Saturday, November 28, 2009
Two Thoughts from the Space-Time Continuum
I convinced my wife to watch “Star Trek” on DVD. I saw it opening day back in May and have been anticipating seeing it again once it landed on DVD. In the Age of Complete Convenience For Everything You Might Remotely Want*, Blockbuster had loads of copies and I rented one. We saw it again tonight (Friday) and it led me to a statement and a question.
Reboots Are Not All Bad
I don’t know how many die-hard Trekkies lamented the events of the latest Star Trek movie. In one fell swoop, director J. J. Abrams wiped out all that we knew and created something new (nice rhyming, huh?). We had critics griping that there’s only one Kirk and Shatner is the one to play him. Ditto Spock, McCoy, and all the rest. It sure is loud, all that lamenting and wailing and gnashing of teeth.
I did not count myself among the lamenters. As I wrote on my blog, I consider Star Trek my favorite movie. After initially being ambivalent about the film based on the first trailer, I came around quite swiftly and ended up loving the film more than I expected. Yes, they changed a lot--everything?--but one thing survived: the spirit of Star Trek lives in the new movie and among the new cast.
The same thing will be said about the new Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law. Critics are already lambasting the film, the director, the action-adventure aspect of the film, and, of course, the casting of Downey. But, like the Star Trek film, I can tell that the spirit of the source material lives in the movie. Sure, Downey’s no Jeremy Brett (my choice for a definitive Holmes) but, then, neither was Michael Caine.
I think it’s okay that every generation updates certain classic characters and I can’t think of any character or situation that is so sacrosanct as to automatically preclude updating (or a reboot). Can you? And who here is really, Really looking forward to seeing the new Sherlock Holmes movie?
What Is It With Young Men?
Again, with the new Star Trek film, young James Kirk is a genius rebel who grew up without a father and uses self-destructive behavior to hide his anger and guilt. All of this happens, of course, until Someone Else talks to them and motivates them to rise and become the man they were born to be.
How many friggin times have we seen this? The list is virtually endless: Star Wars, Top Gun, Star Trek, Batman Begins, A Few Good Men, Good Will Hunting, etc. There are the older stories and myths most of which don’t come to mind because I’m just not that up-to-date with my Greek and Roman myths (but I know they are there).
Which leads me to the question I posed to my wife last night and I now throw out to you: Are there any stories like this with young women as the protagonist, the one who must rise up and become the woman she was born to be? None come to mind and I’m honestly wondering if there are any. I know there must be so, please, enlighten me.
*Age of Complete Convenience For Everything You Might Remotely Want -- My family and I drove around Houston on Thursday, visiting family, eating, and playing a Wii for the first time. Thirty years ago, when it came to Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day, there was *nothing* open. Period. If you didn’t get something by the eve before, you were out of luck until the day after said holiday.
Not anymore. I noticed Cracker Barrel was open. Kroger was open. Walgreens and CVS were open (do they ever close?). Other places whose names escape me were open. And don’t even get me started on this “Open at 4am” crap.
When, in the last thirty-odd years, did it become important that we, as a society, must not be put out and have to wait for something just because a store was closed?
Friday, November 27, 2009
Sequels, Series and Neccesity
Stephen King the other day mentioned that he had an idea for a sequel to “The Shining” which would deal with a grown up Danny Torrance, in his forties, helping old folks cross over and betting on the horses. Now, in some ways it might make for an interesting book, but I for one ain’t so sure.*
Sometimes you just need to let an idea go. Sometimes you don’t need to know “what happened next”. You know everything that you need to know.
I get it, I do, and I know it’s what fuels the “series” market, this need to know what happened next to beloved characters, but honestly I don’t think we always need to know. I think sometimes we’re better off not knowing. Or just figuring it out in our own heads.
