Saturday, March 12, 2005

Ransom Note UPDATE: Hold your calls, the demands have been met

I got the 5 responses I asked for--within 24 hours, no less (damn, I should have put THAT in the original challenge!)--so it's back to BEGINNINGS again. I had a very difficult week in the daylight world, and it was great to come home and read such nice comments about the story.

While it would have been nice enough to just get some basic "yeah, keep doing it" messages, the best thing of all was discovering exactly how thoughtful and articulate the writers were. I may only be writing for 100 or so people, but if even half of them are this cool, I'm happy. Just to be clear, I didn't really post the challenge because I was feeling unappreciated or anything. Obviously I write this stuff first and foremost for myself, and I already knew there were some like-minded readers out there who share my weird mix of raunch and intellectualizing-about-raunch. A few of these folks have become good (if virtual) friends, which brings me great joy.I also didn't do it because I had run out of ideas. (If anything, I have way too many, at this point in the story.) I only wanted to experiment with the unique possibiities of a blog as a vehicle for storytelling. Maybe I'll try other experiments in the future.

One of the people who wrote had this to say:

"...Using your own personal experience as an example, I would think this is not the conclusion, but rather the beginning. If I recall correctly one of your blog posts (about an early encounter with the Monk), this is where it gets interesting.

"I have strong reservations about killing either character off--or even leaving them in a vanquished state. For me, Batman and Robin are heroes; and despite the enjoyment I get out of seeing them in situations of distress, it's important (for me at least) to see them triumph in the end. (It's why I keep expecting you to write a follow-up to the Sadist story someday.)

"I would think this might be a real creative challenge for you; now that you've broken them, how do you imagine these men rebuilding themselves? How does this affect their future partnership? How does it change Batman to know that he's been broken?"

There is so much in this response that I want to comment on. First, there's the reminder that when it comes to broken heroes, I know what I'm talking about. (I hate to say it, but it really turns me on to have a complete stranger remind me that I am, in fact, a broken man. From the moment I started posting here about my adventures with the Monk I've been feeling an immense charge from making my defeat public. Like the original unmasking I endured, it's something that can't be undone, and that thrills me in a powerful way. When people other than the Monk refer to me as "Ratman"--a name I hate--it feels both awful and exciting at the same time. No matter what I may tell myself, there will always be certain inescapable facts I have to live with.) I'll have more to say about all this some other time, but suffice it to say I will certainly be drawing on firsthand experience of bottoming out in telling Bruce's story from this point on, just as I have already leaned heavily on my ordeal at the hands of my own (semi-)real life Dr. Strange thus far.

As for needing to see the heroes triumph in the end (two other writers expressed a similar wish): wow, yes, of course. I sometimes forget how loaded my main character is for other people, not just me. As every slash disclaimer notes, I don't "own" Batman any more than someone could own Santa Claus. My connection to him is obviously intense and highly personal, spanning most of my life, and when I read that someone else finds it "important" for him to survive and thrive, I realize how true that is, on a cultural as well as a personal level. (Not trying to get too big for my batboots here, but it's late and I am prone to big-picture pontification at such an hour.) As I've written many times here, the biggest thrill for me is to see Batman go right to the brink of annhiliation and then pull himself back at the last possible minute. (Needless to say, I blame the ritualized cliffhangers of the '66 TV show for this.) I've read a little superhero snuff fiction (ie, stories in which the hero does not escape at the last minute) and it always feels a little weird and wrong, albeit in a creepily enticing way.

On the other hand, the beauty of Bob Kane's creation is that at this point, no one can kill him off for long--he always springs back to life in another story told by somebody new. Doyle couldn't kill off Sherlock Holmes, DC couldn't keep Superman dead for long... Then again, there's the death of Jason Todd's Robin, which was final, and which (even if it started off as a cheap publicity gimmick) has brought great emotional weight to later depictions of Batman's saga. Now he has to deal not only with the death of his parents but the loss of his symbolic son.

Okay, back to my own story. I confess I rather enjoyed the brief break from posting chapters, and there's no way I can keep up that pace of adding new ones in the days ahead, but I'm also looking forward to starting up again.

And, yes, what has happened so far is ... only the beginning.

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