V-Log: ‘A Milestone, Of Sorts’

Shelton Bumgarner

Some thoughts.

V-Log — Developing & #Writing An ‘Apocalypse Now’ For The Trump Era

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

In these two rambling videos, I talk about both the novel I’m writing and how fucked we are when it comes to Trumplandia. May God have mercy on our collective souls.


Dr. Toxoplasmosis, Or How I Learn To Stop Worrying And Love Cyberwar

War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.
Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

I hate violence, suggested or otherwise. I think I have that parasite found in cat pee that makes you nicer. I’m a man of peace, of ideas. And, as such, as our doofus president seems hellbent on blowing us all up, I would gently suggest to the Iranian government NOT to blow up anything in revenge. Do something a lot less bloody — hack into TrumpOrg.

It’s a way to square the circle. All they have to do, really, is release Trump’s taxes and the rest takes care of itself. They will have “won” the war against the United States without hurting anyone. They can sit back and watch the United States eat its tail as MAGA lulzes a million pages of proof that Trump’s a criminal and everyone else freaks the fuck out.

No one needs to die.

No one listens to me, though.

‘The Name Game’

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelt Garner
@
sheltgarner

Mama always told me I was different. As such, when I think up character names, I struggle, really really struggle to come up with names I feel evoke the emotion I want people to feel when they see their name on the page. I have a lot of very arbitrary rules on the matter and as such for the last year names for the characters in the novel I’m attempting to develop have been one of the most difficult things to figure out.

But today, I may have figured out the name of my heroine. Maybe. I like my current given name for her because it’s unique and yet feels familiar. The instant you read her name, you feel like you know her, like you’ve at least encountered someone like her at some point in your life. And, in a sense, her name is a tip off to her native personality — she’s a manic pixie dream girl at heart. But something happened that simply made that lifestyle impossible for her as the story opens.

And, really, that’s a key difference between my heroine and, say, the gold standard for these types of novels — Lisbeth Salander. Salander is just not a very likable person. Men love her because she’s a bad ass, but they probably wouldn’t want to, like, date her. Women like her because she’s strong, complex and dark, but they, too, probably wouldn’t want to be her friend — even if she was interested in such a friendly relationship.

But my Heroine is far different. She’s constructed such that she’s actually rather affable. She’s very focused, yes, and she can easily kick any man’s ass, but she doesn’t have Asperger’s. She’s just a normal young woman who’s had something very surreal happen to her and the story opens with us seeing how that’s warped an otherwise pleasant personality into something much darker and menacing.

I would like to stress, however, that this is all conceit. My writing generally is looked down upon and many people to date have thought it sucked so bad that I shouldn’t even do it to begin with. That’s why development has been so difficult and yet so important. Add to this situation that it’s happening completely in a vacuum and, well, you can begin to understand why it’s taken a year to get to even this point.

Shrug. Rock on.

‘The Night Of Mar-A-Largo’

It’s MAGA’s World, We Just Die In It.

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

For about four years now, I have been telling anyone who will listen that I think Donald Trump is an existential threat to the Republic. The last few days have pretty much proven my case. It’s rare that I look out in the blue winter sky and wonder if I’m going to see a DPRK ICBM in the sky, heading to nearby-ish DC.

I have even begun to pace out how I would know it had happened. The EMP burst would zap all electronics in the general area of the nuclear blast and so, well, nothing would work. I have thought about how many sites the DPRK would target and the likelihood they would actually be able to blow them up. I love Koreans, but they have no “medium” switch on a cultural level. So if president crazypants managed to get them to the point where they wanted to take us down with them, then, then they would probably shoot as many as five ICBMs towards us. They have a pretty nice H-bomb arsenal at this point and the means to deliver them across the entire United States.

But they haven’t really had a chance to test the whole system, so there’s a good chance what would really happen is we would all collectively shit our pants at how fucking close we came to 10+ million dead (at least) in the United States alone. We aren’t really prepared on a psychological or emotional level to deal with THAT many dead in the context of civilization continue to exist. But that would be a real possibility — as long as the Chinese and Russians sat on their hands, any nuclear war between the DPRK and US would be on the low end of a “limited exchange.” Given how fucking bonkers Trump is, of course, he would probably nuke the North Koreans out of existence using not just tactical nukes but h-bombs. You could probably turn most of North Korea into an unlivable radioactive hellscape with as few as 5 h-bombs. Think about that. That’s pretty deep.