Now, I loved The Shining, but I don’t give a toss what happened to Danny forty years later. For a start, forty years later he ain’t gonna be that same wee lad whose dad went mental and who had to face shape-shifting bushes, killer wasps and some bloody weird spooks hanging around the Overlook Hotel. He’s going to be an entirely different person and not one that I’m sure I want to know, particularly, at least in the sense that I’d know he was also that terrified wee kid. Now, maybe I could take a return to the Overlook, but honestly I just don’t want to know what happened to any of the folks we met there first time around. Far as I’m concerned, their story was done and dusted, and in the way that King tells his germ for the story, I don’t see why it couldn’t just be some other guy with some cool psychic powers he was writing about.
Here’s the thing; some characters just need to be around for one story. Or maybe a few more if they cry out for it. I’m not against sequels. Just against ones that feel redundant (and boy, there are a lot of those around). I’m not even against series (Technically I’m writing one), but I am against those that outstay their welcome and their relevance.
I always admired the chutzpah of British writer Ray Banks who created a character that lasted over four books. And then he put him away. No fooling. And that’s cool, because he told the stories that needed to be told with that character. I’m a fan of sequences in fiction, but not necessarily of series, which I think can often play themselves into the ground or, even worse, start repeating after a while. There is at least one top-selling writer I can think of whose more recent books I have started skipping over because, while I have fun with them, I know exactly what’s going to happen and have no fear that everything will turn out right in the end. I mean this guy is now writing the same damn novel every time and while that’s cool and a bit of “fast food for the brain”, it is beginning to really irk me because I’m a reader who doesn’t want to know what happens next, who wants the unexpected and occasionally the unwanted if it makes for a good and unpredictable reading experience.
I couldn’t go this far without mentioning George Pelecanos, of course, who tends to drop series after three or four books, ultimately creating some of the most memorable characters you’ll ever read. Despite a cameo in a later novel, I’m glad he left Nick Stefanos behind and I think he was right to drop off the Strange Investigations books where he did because, man, those stories said what they needed to say and said it well. Just because some characters were still living does not mean that I want to follow them to death.
Maybe its because I have some kind of literary commitment issues. Or maybe its an extension of my need for brevity and clarity in writing which has previously been applied to the length of novels. I don’t know, but I don’t always see the need for sequels unless they advance the themes and/or characters in some way that feels natural and pertinent. Its one of the reasons I talk about McNee only lasting a certain number of books, because I wonder just how long I can evolve the character before he starts repeating himself. I still remember the crushing disappointment of the day I realised one of my favourite series characters had quit evolving, had started standing still, had resorted to cheap tricks to keep me interested.
And I wished that his story had ended one book earlier. Knew that if it had, the sequence of books as stood would have been perfect.
*it should also be noted that King hasn’t fully “committed” to writing “Doctor Sleep” as he tentatively titled the novel. But it serves as a nice jumping off point for me here.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Here's what everyone at DSD is thankful for:
John McFetridge:" I'm thankful for the community. The way we Canadians and Brits and Scots and Americans and Irish and Australians (maybe I've gone too far?) can 'talk' to each other everyday - writers, readers, all of us.
Really, this whole internet thing would be a waste of time without us."
Jay Stringer: "I reckon thankful for an agent who beleives in my work, good supportive friends and the community at large who are all way nicer than their dark moody crime image will allow.
And Wolverhampton Wanderers. I'm allways thankful for them, and they've had books written about them so it counts."
Russel MacLean is thankful for our agent Allan Guthrie, saying: "...he is indeed a man to be thankful for. Even if he does keep insisting that I should have made McNee a transexual, one-legged dward. From the future."
Steve Weddle: "Thankful to work with the world's best agent, write with you super talented guys, and read along with our community of clever commenters."
Scott Parker: "I'm thankful for the publication of my first short story at Beat to a Pulp and to David and Elaine who thought my story worthy enough.
I'm thankful that Charles Ardai saw a market niche in the publishing industry that needed to be filled and created Gabriel Hunt and hired top-notch talent to pen his adventures.
