Curate of Curiosities

Original Novel Do Not Steal

DIY Novel Kit (pg 1-26)

Let's begin:

Again I advance across the tragic beaches of this deserted island, footsteps upon sand so profound, so deep, that one perceives no step. Mute beaches, where footsteps are lost. Mute, deserted – footsteps upon sand over which I advance once again. To find you.

Alright, so our hero is on the deserted island looking for someone. This seems to gel with the plot synopsis.

But from then on, things get a bit weird:

Luh? She is fine. However, she will not be accompanying me on my trip. This time I will be traveling solo.
So what occurred with Luh?
Picture me flying, rocketing through the sky like Christopher Reeve in Superman, my right fist thrust before me. I am flying over a parking lot, heading for a landing next to a woman who is pregnant with my son. There is a complication: This woman is not my wife. I have not spoken with her at all during her pregnancy, and she’s already in her second trimester. It’s definitely time to pay her some attention.

So this is our main character, a rambling deadbeat expectant father.

What's more, this segment is written in second-person perspective, just in case things weren't confusing enough.

Our hero and his paramour find themselves in a cave:

The cave is a pretty place, with pools of still water and patches of rye grass and moss. I talk to the woman who will bear my child. She is Luh. Or maybe Cinnamon. Or maybe you.

You could at least properly introduce this Cinnamon before mentioning her like this. Unless he's saying that his lover's name is Cinnamon.

Also, what if you're a guy and you're reading this? Hell, even if you're not a guy, how would you feel about this guy speculating that you're carrying his child, while he's talking to you about some movie that he wants to make with you?

I tell her I am not sure if I should tell my two sons about the baby. I would have to admit to extramarital sex. (I don’t mention that my wife might not appreciate this admission, either.) On the other hand, I think the boys should know about their half brother. After all, this new divine entity will grow up to create “Next Year at Marienbad,” the movie that will bring about the End of the World – and the beginning of the New Religion.

Oh, so this guy has a wife too? And I thought he was the one making this movie, not his kid.

We're barely even two pages into this thing, and it's already starting to collapse in on itself. And this writer had the gall to pass this off as a ready-made novel template.

On to the next scene. We have two reporters, Charlie and Elmo, reviewing the main character's latest film. (Note: while the reader is encouraged to use their real name in place of that of the protagonist, I will instead be using a pseudonym.)

Charlie: Attention Roland Hayes. David Lynch is holding on the red phone. He wants to lend you his embalmed calf fetus for the baby scenes.
Elmo: In case you’re just joining us here on “Blast” – it’s the End of the World in “Next Year at Marienbad.”
Charlie: B-movie sci-fi filmmakers have a long heritage of mining the various veins of the Apocalyptic genre, but few have tunneled as deep –
Elmo: And come up as lacking --
Charlie: -- as Roland Hayes. “Next Year at Marienbad” is arguably the worst end-of-the-world film ever made. The concept alone is one of the most bizarre in the history of film – a science fiction-themed tribute to “Last Year at Marienbad,” the 1960s movie that defined the French New Wave.

For the uninitiated, you can read more about Last Year at Marienbad here. After reading that article, I can tell in what ways Leach was inspired by it.

Even the movie's main character gets in on the criticism:

Charlie: This movie even offended the protagonist, who rather confusingly is also named Roland Hayes. He recently broke down the fourth wall to post his own objections in the onbeam world: “Congratulations, Roland Hayes. I read today that ‘Next Year at Marienbad’ has been declared one of the worst films ever made. And still you smile, that clueless, William Hung smile. Why so pleased? If you really wanted to create a noteworthy science fiction/fantasy film, then why no swords or elves? Why no Roman centurions? No, you thought you were too good. Only a hack would write genre, right? Instead of straight science fiction, you decided to employ the ‘conventions’ of SF. ‘It's all for EFFECT,’ you explain. And why did you have to make me so perverse? After all, I am an autobiographical character. What do my perversions say about you, the filmmaker? ‘You are only an exaggerated version of me,’ you say, ‘exaggerated for comic effect.’ Fine. Here is what I say: I hate this, being a fictional creation trapped in this abomination of a movie. Experimental? Stream of consciousness? Metafilm? How about ‘crap’? Now that ‘Next Year at Marienbad’ has been unleashed on the world, surely the Apocalypse is not far behind.”

After more of this, we are treated to a sample scene from the movie:

Here’s one way the world ends: I am standing on the backyard patio of my boyhood home, looking up at the eastern heavens. It is an incredible sight – a white clock dial is bleeding through the thin cobalt sky. The psychic contrail is suspended in the high, thin stratosphere, an icy cirrus cloud of time. Somehow I understand that the government knows all about it, but has been keeping it a secret. Now that the Clock in the Air has been de-cloaked, there is no denying its existence. Is it an alien spaceship? Perhaps – or it could be something far more significant: A sign from the Deity. In fact, this may be the divine pocket watch, His timepiece. But time for what? Strange to be here, so out of my own time. My parents sold this house years ago.

