All Stories, Fantasy, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Week 394: Seeking Inspiration; Five Inspired Tales and Must See Comic Strips

Seeking Inspiration

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.

Finding Inspiration

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


16 thoughts on “Week 394: Seeking Inspiration; Five Inspired Tales and Must See Comic Strips”

  1. I enjoyed this as always and you managed to avoid mentioning, The Queue which is apparently becoming a major event all over Europe. Not that there’s queueing all over Europe – well not yet anyway – but they speak of it. Inspiration – hah – I have no idea where any of it comes from. I sit in front of the keyboard and wait. Sometimes It’s worth the wait. We loved peanuts and had many books of them and being honest it was one of the things that made our children want to be able to read – just so they could join in when we were howling with laughter. Other than that though I have never been much of a cartoon person, though some of the Far Side ones do make me titter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Diane,
      The only thing longer than that fucking queue is the news coverage about that fucking queue. (I haven’t bought a paper since the 9th!!)
      I saw one report that went on about the vegetables waiting for 12 hours or so and the very next report was all about what wealth the new one had inherited. Oh and inherited is the wrong word as for the rest of us, including those numpties that queued, with inheritance you get taxed…Unless you are a royal when your millions of millions are exempt.
      Freezing your genitals off to tip your hat to someone who was so far apart from yourself sounds like a cracking idea!!


  2. Thank you, Diane

    I saw that David Beckham had to wait in the queue for thirteen hours (so he says). It will give him something to whine about.
    Personally, I find that sort of thing morbid. Paying respect to one’s memory needn’t involve actually viewing the dead. Strange tradition, but it appears to be universal.


  3. Hi Leila,
    Rumptiddly-Tum… I find ideas for stories by looking under the rocks in my head, then banging said rocks together repeatedly until one, I get delirious, or, two, I hurt myself. For comic strips, you’ve got three of my favorites on the list (First three) but left off Corto Maltese. And Maus. And Sandman. And…
    Right, that’s me done, then.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A fine post with a good recap. I get many of my ideas from random thoughts or images which I make a note of and eventually try to turn into a story. Dilbert, Calvin and Far Side are three of the best comic strips. The Argyle Sweater is a bit Far Side -ish but not as consistent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, David
      I have seen Argyle Sweater in the Seattle paper. It has some good moments but lacks the consistency of Larson. I must give Adams credit, unlike my other favorites he is doing his well for the long haul.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Love(d) Bloom County, esp the election specials! And Bill the Cat!!!
    As for inspiration, still can’t pin down where it comes from but it usually hits while walking the Ruffian at 5.30 in the morning (not that there’s been much about lately!)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As usual I have a related story. S King famously claims to get his plots from a plot store in Poughkeepsie (sp?) NY. I leveraged that idea into “My Kind Of Town” which shows where his famous stories originated. Published a couple of places I think.

    Don’t know Beau Peep or Monty. Andy Capp was kicked out of local paper for being politically incorrect I think. Scott Adams has taken a lot of flack for also being on the wrong side. Dilbert has increasingly become more of a tormentor than the tormentee. Boarding House people were unattractive but human. Seems like many newspapers that I read didn’t have “Gasoline Alley”, but Rod Stewart did. Can you imagine “Katzenjammer Kids” being run today (for those superannuated in the crowd)?

    “Be Bop A-LuLu” Gene Vincent’s biggest hit was inspired by the comic “Little Lulu”. I miss some of the old gentle strips “Out our way”.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you, Doug

    I like the old comic strips because my grandfather saved years of “Sunday funnies” in large scrapbooks that date back to the late fifties into the late seventies. I recall one called “Henry” about a bald kid who never spoke–and “Snuffy Smith” whose characters definitely had the same DNA. Grandpa Henry had a huge inexplicable dislike for Garfield. Loved animals but not the fat cat

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember those. We have a book of old strips somewhere. Tilly the Toiler, Wash Tubs and Captain Easy, Steve Canyon, some left over from WWII. Some of this may be wrong – long time / old brain (there’s a story there for another time – it involves sulces). Saw an article about some beleoved characters who weren’t that good. Columbus is close to the top of the list. Garfield was listed with a number of sins – vain, usless, fat, mean to the dog, … .

      Which brings up why so many cartoons and comics feature anthromorphic animals. Gave it some thought while watching cartoons ( a regular passtime). Probably in part because a cute mouse and cat can get away with trying to kill each other more easily than humans. This Doug talk was brought to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Leila,
    Excellent round-up as always.
    Inspiration – Mainly it comes from one-liners or specific opinions from those I have spoken to, or opinions I have myself. Eavesdropping is also a great source of material! It has to be something real to begin with as my imagination is shite.
    I don’t know many of those comic strips but two American ones I did enjoy when I found books of them in the discount section in Woolworths were ‘Marmaduke’ and ‘Beetle Bailey’.
    I loved the strip about Marmaduke where his owner was telling the kid the nursery rhyme ‘Little Bo Peep’ when he got to the ‘Lost her sheep’ line, Marmaduke picked up the couch to look for them!!
    Glad you had a look at Beau Peep. The same two guys did another strip called ‘A Man Called Horace’ which was about a shite Lone Ranger wannabe. I think I have the first book of those cartoons somewhere.


    1. Hugh
      Marmaduke is brilliant because you cannot look at a Great Dane without thinking of the name. If I recall correctly, didn’t the Ayotolla’s coffin tip during his service? That sort of thing might spice up the queue. I checked the coverage and went away. Covering a line is a new low in TV journalism.


      1. When we were in Saudi one of their kings died and he was on a sort of stretcher wrapped in a carpet and as they carried him down the aircraft steps hi arm fell out. Not out of his body – just out from under the rug.

        Liked by 1 person

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