I'm thankful that established companies like DC Comics took a gamble and published Wednesday's Comics, an old-school throwback to the days when comics were a bit more simple but no less entertaining.
I'm thankful that I got invited to join Do Some Damage and to participate in great conversations with six great authors."
Mike Knowles: "My agent, the dashing Al Guthrie, puts up with way too many of my questions and gives me nothing but literary gold in return. It's a good symbiotic relationship."
And me? Dave White is thankful for his agent, who is patient beyond belief, the editors I've had who've helped me out with my books, and for all the fans who've read those books. I really appreciate all the help I've gotten in this industry. Everyone has been super supportive.
And of course... All the members of DSD thank Steve Weddle for getting this idea together.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
In the last couple of weeks I saw two stage plays and read two novels. The plays were “big theme” stories. Rock and Roll by Tom Stoppard was about the Czeck Republic emerging from communism, it takes place between 1968 and 1993 and has a lot to say about totalitarianism and freedom and spirit – and Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys.
Stuff Happens by David Hare is the story of the Bush Administration and how they got into Iraq. It has all the big players in it; Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Blair, Rice, Powell – Saddam isn’t in it but there are a few lines from an Iraqi refuge and a Palestinian. Big geopolitic ideas discussed.
The novels weren’t about such big events. George V, Higgins’ Cogan’s Game is about, well, a lot of things. It starts out with two very small time crooks who get out of jail and talk to another guy they met in jail – a small-time operator himself – about robbing a big-money card game. Not movie-style, multi-million dollar big money, but fifty grand – big money to these guys.
Like Higgins’ other Boston novels, The Friends of Eddie Coyle and The Digger’s Game, the book is almost all dialogue, it’s just like being in the room or the car or on the bus with these guys and listening to them talk. Sometimes it’s frustrating – they aren’t the brightest guys – but mostly you understand where they’re coming from and what they want. And it’s always small stuff.
Old City Hall is kind of a big sweeping story that covers a lot of the same ground as my novels, the whole “multicultural Toronto,” but it takes place in much nicer places than my books. It’s a traditional murder mystery, a woman is found dead in the first chapter and then lots of characters piece together what really happened to her. It’s really a very personal tragedy, and quite self-contained.
Elmore Leonard has said that he doesn’t know what the themes are in his books until Scott Frank adapts them into screenplays and shows him, but that’s just Elmore poking the academics and big-time critics who can’t tell the difference between genre and literature but think they can.
I use theme as a crutch. When I’m writing a book and I hit a snag, or when I get into what Linwood Barclay so accurately calls the, “mushy middle,” I write a scene that may not advance the plot, but does explore the theme. Sometimes those scenes even stay in the book, but even if they get cut they’ve helped keep the momentum going and helped me work out the theme a little more myself.
But I don’t want the theme to overtake the action. I like big theme stories like Rock and Roll and Stuff Happens but they both kept the story moving and were very enertaining, They both had plenty of jokes – dark, twisted jokes, maybe, but the auidiences still laughed.
In Dirty Sweet the theme is opportunity – how some people see it everywhere and others don’t see it anywhere. Okay, not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but complicated enough for me.
Right now I’m at the mushy middle of the book I’m working on and I’m writing a lot of stuff that may not make it past the final edit, but it is helping me get a real handle on the theme.
So, how much do you think about theme? When you write and when you read?
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
You couldn't make this up
I’ve been thinking about responsibility. And trust me, this is not something I do often.
The term can be a bit strange when applied to fiction. Where does an author’s responsibility lie? Certainly to the story. Surely above and beyond all else. But does it end there? Well, some would say to the reader. Whether its someone paying hard earned cash or someone reading for free on the Internet, there is a degree to which the author has a responsibility to them.
Writers of non-fiction have a responsibility to the subject they’re writing about, to the real people, events and facts. They have to serve history and context. Fiction sometimes gets a free pass, but should it?