The point is, however, that we’re definitely lurching towards what I’ve suggested all along — things are going to get so extreme and so surreal pretty soon that we’re going to learn a lot not just ourselves as a people but something pretty basic about our nation as a whole. If there’s nothing Trump can do that will lesson his support for any reason, what happens if he get’s so bad on a mental level that we all start to think maybe we’re entering The Dead Zone. Maybe the reason there’s no intelligent life in the universe is inevitably an ET Donald Trump pops up and blows the planet to bits? Is it possible that Trump’s not just an existential threat to the Republic, he’s an existential threat to the species?

I suspect that we’re just fucked. MAGA just needs Trump cognizant enough to make it into his second term. That’s it. By that point his new Veep — The Kooch, Kris Kobach, Tom Cotton, Tucker Carlson or Don Jr? — will be in place to pick up the slack. So I fully expect one of the scenarios we face is Trump uses any war in the Middle East to win re-election and the he promptly turns into a psychological puddle and we get the American Hitler we’ve all been expecting in Trump.

I just can’t see ANYTHING that will force Trump out of office for any reason other than a peaceful death sometime in the next 10 years. He’s just one tweet away from demanding a Constitutional Convention to “pass a balanced budget amendment.” He will get it, they will go rouge and pass Enabling Acts on a Constitutional level and I die in an ICE camp sometime in the next two to three years. Lulz!

Another, far darker scenario is Trump doesn’t make that far. He manages to crater on a psychological level not when MAGA needs him to (any point after Jan 20, 2021) but, say, sometime in the January-October time frame. If things get as mindblowingly surreal as fear, Republicans will have three lines of defense, 1) Let the people decide 2) If only we back off and give him some space, he’ll make America Great Again 3) The Pence Piviot.

The last one is one of the more clever moves they might use. If things get so absolutely extreme that the Republican Lizard People finally face the unthinkable of having to admit that, well, maybe Trump really WAS a worse choice than Hillary Clinton, they will simply say that Trump needs his rest and Pence is making sure Trump’s vision of America (ugh) becomes a reality. We’re safe because of Pence, in other words.

But let’s say that doesn’t work. Then what. What if what I’ve mulled before happens. I mean, what if Trump really finally flips his lid — and in the middle of a major regional war in the Middle East, no less! Then what. Poor old Hugh Hewitt’s brain may break. If you’re such a cockholster for The Dear Leader and finally reality comes crashing into the situation in a way that even you can’t spin or deny, then, well, things are going to get fucking lit. A lot of smart, educated grown-ass men have debased themselves absolutely for the sake of Trump and every day Trump gets worse and more dangerous for not just America but the FUCKING WORLD.

The single most surreal event of my life will be if Dennis Prager+Hugh Hewitt+Matt Schlapp get on TV and have a complete, total mental and emotional breakdown when, like The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy, they realize they hitched their “lives and scared honors” to the wrong guy. This is unlikely to happen, but thinking about it happening is kind of chilling. That level of bonkers behavior on the part of a “public intellectual” would be rather disturbing.

Only if, say, a few million people died and everyone blamed Trump for it could I see that happening. In real terms, those guys have gotten what they wanted from Trump — a tax cut and young, hack MAGA judges. They have no shame and our media ecosystem is so broken that the moment Trump is no longer politically viable, they’ll change their tune in mid-conversation and act as if nothing happened. Fuck those liars.

Anyway, I generally don’t think any that extreme is going to happen. Far more likely is Trump will always be just on the cusp of losing his mind and yet never quite get so bad that Nancy Pelosi strikes by sending the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate so they can be used essentially as the 25th Amendment. He will drift into his second term and The Kooch (or whomever) will be the person who puts me in a camp and is indirectly responsible for my death in American Killing Fields. (In upstate New York maybe?)

Good night and good luck!

Radiohead & The Difficulty Of Conveying Music In A Novel

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

The reason why Radiohead is so important in my development of this novel is how difficult it is to convey music in a novel. Outside of, say, The Beatles, there really aren’t a lot of pop-rock songs that are so widely known that a lot of readers wouldn’t have to stop and actually listen to the song’s referenced.

This is a problem for me given how at its heart, this novel is about music and its importance in the lives of the characters. I have a workaround of sorts — Radiohead. Radiohead both has the type of songs I need to set mood AND has a discovery that’s wide and deep enough that I have a decent chance of referencing a song that enough people know that they WON’T have to actually listen to it.

