A narrower church

Over the last week or so Human Wave SF/fantasy has been gathering momentum (the tummies of moments) and it would seem heading steadily towards that lovely Monty Python skit about how the Anglican church would welcome any satanists… you can’t be exclusive, you know. Well, as we’re slightly wider in scope than the dietary tolerances of the monkey I would offer this outline so it can garner “Human Wave SF” approval. See: there is this Alien world settled by this small group of Christian settlers (bad people) and our hero (or rather observer) is the only young boy in a village populated by men (bad, because they’re men) where everyone is telepathic and the result is ‘noise’. The boy is told this because of a germ released by the native species, the Spackle, and that killed all the women. The ‘hero’ then discovers a moving spot of silence, which turns out to be a girl who has crashed with a spaceship and lost parents in the crash. Women, being good, aren’t affected by the germ. It turns out that the (bad Christian) men lied and that they killed off the women and the poor Spackle is completely innocent (and a victim of Christian male human aggression), and they will only let the boy become a man by murdering someone. They get to meet a women who tells them all this and takes them to her village. An army of men from the bad village burn their village down and kill anyone who won’t join them. The hero and heroine have various adventures to show how good the girl is and how bad the men are before one of the bad men shoots the good girl through the stomach. The hero then carries her to Haven which is an a place with high technology where they can contact the girl’s people still in space. Only the bad men from the village have arrived and taken over the most advanced settlement on the planet without a fight and the Mayor of the bad village now declares himself president of the world.

I’m sure that really we can somehow say this is Human Wave too can’t we? And by doing this we could be all-inclusive, because that is a very bad and unflattering outline (the brackets are my interpretation of the rather obvious stereotype after stereotype. I’ve left out a few like the inevitable bad priest and good male-male relationship) of one of the champions of “literary trough of despond’ sf (as opposed Human wave?) “The knife of never letting go” by Patrick Ness. It won the Booktrust, Tiptree and Guardian Awards in 2009.

No, the church is not that broad… not if I am going into it, anyway. I am sure some people must love this sort of thing, but I’ll pass. Must be the exploration and understanding it brought to me about gender (the stated aim of the Tiptree). I don’t really need to know my place that badly, so I’ll give it a miss.

Ok I am frantically trying to finish a book so how about a competition. No cheating. No using Atwood plots. I mean your OWN plot, the one that could win you all those prizes and acclaim if you wrote it. Some people like it.
The most Lit trough plot outline wins.

The judge’s decision is final. We won’t have any of this popularity rubbish. On Friday I’ll pick a worthy winner to send a copy of DOG AND DRAGON (when get my copies!) to… hopeful as an example of the inverse…

Oh By the way, there is a free e-book available from the 28th until the 1st as a promotion.


    1. Yep. While even the most ‘trough-of-despond’ books may have an aspect which is Human Wave-ish… well, they don’t all fit. Charlie Martin cited some historical interviews as examples of historical Human wave authors. Well, some – like Poul Anderson – certainly had some work this IS. Others like Harlan Ellison… whatever else you may say, aren’t

    1. but… but… if you don’t get any of it how are we going EDUCATE you!
      Look Lit trough-of-despond has its fans. They are real, and buy books. I think they’re actually a fairly small but very noisy group, but I could be wrong. As far as my limited research goes that are largely people who are shielded from the nastiness of reality (like, you know, having to trap, kill, pluck and gut their own soy before having their soy latte at the trendy coffee shop.) and like to imagine the great unwashed (us) getting our comeuppance for being bad (TM).

  1. Piers Anthony’s Firefly. It’s been a long time since I read it, so I may be a bit wobbly on the details. It’s about a monster slug that crawls out of the ocean once a millennia or so to reproduce. It uses sexual pheromones to attrack prey to feed up for the egg laying.

    What makes the story absolute trough material is that the hero’s girlfriend was sexually abused as a child (by male relatives), found the love of her life (A convicted sex offended, but she looked 18 so it didn’t count) who was arrested, convicted (but it didn’t count because it was True Love) and killed by the other inmates in prison. Thus making her the victim of the (white male) justice system. So, with more psychoses than you can count, she retreats into one of her multiple personalities so as to avoid reacting emotionally to the death of her son(killed by the sea slug) and enabling her to fall in love with the hero.

    The hero, IIRC, does do in the monster at the end, but he makes sure the egg it laid right after it ate the afore mentioned girlfriend survives, because he thinks the prey’s personality survives in the new sea slug.