David Peace wrote The Dammed United about Brian Clough’s short reign as manager of Leeds. It’s certainly a driven book, it takes you along with it. It deserves a lot of the accolades that have been thrown at it but, by the same token, perhaps some of the criticism too? Peace fictionalised the lives of real people, some of whom are still alive. Many of the deceased ‘characters’, most high profile of which was Clough himself, have families left behind who stand to be hurt or moved by depictions of their loved ones.
Peace’s portrayals of many of the characters were very strong; they were driven, angry and complex. Clough was shown to have many flaws and vices amongst his genius. He was portrayed as insecure, foul mouthed and alcoholic. The legend of Brian Clough allows for each of those interpretations to be true. But the reality of a man and his private life is something only his family can know. But Peace himself has never claimed to be writing a biography. He’s used the ‘fiction defence’ a few times, something which is used to free the book from a need to stick to the facts. This has angered and upset a few people in equal measure.
Is he right? Is he wrong? I’m not the guy with any answers, just a blog full of questions.
I recently watched a long talk between David Simon and Charlie Brooker. Simon tells a story of how his reality-based fiction crossed back into reality. While spending a year shadowing a homicide unit, he encountered many bizarre stories. He recycled the basic premise of one particular murder into a script for the television show Homicide: Life On The Street. What he hadn’t thought of was that as that episode aired a young woman would be watching an hour of fiction on television and realising the story was based on the death of her parent. The Wire itself draws largely from real people, though the show is fiction. Anyone who has read The Corner will recognise people, names and events that later showed up in the show. And it has also been said by both David Simon and Ed Burns that their show actually held back; it didn't really show things as they are because that would be a bit too harsh, a bit to far.
That’s both a very uncomfortable and very interesting place for fiction to go, but is it the responsibility of the writer to measure these things?
I’ve been reading through a true-crime book, originally called Leadbelly but now often re-titled Underbelly. It has been adapted into one of the most critically acclaimed Australian TV shows of recent years, a reality based crime drama looking at the Melbourne drug wars. Whilst it was tearing up the ratings charts and garnering critical acclaim, it was also banned in some parts of Australia because the content was too close to the bone, and in some cases because people featured in it were still on trial. Now, this almost has the opposite defence to David Peace; it’s basically non-fiction. At the same rime, it’s an adapted work. It’s a serialised drama and the only real line between that and The Wire is that its events are still recent, its characters are still, in some cases, walking the streets.
Where does the responsibility lie there? Do the storytellers have to show thought for the people whose names and likenesses they are using in the name of entertainment? How about the lawyer Zarah Garde-Wilson who, whilst a TV show portrays her as involved with killers and drug barons, was trying to piece her reputation and career back together?
In both of the books I have been working on recently, there are a lot of elements of realism involved. I use them to wrap around a total fiction, but there are names, references and people mixed in there who informed my views of the area I grew up in. There is a character mentioned briefly in the first book who is someone I actually knew at university, in the second I originally had him die ‘off screen’ in a casual reference, but felt a responsibility to handle things better. Now in the case of my silly self imposed problems, the answer is simple; if it gets in the way of the story, take it out. Job done, no fuss. I avoid the issue with my own writing, or have done so far, by carefully judging when to throw in a dose of reality and when to simply use the McFet rule of MSU (make shit up)
But with so much of modern crime fiction having one foot in reality, where does the writers responsibility lie? Is the term ‘fiction’ a free pass to invent and adapt even if you’re using real people? Or does the use of reality, if you decide to use it to such a large extent, demand to be treated correctly?
Totally unrelated; Look out soon for a lengthy interview with Scott Phillips, author of classics like The Ice Harvest and The Walkaway. In fact, go read them and prepare. Or re-read them, if they're on your shelf.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Black Friday and a Piña Colada
We would sing that stupid song
And every word we sang
I knew was true
By Steve Weddle
If you're like an estimated 89% of the world population (my estimate, having been out with you people in this mess), you'll be parking in medians and knocking over neighbors as you race for the latest hamster with buggy eyes this Friday.
