I was writing my first draft, and it was influential.

Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in this project.

Every story/chapter title is a line from one of Hosho’s poems, one for each poem in his book. And it was that line-cum-title that directed the plot of each story.

Also possibly of interest: the apocalypse in my book is that a super-massive iron meteor has hit the earth, not quite on the magnitude of the extinction-event meteor that (some say) struck the Yucatan and wiped out the dinosaurs, but close. In fact, in my book, the meteor would have been that big and would have missed earth, but it hit the moon and got deflected into earth. So now the moon’s busted and continues to rain shards of itself onto us all, and the impact of the meteor itself not only triggered planet-wide tsunamis but also caused a chain-reaction plate shift so the whole planet is ravaged by earthquakes and, relatedly, volcano eruptions. And, of course, a kind of “nuclear winter” under the resulting ash cloud.

That’s not really the interesting part. This is: I spent a LOT of time reading up on natural disasters and worst-case scenarios, both globally and specific to this region, and within the limits of fiction and storytelling, the apocalypse I deal with is, strictly speaking, realistic. Not very probable, but definitely possible. So, you know, brace yourselves. 🙂

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

13 thoughts on “Work In Progress – ChainBlogging

  1. For All It Reminds Us Of is a wonderful title – enjoyed your synopsis and the quote from the guy who won for alternative and thought they were rock and roll–does that not just sum up life – we are labeled and it is so often incorrect or now how we perceive ourselves at all

    1. Thanks! I can’t quite take credit for the title — like all the titles of the stories/chapters in that book, the overall title is also a line from Hosho McCreesh’s poetry. But it’s a terrific title for the kind of book this is, I think, and I like having it up front because it reminds me of what’s important in the writing — I’m dealing with humanity mourning the loss of itself and trying to move on, but also the conflict of trying to reinvent what it means to live while still clinging to the memories of what everyone has lost. Or, that’s how it goes in my head. 🙂

      And yes! I have issues with labels. I was a practicing vegetarian for years before I actually called myself one. Before that, I just told people, “I don’t eat meat.” And sure enough, as soon as I started telling people I was a vegetarian, they wanted to know what kind of vegetarian: vegan? piscatarian? (For the record, I’m an ovo-lacto vegetarian. For whatever that’s worth.) 🙂

      1. Means I eat eggs and dairy. It’s a bit misleading, though, because people assume I’m lax or that I eat cheese. I do eat cheese — I LOVE cheese! — but I don’t eat anything that requires the death of an animal to produce, which means I don’t eat any cheeses that use animal rennet. Which is most of them. 😦 I also don’t eat marshmallows, Jell-O, or yogurt, most of which use gelatin — also a dead-animal by-product. And Coca-Cola uses dried insect carcasses in some of its products (not on accident — on purpose), though I didn’t really need more reasons not to patronize Coke. So, the ovo-lacto label fits, sort of, but like most labels, it ain’t perfect. 🙂

      2. This has been a YEARS-long evolution of thought, and I learn more every day. It wasn’t a decision I came to lightly, and I’m constantly questioning it. Which is how I think people ought to eat these days — meat or no meat, fish or chicken, locally grown or store-bought, as long as you know what you’re eating and why. 🙂

      3. being mindful is a longterm goal of mine – I am trying to eat local, which is easy in my neck of the woods–but will have to give this vegan thing a try – my husband and I have determined we should eat vegetarian a few times a week – maybe we will go wholehog (sorry that has to be swearing in vegetarian language) and give up meat

      4. I’ve never been a vegetarian activist out there trying to convert meat-eaters. I’ve always felt people need to do what’s right for them. My wife, in fact, still eats meat, and I do all the cooking in the house, so I wind up cooking her meat!

        I think your plan sounds like a great one — explore various options, find what’s right for you and your husband, and roll with it. 🙂

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