    Looking back, it’s hard to believe I read the whole thing.

    1. While that sounds like it deserves to win twice, I actually means YOUR plot :-). A story you could (if you could stomach it) write and get the trough-of-despond awards

  2. Hey, while I like the thought of winning the prize, the two published examples make me want to curl up in a corner and gibber.

    1. Well, that’s what they’re SUPPOSED to do. Can’t have you feeling anything but miserable, can we? Why if we did that, you might, I dunno, be happy? think you didn’t owe us?

  3. I think that my concept of it all is simple, and is certainly defined in an exclusive way (by what is excluded.)
    It doesn’t matter to me how bad a situation the characters find themselves in, It’s good to be human. (Or whatever alien you are.) As a species, we are glorious.

    1. As far as moi is concerned, the minute you start using stereotypes (instead of individuals) you’re probably not there. You can have a bad priest or good gay character. But they good or bad by their volition and choices. The defining characteristic to me is that the hero/heroine acts in a way which does not bring shame on humans, (just because they’re humans, especially hetero white male western ones, are stereotype bad), but instead shows some of the traits we all know exist in humanity at its best: love, courage, determination… refusing to give up.

  4. Ah. _My_ plot? I tried writing one once that got too icky to go very far.

    On the theory that if the universe splits with every significant event, in order to maintain a multi-verse conservation of mass and energy, other universes would have to merge. So I had some number of “barely changed” worlds merging. With the main characters dealing with merging with the people they would have been had they made other decisions. For instance, married someone else, or studied in another field . . . fortunately I quit before I decided what to do about the children they did-or-didn’t have. It was getting a bit too weird with multiple spouses and land ownership issues and buildings falling down because they hadn’t been built or something different was built there. I’d got to the point of deciding it was time to drop an asteroid and let the biosphere start over from plankton and bacteria, and stopped writing.

    1. sorry, that fails the Trough-of-despond test. Characters could still make individual choices. And it could be interesting and choices could be noble.

  5. I think Charlie’s point is not to reject someone/something based on the elements in it, but you know, you still can’t have someone being evil JUST because they’re white/black/purple with spots. They can be evil, but you have to back it up. If you just do stereotypes, then clearly you’re not supporting it. But again, A Canticle for Leibowitz outline sounds like slough of despond, BUT if you read it it’s human wave stuff. Unfortunately it comes down to “I know it when I see it” but what I kind of put out sort of works as parameters. And the “know it when see it” is tricky. The Name of The Rose (novel) WOULD BE Human Wave, if it were SF. The movie, OTOH isn’t.

    As for winning this contest? Hands down?

    Humans arrive at beautiful pristine planet. They’re humans, therefore bad. They’re there to rapine, pillage, etc. Planet is full… cr*p. Avatar. I could still write it and win this.

  6. Bah. I’ve never been much for following instruction, anyway.
    The following is an obnoxiously blatant tangent. If it is/becomes too much of a distraction, the mods are welcome to remove it.

    The ink-stained wretch cowered before the desk of the Lord High Publisher. The Lord High Publisher skewered him with a steely gaze, and the pitiful creature screamed in pain.
    “Silence, Igor!” The Lord High Commander said these words softly, but to Igor, they were as thunder. He raised a pitiful bundle of papers, as if to ward off blows.
    He began to whine in a nasally voice, “Master, I think I have found something in the pile!”
    “Very well, Igor.” The Lord High Publisher said, sounding bored. “And just what have you found amongst the slush?”
    Igor perked up. It seemed his master was in a generous mood. Perhaps, he might even avoid being stapled, spindled and mutilated. Igor began to say, “Master, I have found a story that will make you rich beyond…” Until he was cut off by a ringing slap.
    The Lord High Publisher set the bell back down on his desk, and said, “I have heard this all before. Just answer my questions, and I shall judge for myself. Is this story shamelessly derivative?”
    “Yeth Mather.” Igor said, for his tongue had been rather badly crushed by the clapper.
    “Does this story feature saving the world, epic heroics, and an improbable plot involving a McGuffin?”
    “Oh, Yeth Mather.”
    The Lord High Publisher began to look interested, and said, “Is it full of million-to-one chances and other impossible odds?”
    “Yeth Mather”.
    “Does it feature a humble, likable protagonist?”
    “Yeth Mather.”
    “Is it full of fantastic creatures, locations, and unpronounceable names?”
    Igor began nodding rapidly. “Yeth Mather!”
    The Lord High Publisher leaned forward with a predatory look, and said, “And there is, of course, gratuitous sex?”
    Igor looked stricken.
    The Lord High Publisher said, “I’ll take that as a No.” He pushed a button on his desk. A trapdoor opened underneath Igor, and the cowering wretch disappeared with a dwindling scream. A moment later, a gout of flame shot up through the open trapdoor.
    The Lord High Publisher shook his head (but very carefully, for he’d only recently returned from a four-martini lunch.) “Too bad.” He said to himself. “That story sounded like it had potential.”