The day after Thanksgiving has been known as Black Friday ever since Bagsecg the Viking was killed in 871 near Oxfordshire while shopping for TecmoBowl for the original Nintendo.
You don't need to visit the mall this year. Yes, I know how much you like the Orange Juliuses, er, Julii, and buying three Hallmark cards so that you can get the dancing polar bear, but do that some other time. This week, I got ya covered.
In fact, those dudes over there in the right rail have you covered. Mike Knowles, John McFetridge, and Russel D. McLean have each had books come out in the last couple months. What timing, right? Just as you're getting to know these dudes better, they come out with books for you to buy for the holidays. Truly, the world revolves around you. But that's not all. Dave White has a couple of books you need to have -- or need to give as gifts. Why? Because his new one will be out soon.
And speaking of new ones, Jay Stringer's book is fantastic and the work Scott D. Parker is doing is amazing. So let's make a shopping list, shall we?
I've had the privilege of reading two of John McFetridge's books -- DIRTY SWEET and SWAP. McFet, as he's known around the DoSomeDamage compound, started off in a great spot and continues to grow. He writes about Toronto as if it were the crime capital of the world. Heck, it might be. So much goes on here, with these crazy people just one little deal away from hitting it big. Cops and criminals alike get caught up in bad decisions. These are fantastic reads. But don't take my word for it. Check out what the BCS folks say. Or these folks, who say SWAP "might well serve as an eye-opener to McFetridge’s Canadian readers.
You can even check out a collection of McFet's stories up there in the right rail where it says FLASH. SWAP is available in Canada. In a couple of months it will be called LET IT RIDE and will be available in the US of A. If you're a fan of third person stories in which a bunch of people and their stories come together -- or don't -- you'll love these books. Heck, if you like good books, you'll like these. I sure as heck did.
Our other Canadian DSDer is Mike Knowles, whose second book, GRINDER, just came out. If the catalog copy doesn't get you ordering the book, something could be wrong you.
Two years ago Wilson left his old boss alive in exchange for a clean slate, keeping up his end of the bargain and staying off the grid. Then, thousands of miles from the city he once escaped, a man comes calling on Wilson with a gun in hand and a woman in his trunk. Wilson is pulled back into his old life as a "grinder" to work under the radar to quietly find out who is responsible for a dangerous mobster's missing nephews--and this time all bets are off.
And you'll need to hurry up. Word has it that Mike's next Wilson book is due out next year. If you like your crime fiction dark and messy, this is the book for you. Mike has a great way of filling the page with violence and fear and never losing site of the character and narrative. GRINDER is on my TBR pile right, waiting for me to finish THE LOST SISTER, by Russel D. McLean.
THE LOST SISTER is a great follow-up to THE GOOD SON. In this new one, Scottish Private Eye J McNee returns and gets caught up in all sorts of craziness, looking for a missing girl. He faces personal and professional challenges, the likes of which would break most people. There's a good deal of "place" in these books, atmosphere and surroundings that help develop a character who gets more complex with each chapter -- just like the mystery he's unraveling. You'll love it.
Which brings us to an oldie but a goodie. Dave White (I don't mean he's old, despite the fact that he just turned 30.) has been writing Jackson Donne stories for years. You can go back and catch up on the shorts over here. Like McFet's FLASH up there, these are free looks at some solid work. Once you read those stories, you'll want to grab WHEN ONE MAN DIES, the story of Donne, a former junkie cop, who is trying to do a favor and look into a friend's death. He probably should have just flown to Hawaii instead. It doesn't go well for him. When you finish that one, you'll want to get the next one. And I hear there's a third one coming out in the next year or two, which would be great.
