So you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell
Blue skies from pain
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail
A smile from a veil
Do you think you can tell
And did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts
Hot ashes for trees
Hot air for a cool breeze
Cold comfort for change
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage
How I wish—
How I wish you were here
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
What have we found
The same old fears
Wish you were here
Back in 1986 I finished my third novel, “Sightings: A Novel About Bloody Wild Evolution.”
Sadly—damn it—“Sightings” like most of my writing remains unpublished. Damn it. Damn it! Damn it!
[sighs] Anyway . . .
So, I wrote this novel, “Sightings,” about a little known aspect of the Goblin Universe. It’s not entirely unheard of for people in crowded, urban areas to report seeing bigfoot creatures. Just like people in rural areas see what they take for a large, hairy, ape-like creature that lives in the woods, people in big cities, even cities like Chicago and New York, sometimes report seeing exactly the same kind of large, hairy, ape-like creatures. Cryptozoologists who may be open to the idea of an undiscovered ape species in the wilds of North America typically ignore urban reports. The urban reports usually appear in UFO literature where the urban bigfoot creatures are treated as some kind of ‘slaves’ to the beings who fly UFOs. But Forteana writers aren’t judgmental and generally embrace absurdity, so Forteana writers usually accept the urban reports at face value, note that they contain essentially the same content as the wilderness reports and then move on.
I thought it would be fun to treat the reports of large, unknown urban primates seriously, in a nuts-and-bolts adventure/romance/science fiction novel after the fashion of a Michael Crichton-type book.
So I did. I thought of what was, hopefully, an acceptably intriguing and acceptably reasonable explanation of how evolution and natural selection may have created such creatures, how they may have remained undiscovered by science until now and what would happen in major cities if a large, unknown primate suddenly began appearing in urban areas and aggressively attacking people.
It was a fun novel to write. I think it will be a fun novel to read, someday, when I can get a publisher to bring it to market. Damn it.
[sighs] Anyway . . .
When I first conceived of the novel, before I wrote down anything, I imagined one scene in particular that would illustrate the difference between humans, animals and humans who lower themselves to something less than animals. I was planning the scene for toward the middle of the novel. Two scummy men would kidnap a woman, capture one of the urban bigfoot creatures and then lock up the woman with the creature. The men intended to sell video of the creature ravaging the woman. The creature, however, being an animal, quickly kills the woman and prepares to eat her. The scummy guys, disappointed, go into the enclosure to try to prod the creature into doing more and end up getting killed and eaten themselves. The point of the scene was to have been that there are humans who have become far more monstrous than anything the animal kingdom can generate through evolution and natural selection.
I started writing and the main characters and main plot moved along very nicely. When I arrived at the middle of the novel, however, I was so involved with the main action that I hesitated to write the scene about the two scummy guys kidnapping a woman. Even in a novel about marauding monsters rampaging and killing people throughout Chicago, it seemed too unpleasant to create the scene with those two scummy guys being lower than animals.
I never wrote the scene.
I got all the way through the novel, had animals killing people, people killing animals, said everything I wanted to say about bloody wild evolution, but I never wrote that one scene that was part of my original thinking for the novel.
Part of the reason was craft—I wanted to keep the tone of the novel on track, exciting, not bogged down into a claustrophobic kidnap sequence.
But another part of the reason has to do with one particular conception of Heaven and Hell.
I no longer remember where I first read this, but some people believe that when we die we don’t go to a classically Christian Heaven or Hell. Rather, we go to a place that is built entirely around what we imagined, wished for, dreamed of—and what we struggled to bring into reality—while we were alive as human beings.
What we imagine in this world, what we approximate by craft, our creations in this world, will be given to us completely and perfected in the next world.
If a person imagined/created nothing, just went through life doing what they were told, what was expected of them, then their afterlife will be featureless and bland, an eternity of the kind of nothingness they approximated here on Earth.
If a person imagined/created good art, good entertainment or a good life—imagined/created good feelings among others, warm relationships with friends, supportive love among family—then in the afterlife such people will spend eternity with the art they created, made real, their fantasies made real, their good thoughts and good actions perfected.
If a person imagined and created bad art, bad entertainment, devoted themselves to fantasizing about nightmares and actually caused pain, suffering and tribulations, such people will spend eternity experiencing the nightmares and grief they devoted their life to, but their suffering will be so much more extreme because their tribulations will be perfected, not approximations.
I don’t know that I whole-heartedly believe in this conception of Heaven and Hell. But I think it’s a good one. It is a metaphysics of you reap what you sow.
Simply by my nature I work with the intention of creating things that give people something to smile about or something intriguing to think about. I don’t want to contribute in any way to the nightmarish, idiotic, dark, violent, dehumanizing nonsense that seems to define the art/entertainment/pop worlds today. First, I don’t want to do it because I see no value there, it doesn’t make anyone smile except sad, seriously dehumanized souls and genuine psychos. Second, somewhere in the back of my mind or down in my deepest secret soul I wouldn’t be surprised if that conception of the afterlife turns out to be true—when we die we transition into some kind of larger reality where we will reap what we have sown.
Even though I’ve built my would-be career on writing about monsters and weirdness (and people trying to enjoy a little romance while dealing with monsters and weirdness) I wouldn’t be too afraid to find that God has Crafted for me a kind of afterlife terrarium built out of all my fantasies and things I’ve written. A little afraid, but not too afraid . . .