  7. So here’s a nice lit trough plot

    Our narrator (gender TBD) is in hospital. (S)he regains consciousness to hear various medical people discussing someone with little chance of survival – severe internal bleeding, organ damage, skull fractures, facial damage including blinding, the possibility of major brain trauma etc.

    The narrator flashes back to remembering encountering a gang of identical looking men on a subway train. And then being followed down the dark streets and after a chase raped and beaten by them. But the narrator realizes there is something wrong with this memory because he/she has never traveled on a subway. Yet the men seem familiar. And we have another flash back to the same man kissing the narrator in private box at a theatre during a musical. The same man appears to be acting on stage. And then after the curtain goes down for the interval they go back stage to meet the actor but before they get there the narrator is accused of being a prostitute and kicked down some dark stairs. The narrator sees the actor open the door at the bottom of the stairs. The door shuts and in the darkness the narrator is again raped and beaten up.

    And there are many more flashbacks like these. In each of them the same man and his twin(s) beat the narrator up and usually there’s a side order of graphic rape. But gradually the narrator detects his/her own gender in these attacks, and sometimes it is male and sometimes female. Likewise the narrator’s skin color is sometimes pale and sometimes dark. In between some of the flashbacks we hear more of the medical staff discussing serious injuries. These discussions hint that the intent is not necessarily to heal but just to stabilize the patient

    The final flashback is of a nurse in an ICU hospital ward with yet another bloody beaten up and raped patient coming in. The nurse ends her shift and on her way out meets a doctor who looks like all the other attackers. But she knows his name (Dr Mengel) and that he is in charge of the ICU ward. They discuss the patients, and how mysteriously, they all seem to move together. The nurse even points out that she saw three heart monitors and they were all beating in sync. There’s more chit chat and then again we get another doctor who looks like the first one and they assault her.

    This is where the narrator realizes he/she is telepathic and that in fact he/she has become a group consciousness from all the victims. Finally the group manages to put together the vision from two or three of its bodies and can see the two doctors discussing them. The doctors are of course the identical twins that have been in every attack. Yet another body is able to master its mouth, tongue etc. and croaks a question “Why?”
    The doctor’s reply in sync “Because we need another us to breed”
    The end.

  8. Trough of despond:

    A teenage girl starts making local headlines preaching about “gaia” and some folk claim she can work miracles. The story starts to spread and soon she is making national headlines. Some claim she is actually the “maiden” form of the “Great Earth Mother” returned to the Earth. Among the things she preaches against are waste, pollution, and overpopulation. Enter the evil industrialists (white Christian males of course) and scientists (“Western male science” of course) who seek to discredit her. The conflict grows until the industrialists, so they can continue to pollute and destroy the environment for their own profit, frame the girl for various crimes. The judge (another white male) ignores the obviously bogus nature the evidence and she is convicted and sentenced to a long stretch in a Federal prison. However, the girl escapes by the simple expedient of walking out of prison. No one can explain it. The conflict between the girl, openly calling herself Gaia now, and the industrialists continues until they decide to take final steps. A heavily armed hit team breaks into where Gaia is preaching peace, love, and environmentalism and starts shooting. Her worshippers are slaughtered and Gaia is riddled with machine gun bullets. But, miracle of miracles, she rises, dripping blood but with her wounds visibly closing. She declares “Enough!” The human race has proven itself unworthy. All around her people start retching and fall to the ground coughing up blood. A hideous plague spreads. The painful, bloody effects of this plague are described in loving detail using various industrialists, christian clergy, and white male scientists as examples.

    In six months, the human race is extinct. Plants and wildlife are starting to take over the deserted cities. We close with Gaia holding out a handful of seed to a young fawn that tenderly eats from her hand.

    1. Yep. Rick Boatright who put up for us used a site that allows you to design similar covers. You’re the first to comment/notice though 🙂

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