But one thing I can’t stress enough is how important music is to this novel’s universe. It’s its soul. Its heart. The thing that binds everything together. That I’ve actually managed to pull this off (at least in my own mind) is quite an accomplishment. Or, put another way — this should be a screenplay. But I like the idea I not only have absolute creative control, but I also can give you insight into a character’s internal thoughts in a way that is difficult to do in cinema.

Another thing I struggle with is setting tone. Radiohead forces me to stay focused. People want a dark, exciting thriller not just a fast-paced version of The World According To Garp. But I simply don’t take myself very seriously and so that’s bound to pop out in the novel every once in a while. I simply don’t have THAT much self-control.

We’ll see, I guess. The last time my entire life was wrapped around something of such significance was ROKon Magazine. But that was a pretty brutal creative experience that destroyed me. Hopefully this particular hat trick won’t be as emotionally painful.

My Heroine Doesn’t Fit The Media Narrative For A Latina

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

Let me say for the record that I have no idea what I’m doing and I have no idea how long it’s going to take me to finish development of this novel, much less an actual first draft. But tonight I had a serious breakthrough on a canonical level which gives me added momentum going forward.

From the very beginning, I’ve wanted my heroine to be ethnically Latina. But as I’ve come to understand who the character is, I realize that she simply doesn’t fit the current media narrative about the Latinx community as advocated by Twitter Liberals. She’s her own person. She’s gorgeous and she can kick your ass. If you think that makes her just another “sexy slutty assassin” then fuck you. I only say that because I’ve spent much of my time the last year working to think up every possible way to flip the script on that particular trope while also giving the Latinx community a folk heroine to root for.

I want my heroine to be something that Lisbeth Salander isn’t — likable. As I’ve said from the beginning of this to-date year-long process, I want my heroine to naively be a “manic pixie dream girl,” but one that was shoved into a vat of Lisbeth Salander. Her personality has been warped because of events out of her control. She doesn’t have Asperger’s and you could actually see yourself hanging out with her but for a pretty big event in her past that totally changed who she is. I am well aware that I risk writing a younger, better looking female version of myself as my heroine. But I’m so super self-conscious about that possibility that hopefully that won’t happen.

Now, why I, a middle aged hayseed rube white guy living in a backwater portion of a purple flyover state, would do such a thing probably seems rather surreal to the average Twitter Liberal. I can’t help who I am. I can be empathetic, however. I have very strong opinions and sometimes I say things that could be perceived as offensive on any number of different levels. But I’m not racist,or a misogynist, or an incel or a bigot. I fucking hate MAGA with a white hot creative rage.

I guess some of it comes from who’s the one type of person MAGA hates the most? A Hispanic. So, if I’m going rant at the top of my lungs (using subtext) as to how much I fucking hate MAGA, the only way to do it properly is to have a Latina heroine. Throw in how much I love The Girl Who Played With Fire as a novel and, well, the rest takes care of itself. The ONLY reason why this novel is a thriller is I have to have an excuse to run around my Trump Era allegory in a way that keeps you turning pages.

I really, really want this novel to be as accessible as possible. I want everyone to have a good time — even MAGA fucktards who may be hate-reading it because Don Jr. told them it sucked. (That I even sell the damn thing is just a dream at this point. I full expect that I will have to self-publish and the best I will be able to do is get a profile in the local weekly.)

Anyway, just like you can’t hold a pregnant woman’s baby until it’s actually born, you’re going to just have to wait while I bounce between thinking, development, writing and talking a lot about what is, in real terms, still a moving object. I have a whole lot of work ahead of me still. AND my writing probably isn’t nearly as good as could be.

But I do know I’m not going embarrass myself. This could be my Sharp Object and my next novel will be my Gone Girl. Who knows.

‘All The Time In The World’

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

Tonight is something of both a test and a milestone. It’s a test because other than one pretty big issue, I’m like Burgess Meredith at the end of his most famous Twilight Zone episode: I have all the time in the world. The question is, will I figuratively break my glasses or not? If I don’t hit the ground running pretty soon, then, well, I guess we know our answer.

But I don’t think that will happen. So tonight is a milestone. I plan on being a lot more serious with development starting tonight. I may play a little bit by writing on this blog, but I hope to throw myself into development tonight. I have a few concerns — I may have a cavity I have to deal with in the near term — but I hope I can at least wrap up development of the first act this weekend to such an extent that I can start to do a lot more practical research starting now.

