Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
Fragmentation [poetic] devices.

OK, so I thought that a long time ago I made a post about how I keep having this beginning to a poem snaking its way through my brain: "It is in this way that..." I like the cadence of that, but I'm not sure what comes next.

It is in this way that the stars are made,
Fast as a twinkle and slow as a rush,
A flashbulb popping in a cosmic Kodak moment,
Leaving behind a permanent pinprick of afterglow.
Something like that. Still not sold on it. Perhaps I'll do a bunch of those and put 'em together as a series. No idea.

Anyway, so that's been bouncing around in there for years now. Another fragment that's been bothering me is this: "The Secret Dreams of..." This one gets a little more specific. For some reason "The Secret Dreams of Marion Brody" clicks, but I have no idea who Marion Brody is. I keep thinking it's an older, overweight Puerto Rican who works in a restaraunt somewhere, serving up empanadas and having a sort of Walter Mitty thing going. I dunno. I don't want to do a "remake" of Walter Mitty, but the idea is in there, slinking around.

I also had another idea this morning dealing with time travel. I don't really trust this one, though, because it's one of those things that hits you as you're still half asleep, which can often turn out to be sort of dumb. Anyway, I had an idea for a time travel story where a heartbroken inventor goes back in time to bitch-slap the earlier version of himself right before he screws things up with the love of his life. He succeeds, but when the inventor returns to his own time, he's already there. Having succeeded in preventing the breakup from occurring, he changed history (yeah, yeah, we've heard this before) but instead of him vanishing, a la Back to the Future, he becomes a temporal man without a country. He can't go back home, because there's no place for him there – there's another him there living happily with his wife. With his wife, his life. He has no money, because all his accounts are different – getting married changed everything, including where he banks and what he did with his cash. Everything he knew is gone, stolen by the version of himself that didn't mess up, and there's no way for him to get his life back, unless he either kills or kidnaps this version of him and steals his life (insert wacky hijinks as the original inventor tries to convince the wife that he really does remember their wedding day), and finally goes back in time to cause the problem that broke them up in the first place, which was probably something like the woman accusing him of doing something he didn't do, so he goes back and does it. It's a lot like Back to the Future, but more cynical: the point is that you can't change your own history. Everyone's history is personal; if things were different, you wouldn't be you, and you wouldn't be doing what you are now. The only way to fix things (as the inventor does once he returns to his own timeline, having successfully ruined his relationship with the woman he loves) is to do things now, to do the best you can with what you've got.

I dunno. It's okay, but time travel stories are so hackneyed; there isn't enough in that synopsis that's really different to make it work without resorting to some cheap Hollywood gimmick, like making the inventor Eddie Murphy. (Ooh, that always gives things a fresh new twist!) That said, if I hadn't just been totally floored by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I'd suggest Jim Carrey, but Gondry did a much better, much more original job with the same basic premise (the heartbroken trying to deal with the loss). I need to get out more, re-engage the universe and get some new ideas.

Yesterday I went to the Printers Row Book Fair with Ruth, where I ran into Frank and Janet Avellone, the illustrious parents of my good friend Jess; Frank and Janet have just moved here as well, so we're going to get together for dinner or something this week. It's so nice to have a support network preinstalled in a new city! Anyway, at the Fair I got to see Dave Eggers speak, which was fascinating. Despite the fact that I still begrudge him the success of McSweeney's because I was hoping to be the one to revitalize lit mags with a sense of humor (and the McSweeney's crowd does a much better job of it than I would have done), Eggers seems like a very nice, very funny fellow. We didn't stick around for the whole reading, because it was 110 degrees in the room they gave him to read in, which was jam-packed with people. Eggers definitely warranted an auditorium, but the more intimate venue was actually nice and informal, adding to the charm.

Today is a work day, unfortunately. I'm still trying to catch up from last week, and the to-do list is, as always, as long as my arm. Let's see if there's anything that can be done about that, shall we? I'm going to throw the laptop in my bag and head up to Evanston to work at a Peet's Coffee (!) for a while. Catch you later.


Sorry I missed the Book Fair...let me know if you come up to Peet's again. I live about half a mile from there.

The time-travel idea reminds me of a short story I did back in high school, but it was much more conventionally about time travel. In my story, the inventor goes back and inadvertently changes something — specifically, causing his father to have to come in for a late shift at the hospital — and he has therefore never been born, just because of that slight shift in his father’s life. In the end, he has to go back and kill his earlier self, because he’s unable to convince his earlier, more bull-headed counterpart of the consequences of his actions.

Alas, my story had plot holes a mile wide, and little real personal development, but someday, I’d like to take it back out and develop it further. The thing to remember about time travel stories — or any science fiction-themed tale — is that time travel is just a mechanism. Back to the Future isn’t about time travel, at least not fundamentally; it’s about generational similarities being more pronounced than differences, and secondarily about how one’s outlook (and actions) can radically affect later life. Only beyond that threshold does it become an adventure story about traveling through time.

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