I recently came across several short pieces of fiction I wrote in my early 20s.
A few summaries:
- A time travel agency in Byzantium deals with fussy tourists.
- The Hamburglar gives a Scared Straight speech.
- Doctor Philo Morbulus and his race of atomic supermen run into Terry from high school.
- The punk rock detective love story of Parakeet and Mega Maude.
- A woman converts the entirety of her apartment into a Mold-A-Rama producing life-sized plastic gorillas. Also a love story.
There were more serious stabs at literature too. I found a few of the pieces from my uncompleted short story collection set at different times in the Merchandise Mart’s history. I found a few personal essays and a few letters I wrote to people I cared about but was too chicken to send.
But I also found “The Muppets’ Silence of the Lambs.”
Coming across the cache of old Word and, yes, WordPerfect files was a sweet, sad time capsule of the early 2000s, when I wrote feverishly and constantly to expel the world living in my head.
I still write feverishly and constantly, but now the point is to let the rest of the world in, not just to push my world out. I’m hitting #600 on Friday. That’s pretty feverish.
So why am I nattering on about my days of strange fiction in a blog of strange fact?
It’s because the two are connected. I couldn’t do this project without my days of Doctor Morbulus.
There is the practice makes perfect, try try again angle on this. Most of what I was writing was terrible. I found about 30 old stories and three aborted novels, and the ones I told you about above were among the best. “The Muppets’ Silence of the Lambs” was top-tier for me at the time.
And because I know you’re curious, Fozzibal Lecter, Kermice Starling, Weirdalo Bill, Statler and Waldorf both played the guy in the cell next to Lecter and your 20s are a strange time, man.
A few of the incredibly embarrassing stories:
- A murder mystery set in the country music industry despite me having no knowledge of the country music industry, murder or coherent plotting.
- A “whole bunch of feuding relatives have to spend the night in a haunted house to claim the inheritance” story set in an Airstream trailer. 13 single-spaced pages and the best joke was that they “split up” by looking in different directions.
- “Suburbs: The Musical.”
But another reason to power through and experiment with terrible stuff is that there are gems amid the crud.
A lackluster spoof of 1950s teen delinquency movies turned into the Hamburglar sketch, which used to kill at open mics. A story about a garage band in the suburbs outside Hell’s gated capital of Pandemonium didn’t go anywhere, but gave me the subdivision names Meadowbrookstreamhaven and Willowdeergrovegorge, which appeared in “Suburbs: The Musical.”
You know what didn’t appear in “Suburbs: The Musical”? Music. The thing made no sense and it was going to be one of the novels.
These stories, these terrible, embarrassing stories — the literary equivalent of finding a 20-year-old photo of yourself with a mullet and a T-shirt of a howling wolf — made me a better writer.
For that, I am eternally grateful. I’m not so grateful, however, that I’ll show you more than two of them.
Yes, you get to read the two I considered the best, or at least the least embarrassing. I like them, let’s leave it at that. You make your own choices.
Aside from formatting and finally following through on a 14-year-old note to pick the name of a real galaxy (I went with the Ptolemy Cluster), they remain mercilessly untouched since the early 2000s, when a 22 year old with a frantic brain full of mad scientists, Byzantium and murder wanted to hunch over WordPerfect and write.
Read some stories I’m a bit prouder of (not that much prouder, the Hamburglar thing was hysterical):