I am using Audible to force myself to at least be exposed to some of my mindshare competition — I can’t simply flip through The Girl Who Played With Fire as a textbook forever. And there continue to be some lingering existential issues with the novel that I am very well aware of. The story is great, and, yet, it’s not Network. I name names (in a way) and that is simply not done in Network and other similar political works of art.

Or, put another way, while I’m trying very, very hard to appease MAGA with this novel on an existential level, given that MAGA is a fucking cult and any criticism of Der Fuehrer can never be brooked, well, there you go. That’s probably the biggest lingering existential problem — I could probably take out the conspicuous finger pointing of our current POTUS, and, yet, it’s my abject creative rage against the Trump Administration that has given me the energy to keep going with this novel long after I might otherwise have given up. If I can find a beta reader willing to help me figure out how to lop off the most obvious political aspects of the story, I’m all ears. I want this to be as big a tentpole as possible. As it stands, I got nothing. Introducing our deranged Chauncey Gardner president as a super-massive black hole that comes near to the plot at a crucial moment raises the stakes about as high as you can get. If the stakes get any higher nuclear weapons or aliens will be involved.

So, as of right now, things are going good-to-great. A lot, A LOT, can go wrong now. But I hope all the potential disasters can simply delay, not end, my quest to write a timely political guilty pleasure techno-thriller allegory for woke Park Slope Brooklyn moms. If I manage to write an American response to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo AND give the Latinx community a fictional folk hero AND tell MAGA to FUCK OFF, all the fucking better.

Let’s rock.

‘Remain’ — #Lyrics To A Pop Ballad Ode To Brexit

Shelton Bumgarner

The point of this is it’s supposed to be vague enough that it might be about a couple’s break up on a romantic level. There’s a bit of deflection for poetic effect. I have no idea why write these lyrics. It’s a complete waste of time. I don’t know anything about music and, besides, the entire system is designed to prevent people like me from breaking into it — especially at such an “advanced” age. But this idea came to me and I thought I’d share. Maybe someone, somewhere, can do something with hit. I would, at least, like credit.

Remain
lyrics by Shelton Bumgarner
@sheltgarner
please give credit if you produce or perform

things were never good
but never this bad
it’s breaking me up
making the dust scatter
as my state of mind feels a death rattle
I just want you to remain
remain
remain
remain

remain
it’s not a complaint
just a statement of faith
remain, remain, remain, remain

we’re going buckle the order
and sow discord
just because of the lies we told
my health is getting worse
no funds to pay for an upgrade
why did it have to end this way
I just wanted to say
remain
remain
remain

remain
it’s not a complaint
just a statement of faith
remain, remain, remain, remain

(bridge)
I’ll leave ’cause I must
my heart has spoken
but my mind is a bust
this union end’s is hard
no deals left to make
I just wish we’d remain
together

remain
remain
remain
remain

Development In A Vacuum

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner


Today is crucial because, in a sense, it’s a new era in the novel’s development. I’m going to try to wrap up the scene summary on a scene-level ASAP. No later than my birthday in late February. But this could be a pretty rocky point in the year for me for a number of reasons and everything could be thrown out of whack in an rather dramatic and unexpected manner.

Or not.

One thing I’ve noticed about Stieg Larsson’s first book, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is that the first 132 pages or so are dead boring. Once you get past that point, however, the rest of the series is a lot of fun and zooms past at lightening speed, much to the detriment of your sleep schedule. I don’t know what happened at that point in the writing of that first novel, but something changed. My guess is he wrote and re-wrote those pages over the years to such an extent that it completely drained the work of any entertainment value. He came back to what he had written at some point with fresh eyes and simply used what he had when things started to work far, far better.

But that could be complete bullshit. Who knows.

That’s unlikely to happen to me because I’m doing so much development instead of “just writing” as so many people want me to do. I think if you were to study the structure of the completed novel — whenever that happens — you will definitely see how much work I put into the first act. I’ve obsessed over the first 20 scenes so much that there is an exacting sequence of events that get us to the inciting incident.

Anyway. I have no idea what I’m doing and I haven’t even really started writing seriously on the first-but-really-second draft yet. I have no idea how successful any of this is going to be because, well, I’m doing it in a complete vacuum.