Saturday, December 28, 2013

All Hail the Dark Crystal!

You've seen 'Dark Crystal' right? No? Yes? Maybe? It's that muppet thing from 1982 that Jim Henson did. Ring any bells? Once you get past the fact it's a puppet movie targeted at kids, it's really about a genocidal war and slavery and oppression and to cap it off, the end of the world. Or the beginning.
Aughra sees what I did there.

No wonder I adored it as a wee tiny child.

The good folks over at The Jim Henson Company and Grosset & Dunlap of the Penguin Young Readers Group are holding an open call for authors to write a DarkCrystal prequel novel. As a writer who adores epic fantasy, especially gruesome children's stories and regularly gets notes back on my own work that this is really really dark for a children's story, I'M ALL OVER IT YO.

Except I found out around December 4th and the deadline is December 31th.


The contest organizers picked a fairly narrow time frame they want the book set in and the super-helpful folks over at Dark Crystal even made a .pdf doc of all the known canon from that era as a reference. The website itself is an excellent resource, especially to someone like me who didn't even know there were other books and comics and stuff expanding the universe.

Without that, it'd be like writing a Star Wars prequel without knowing about the Old Republic.

They want the book set right in the beginning, before the Gelflings realize the Skeksis are waging a secret war on them to drain them of their vital essence. To sum up, the Skeksis suck the life out of the Gelflings and drink it to keep themselves young. So think vampire, not Red Cross. The Gelflings are not sent home with balloon and a 'Thanks for Donating!' sticker.

That's also when things get weird. The timeline gives me a headache.

The entire movie is about the last two surviving Gelflings and a prophecy about Gelflings healing the Dark Crystal and restoring balance to the force and stopping the Skeksis, but the prophecy doesn't happen until the Wall of Destiny goes up about 100 A.G.C (After Great Conjunction) (There ain't no Gelfling Jesus to number calenders around) (It's fantasy, go with it).

The Gelflings don't know exactly what or who is attacking them until the Wall of Destiny happens, so there's a hundred year period during which eighteen Skeksis (canon number) wage secret war on the thousands and thousands of Gelflings and the Gelfling never twig to it. Not a tinfoil hat 'the guv'ment is gonna get me' war either, an actual war with hundreds of prisoners transported to the Crystal Castle and killed.

Just eighteen Skeksis. Maybe if they were Daleks, or Cybermen, or Borg. You want me to believe that eighteen lousy Skeksis managed to;

1) Always attack without getting spotted, 
2) Always escape with their prisoners, 
3) Secretly transport them into the Castle that's guarded by Gelflings, 
3) No prisoners EVER escape or elude capture, 
4) NOBODY noticed anything? Ever?

Well, they'd notice these guys. Meet the Garthim! 

Only three easy payments of 19.95, vital for all your Gelfling collecting needs!

The source docs say they're incredibly stupid but in the movie they're seen traveling from the Castle to the Podling village (hours away), smashing it up, capturing Podlings ALIVE, and returning promptly. Also they traveled to Aughra's Observatory (a place they'd never been) and did the same thing. 

They don't get distracted by plants or water crossings or funny smells?

Accomplishing those tasks is a complicated sequence of events. Break those behaviors down for a mo'. Have you ever tried teaching dog with no fetching instinct how to fetch? Or a cat how to pick up a rat without crunching it and letting the gooey cream filling out? They might not be truly sentient, but Garthim are a lot smarter than anyone gives them credit for.

I rewatched the movie, jotted down anything that caught my attention, and then camped out at a bakery with excellent coffee for about five days just free-typing as I tried to hash out my story. Stray thoughts happened. Ideas were examined and discarded with abandon. I went in a lot of odd directions before I settled on the high points and got busy writing. They wanted a 7-10k sample of the story I wanted to tell. HA! (I couldn't articulate that completely until I wrote the summery yesterday)

My excellent script reader, Michelle, was willing to take time out of her holiday to do a quick and dirty evaluation for readability and plotholes big enough the Galactica could fly through.

She sent it back on the 22nd, that gave me a little over a week to get it together. I spent the next couple of days polishing the edges and addressing each note. I FINISHED! (Uh-oh... a good thing happened... guess you know what THAT means...)

High on glee, I idly poked around the website just because I felt like it. Good thing I did.

Skeksis don't make the Garthim until after the Wall of Destiny happens.



I say again, the Skekis DON'T build their foot soldiers until AFTER the Gelfling realize SOMEONE is after them. Okay, so, yeah... no. No. NO. The Skeksis are NOT gullible, or optimists, or battle hardy behemoths. They scheme and hide and plot and lie and lie and lie about what they're really doing for as long as possible because they're afraid the Gelflings could stop them.

So why would they start doing it when there's only eighteen of them? You don't go to war when you're outnumbered thousands to one with no soldiers. 

Tactical sense=none.

As a result, on Christmas day I discovered half my story just became invalid. Literally, I had twenty pages and ten of those were about the Garthim. Merry Christmas to me. I haunted the Author Quest message board, relieved I wasn't the only person thrown for a loop on the timeline, and prayed for a solution. After I wasted half a day wallowing trying to convince myself that I could hand-wavy that awkward fact away and give the Skeksis Garthim and keep my PERFECT STORY PERFECT, I accepted reality.

It was the five stages of grief in about twelve hours. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, like psychotic emotional Christmas roller coaster.

T-5 days to deadline.

You know what got me to the finish line?

Steven Moffat. Yeah, him. I saw an interview and he said that he wrote Blink over a long weekend and it went into production ten days later (I know, I know, he'd been thinking about the story a hell of a lot longer than a weekend) but the epic awesomeness that is Blink happened fast! In a weekend!

I can fix a short story over five days. Not that I'm saying I'm as badass or talented as Steven Moffat, but I CAN DO THIS and someday I want to write Doctor Who so as a step down that road, I'M FIXING THIS.

The rewrite process illustrated through interpretive dance: 

*Battle cry*
*Actual cry*
*Chugging beer*
*Weeping into the keyboard*
*Weeping angels on my keyboard*
*Fuck me it's three AM again*
*I can sleep in January*
*Wash, rinse, repeat*

Then a miracle happened, I DID IT. I fixed it, the Garthim are gone. It's as canon as I can make it. I'm going to fiddle with it for one more day searching for the next-to last typo (there's always one that gets away) before I submit and then put it on my 'You Tried' board as my last 2013 accomplishment.

'Cause I rule. 

*Pirouettes into the sunset*  

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