OK. So I've given you some choices of books to read and to give as gifts.
SWAP if you're in Canada. DIRTY SWEET if you're not. Then LET IT RIDE in the new year. That's McFet. For Mike, send folks a copy of GRINDER and let them be afraid of you. You could go back and get DARWIN's NIGHTMARE, too.
THE LOST SISTER and THE GOOD SON by Russel are great reads with plenty of mystery and nuance.
And Dave's Jackson Donne work is another good bet. Russel and Dave have the PI books here, while McFet and Mike really look at Canada's underbelly. Like most underbellies, this one ain't pretty.
In the next year or so, you should be able to read Jay Stringer's OLD GOLD. Jay's got a way of building characters quickly and then developing them through the book. Here's an example I'm probably not supposed to share with you:
“You let him threaten you?”
She gave me that Bacall look again, and somehow everything I’d said seemed foolish.
“Do I look like I’d let someone actually hit me?”
I love that part. Man, I can't wait to see this one on the shelves.
And speaking of future works, Scott D. Parker has a couple of projects that I hope he blogs about soon. He's a master of the sci-fi, western, and the mystery. When he gets his book together, you're gonna hear about it everywhere.
OK. That give you enough to shop for this holiday season? Glad to help. Now make with the clicky-click and get ordering.
If you've read some of these, what did you think? If not, what the heck is wrong with ya?
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Started off a blog ended up a kind of rant (I think)
I had an interesting experience last Sunday at the gym. It was one of those things, that as a writer, almost never happens for me. Let me preface what I am about to write with the admission that I am conversation eavesdropper. I admit it. If I hear two people talking and the subject matter or their diction is interesting, I will focus on them like I’m trying to bend a spoon with my mind. Usually I get street lingo I didn’t know, or a bit of ethnic slang. Sunday I got a big serving of racism.
I’m not a racist by any means, and that has actually shown itself to be a problem for me more than once. I don’t mean that I think there needs to be more racism in the world; it has just been hard for me to write a character who has those feelings because I don’t. Writing racism is hard, because it’s hard to get into a racists head. I can write women, kids, criminals, and cops pretty well, but racism has always been tough for me. It's not like writing mean or angry (those I can do). Racism is a lot different and harder to get a hold on. I think this might be because racism doesn’t really exist. It’s not it’s own thing; it’s a hybrid of concepts like brunch. It gains meaning and identity as a sum of its parts. Racism is really a mix of crazy and stupid. Case in point—the gym.
I was finishing my workout and there were two men beside me having a conversation. Already you should know that these two are douche’s because they’re at the gym to talk to each other, but that is another post for another Sunday. So I’m lifting, and I hear Racist # 1 say, “So I tell my kids, I don’t care how nice they look, or how big they smile. They’re not your friends. They’re not. They’re just not. My wife thinks I’m brainwashing them, but she don’t know how they are.”
My ears picked up and I suddenly began working out on autopilot. I don’t even know if the weights moved for the next three minutes.
Racist #2 leaned in close and mumbled something. I was worried that he had the common sense to chide his friend about his caveman views.
Racist #1 eased my fears. Whatever his friend said spurred him on. “They’re at my kid’s school. I don't know how we keep letting them into the country, but they get in; probably from The States. I don’t know how they afford it. But they’re there. And, you know what? They want to wear those hoods all day long. My kid can't wear a hat in school, but they can wear those things? C'mon ”
I was up to speed after that. Racist #1 didn’t like Muslims.
He went on. “They say it’s their right to wear those hoods, and if the school don’t let ‘em they get offended. What about me? I’m offended all the time by them. Who cares about me?”
Racist #2 had something quiet to say about the hoods which I can only assume are hijabs (I may be wrong, I'm not fluent in dummy).
