Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Empty Chamber: Part 2

Suffering under the yoke of thesis writing, my third year into graduate school, this post should really be called "The Winter of My Discontent: Part 2", but I digress...

Having passed my Phd qualifier my second year into graduate school, but broken of spirit, poverty worn, I decided to opt out, get my Masters degree and move on. So my third year in Wyoming was a strange one. My girlfriend at the time had broken up withe me the summer before and moved out of state, which if you've ever broken-up with someone while in Wyoming, it is a guaranteed dry spell of a year or more. (This statistics based on demographics and geography alone: 400K people, 100K sq. miles, it's almost Boyle's Gas Law at that point). So with another sub-zero, alcohol fueled, high altitude winter ahead, there was quite a bit of time to kill. Firing up Word 95 on the venerable 386, I sat down to write.

The Buckhorn Bar "The Buck" Laramie, WY
I still had the 3.5" floppy from my home-stint prior to Wyoming, with what would become the first chapter of THE EMPTY CHAMBER. So, I decided to add to it. It was an entertaining concept (see THE EMPTY CHAMBER: Part 1), something I could work with, lighthearted and fun and a welcome departure from the excruciating task of mashing together a Masters Thesis. BTW, if you want to read that gem, mosey over to the Wilson Science Library at the University of Wyoming in Laramie and look up "Microwave Remote Sensing of Roadway Conditions using Cascade Correlation Neural Network Architectures", it's a page turner.

This was 1998/99, a few years before the "paranormal" publishing craze that's now transmogrified into the whole Twilight phenoma/monstrosity/what-have-you. A decade earlier, the seeds were sown for the boom. It was only a matter of time. By indulging its tropes, I was not reinventing the wheel, not by a long shot. The angsty, but too whimpy for punk, goth sub-culture of the 1980's had carried over into the 90's like a hangover, thanks to Ann Rice, Vampire The Masquerade, customized fangs, and Bauhaus reunion tours.

Coupled with an almost religious sense of nostalgia, the wayward Fluevog/trench coat/eyeliner crowd  kept the candelabra fires alight. Goth pop-culture was on the verge of going mainstream. Merely an observer, not an emulator, I realized it would provide a nice fantastical twist to the college 'rock and roll' adventure I was attempting to write, like Hunter S. Thompson meets Bram Stoker. So I wrote, no outline, no sense of direction, the plot developing en route. It was, in no uncertain terms, a mess of a manuscript.

Writing away in my basement apartment, a raging high-plains blizzard outside, I was having a good time. Back then, before rejection and failure reared its ugly head, fiction writing was exploratory, something new, a much needed outlet. Conjuring every quirky 'what-if' I'd ever indulged, I tossed it in to the mix then threw it against the wall to see if anything might stick. I hadn't read one book on writing, nothing on style, this was pre-blog era, so no online advice to help me gauge the industry's status quo. And I think at the time it was for the best. Inundating myself with reality was not appropriate. I didn't really take it that seriously. Just to be able to say to folks, "yeah, I wrote a novel", would have sufficed. The whole cold-hard-brutal facade of the publishing world and its stark set of knife-edge statistics wasn't even a concern. I had bigger fish to fry, I had to get the hell out of Wyoming. 

So after I turned in my thesis, successfully defended, and packed up the U-Haul. THE EMPTY CHAMBER remained unfinished, to be completed later. Stay tuned for the Part 3...

NOTE: I do intend to put up a synopsis of THE EMPTY CHAMBER complete with illustrations at some  point. I think putting up the full MS for folks would be cruel and unusual punishment, that and the editing required to make it anything but a full blown embarrassment would be too exhausting. But never say never, I guess.

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