The human ability to whine at any level of existence may be the crowning glory in the evolution of our species. The aged, the sick, the poor, the abused, the cheated all have plenty to rightfully complain about; yet even when we are young, healthy, rich, safe and on the winning team, we are still able to find something wrong with our lots. That is the point when rightful complaining turns into cry-baby whining.
The preface “I shouldn’t complain, but…” does not ease the state of whining that inevitably follows its issuance. It underscores rather than gentles. I hear it and immediately brace myself for an expected onslaught of whining that, depending on the gall, will cause me to either excuse myself or fantasize about driving a salad fork into the eye of the whiner. Fortunately, I have some measure of impulse control, and I can also foresee certain consequences that would not justify the experience, no matter how much short term joy it may bring me.
Salad fork fantasies are common regarding famous persons who complain about being famous. There is no law stating that famous people need to stay that way. Dear Celeb–just quit for a few years. No matter who you think you are, a whoosh of new celebrities will fill the small vacuum that your departure creates so fast that it will be the same as though you never were (but I allow that infamy is a harder tag to shake).
One of the things that famous people in the creative arts complain about is being asked “Where do you get your ideas?” Stephen King has repeatedly mentioned that this is the question he hears most. Although he doesn’t get Russell Crow or Tommy Lee Jones-prickish about it, you get the impression he has heard it enough.
Maybe King doesn’t complain that loudly because he remembers that most people do not care about what inspires another person to create–unless that person has created a catastrophe that attracts law enforcement in helicopters. Maybe he realizes that for every King and Grisham there are thirty million writers who would love to be asked that question, but in this humdrum life there are only so many Fairy Godmothers, Cinderellas, Magic Pumpkins, Royal Balls–yet an abundance of Princes attracted to underage girls, which is a perverted circumstance that explains more of life than what I care to understand.
So, in a humble effort to make the world a less humdrum place, I bring a sack of various sized slippers and ask each of you: “Where do you get your ideas; what was your initial inspiration?”
I won’t pretend that anyone has asked me, but of all things it was the 80’s comic strip Bloom County by Berkeley Breathed that woke something in my mind early. Opus, Bill, Milo, Bobbie, Rosebud the Basslelope, Hodgepodge and Portnoy–the whole gang, reached me and I couldn’t wait to see the paper the next day. For whatever reason modern updates of their universe no longer affect me the same–but I can still feel the initial emotion after all this time.
I look forward to reading your responses and suggestions to yet another list you will find at the end.
For the first time in recent memory, there are no site debuts this week. Having Tom Sheehan about allows me to puff up the magnificence of the combined number of appearances without Pinocchio-ing the sum. It’s something close to three-fifty–which can be configured into the following truthful statement: This week’s stories are written by people who represent roughly one eighth of Literally Stories’ library.
I’m especially curious about what inspires Tim Frank. Go through any of his thirteen (with more on the way) stories with us and you won’t find anything that reminds you of anything you’ve ever read before. Monday’s Underwater Wedding adds to the trend he has established. In fact, none of Tim’s stories reminds one of any of his others save for their high quality. “Unique” and “quirky” are overused adjectives in the sense that they are often hidden behind by those who have no idea what else to say about a subject. Tim’s superpower as a writer is that he leaves one very little else to say about his work save for unique and quirky. And yet there is also a special sadness found in his tales that, no matter who strange the premise, gets across.
Tom Sheehan returned Tuesday with Hill 407 Reboot. It is the inspiring and exceptionally well written tale of a former Marine in a wheelchair who is still all man. There’s nothing wrong with “all man”–though there’s an element in society that sees “all man” the same as “the rapist.” Pity that Dickens’ Want and Ignorance still manage to thrive. There’s room in the world for both Lee Marvin and Richard Simmons.
Adam West made a welcome return on Wednesday. Along with Hugh, Nik, Diane and Tobias Haglund, Adam is one of the five founding editors of Literally Stories—way back in the Brave Year of ‘14. And although I have hijacked his virtual desk like a Hermit Crab, we are always glad to have him come back around as he did with Dreaming in the Third Person. The nature of reality and our perception of it is something we take for granted so to move forward sanely. But Adam shows us what a slippery conception the difference between experience and fantasy is.
Keith LaFountaine’s second appearance is something to behold in wonder. Keith went to the trouble of inventing a complicated yet convincing alien language, which he uses to great effect in Home Again. Like Adam, perceptions are bent, time is dislocated and yet the narrative proceeds cleanly to a satisfying conclusion.
Ha! I wrote Friday’s tale. Where Have All the billigits Gone? Beats me, long time passing, I suppose.
Anyway, that is the week we have been dealt. I encourage all to visit the tales above if you have not already. Don’t forget to share your inspirations! But first, I present a list.
Inspiring Comic Strips
As it goes with Top Tens, there are often omissions that justify hell for the creator of the list in the somewhat limited charity of offended readers: “Where’s Peanuts–you anti-American facist?”; “Can hardly be considered an intelligent compendium without the miracle that was Funky Winkerbean.” Even the possibility of such scars my delicate psyche, and leads my inner child to consider drugs and the other forms of recreational abuse that appeal to those bound for perdition anyway. So, I leave number ten open for those who believe that my list needs serious work done under the hood.
- Bloom County- Berkeley Breathed
- The Far Side-Gary Larson
- Calvin and Hobbes-Bill Watterson
- Dilbert-Scott Adams
- Our Boarding House (discovered via a book)-Gene Ahern (1921, a bunch after)
- Gasoline Alley-Jim Scancarelli (Created by Frank King about a million years ago)
- Andy Capp-Reg Smythe
- Beau Peep (introduced to me by Hugh–it features an important character best not seen coming for reasons that might be improper to address–”Mad Pierre.”)-Roger Kettle and Andrew Christine
- Monty-Jim Meddick