Racist #2 then saw me staring in the mirror and he nodded towards his friend. Both men looked in my direction and I laughed at them. I put the weights down and left them to argue over who gets to be Grand Dragon. If you're going to ask why I didn't start a ruckus it's because I am a strong believer in free speech, even the bad kind. Even racists should have the right to spout off (sucks but true).
The argument was great because it was everything I thought it would be when I pictured racism in my head. There was no real reason for hating the Muslim kids who went to the same school as the children of Racist #1. There was no common sense behind it. But for the sake of argument, let's pull what we can from the man's words to make sure.
Apparently the people in question can't be trusted no matter how much they smile. I'm guessing this, at its core, has some relation to 9/11. Most of the simple minded racism I come across is rooted in this event. The man who shot up Fort Hood didn't do the Muslim community any favors either mind you. But it seems that 9/11 reinvigorated the concept of water cooler racism. I’ve noticed that after 2001 there are pockets of the community who’ve decided there’s a green light for hate speech in public so long as you aim it at the Middle East. So if we follow the logic of Racist #1, the blood shed on 9/11 makes others who share some element of the faith perverted to achieve the attack part of the conspiracy. It doesn't matter if the people he hates smile and treat him well, he's sure that he knows their real agenda even if everyone else doesn't.
Racist #1's paranoia about a hidden agenda is a side effect of the crazy and stupid that comprises racism. I've seen Racist #1 around for years and he's been a loud talker forever. I know where he works, what he drives, even how much his clothes cost. In terms of social standing, he occupies the spot of stupid upper middle class white guy. His ancestors have been in the country just long enough for him to forget that his family were once immigrants and whatever place they emigrated from has its own share of blood that has been spilled. Racist #1 is self-involved and has strong feelings of entitlement. With those feelings comes a feeling of irrational persecution. He feels that his social standing is constantly under attack from all sides from upwardly mobile immigrants. He thinks that there are people out there who are committed to knocking him off his perch. He doesn't see it as something that can be shared—apparently the upper middle class is already cramped like the back seat of a Chevette. So Racist #1 feels he is doing a public service when he speaks out in public. He doesn't see the irony in trying to keep the spot he attained on the backs of people who were once just like the people he is trashing while he holds a dumbbell.
The method in which Racist #1 trashes the Muslims is a window into the stupid and crazy that has taken the wheel in his head. He uses words like "they" because he doesn't really know who he hates; he just knows he hates "them" and that seems to be enough for him. He questions the intentions of ethnically different people even though according to him the people he warns his kids about have been nothing but nice. Racist #1 also questions how "they" afford to send "their" kids to the same school as his own brood. This is the most telling part for me. Immigrant kids attending the same fancy private school as his upper middle class white kid’s means the pressure is on for Racist #1. The immigrants he hates so much have already equalized their children with his own by sending them to the same school. So, in response, he attacks the religious freedoms of the children and speculates on the legitimacy of the source of their tuition. He can't let anyone catch up to his lead so he resorts to cheap shots and speculation. This proves there is zero rationale for his feelings. If there really was something to protect himself from he would easily be able to articulate what it was. Think about if you tried to call the cops to tell them that “they” are out there and "they" are trying to harm your way of life. Imagine how fast a squad car would show up and figure out who would eventually be leaving in it.
The reason I am writing about this racism and its lack of a coherent underlying thought is because I've had an editor tell me that the racism I tried to portray in a story didn't seem to have much behind it. Experiences like the one I had at the gym make me want to say, "Yeah you're right, it doesn't because real racism has nothing behind it. It's thinking gone wrong." Racism is just irrational paranoia with no real reasoning applied or needed.
But it is not all bad, there is the use of the words of Racist #1 as material of course. I'm going to go green with the hate and use every bit of the racism I heard. I will be like the natives I learned about it grade school who used every part of the buffalo down to the intestines. I am going to absorb everything I heard and reappropriate it. Don't be surprised if you hear Racist #1 in a book down the road. And don't be surprised if Racist #1 doesn't make it to the end in one piece.