The reporters admit that this scene has an interesting idea behind it, even if the rest of the movie doesn't quite manage to hold up.

With the next scene, we shift back to the main character's perspective:

Welcome to my island.
Pull up a deck chair, help yourself to the tanning oil. But watch out for the brain crabs – they bite!
Did you know I dreamed this place? And I don’t mean onbeam, either. I’m talking about a genuine, naturally-occurring Incredible Revelation. Again you look doubtful, betrayed by the old, familiar smile. I know what you’re thinking: We studied this building in Mrs. Wilson’s 7th grade Texas History class, the section on the Civil War. What can I say? I'm a native Texan; I know my state history. I have filled a mayonnaise jar with Minieballs pried out of the bricks and unearthed from the beach. But here, such concrete evidence is inadmissible; this place does not belong to the waking world.

Confused? Me too! Don't expect things to make more sense as we go on.

We shift from narration to what I presume is some sort of anecdote:

I am part of a travel group on the Texas Gulf Coast, enjoying a boat tour.
The man at the helm – our captain and guide – takes us on a fast ride. We zip past little islands, some just big enough to stand on, all the while heading toward the biggest link in the chain: Marienbad.

If you're wondering why there doesn't seem to be much connection between the events we've seen so far, then you should know that this novel is written this way by design. According to the website:

By experimenting with aleatoric processes, Leach formalizes the coincidental and emphasizes the conscious process of composition that is behind the seemingly random works.

In other words, the events of this novel are literally random. On to the next scene:

Forgive me. I am an odious being.
This sort of thing happens often these days, me getting carried away in the beauty of chaos, in lurid intervals of narcissistic horror. The FX apparatus disgorges an enormous radiant fog of visual rumors and nonsense. I digress into the shattered violet neon dusk of my own atrophied human citizenship and the dazzling garbage heap of our tragic, dead age.
When I am like this, unpleasant things happen. The walls start bleeding. Nazi paratroopers land outside the window. Tiny white eggs on the back of my hand hatch into hungry wolf spiders, which proceed to strip the flesh from my bones. (Director’s note: We’ll leave this quantity of tainted celluloid on the cutting room floor.)

Tainted celluloid, huh? So is he still making the movie, or is he just hallucinating? My money's on the latter.

We are introduced to the closest thing this story has to a subplot:

The right half of my face now resembles a cross between a slab of brown, bloodless beef and a piece of weathered lumber. Nothing human left. Alien. Most people assume it happened in the fire. But it’s not a scar. This is the raw, undifferentiated tissue of evolution. This is the disintegration of culture into chaos. This is the alien within. It’s even in the script.

Apparently, he and a number of other people are slowly turning into alien life forms. I believe this was mentioned on the novel's website.

But for now there is only me, the prototype of the New Man. And quite manly at that. At one point, The Stranger tells me we will even grow two extra DNA delivery organs. Have to employ a paring knife to prune away the smallest ones. He claims we will experience no pain. "Makes the main trunk grow thicker and taller," he says, "just like a crepe myrtle." Don’t know if that scene will make the final cut. An NC-17 rating is a definite financial risk.

...No comment.

We move on to the main character's old memory of...someome.

You are still the same, as though I left you only yesterday. What has become of you all this time? You’re still the same. But you hardly seem to remember. How can that be? After all, our high school reunion was only last year. Have I changed so much, then? Or are you pretending not to recognize me? A year already, perhaps more.
As for your offer of help in my hour of need – what’s that? Well, I’m sorry, but it is clearly documented in my script. You are to make the offer, and I am to experience a warm, grateful sensation of humanity. Here’s my line: “I am touched. I can’t think of any lawyer – or any person, really – I’d rather have defend me in the Hague.” And then I shall enthusiastically penetrate your membranes with my DNA delivery organs. (Ha ha, little joke.) Still, we may need a script doctor for this part. It is critical to the plot that I already stand condemned. The trial is mere theater.

If I were the one being spoken to here, I would immediately file a restraining order.

What’s that? Ah yes, you wish to know about the Armageddon Drive-In Theatre.
The Stranger based this part of the script on an anonymous posting found on an Exogrid message board dedicated to onbeam creations about the conclusion of time:

Looks like I've figured out who this Stranger is. He's the main character's production assistant of sorts. Of course, it would help if he was properly introduced before being namedropped like this.

In this post, everyone attending the theater gets raptured, leading everyone else to worry that they're going to hell.

Despite the unfortunate anxiety experienced by the anonymous dream surfer, this scene is incredibly funny. The Stranger decides that all of the extras will be church folk, but there’s a catch: only the Methodists are going. Can you believe it? Methodists don’t even believe in the Rapture.
Meanwhile, the others [sic] Christians of Strangers Rest do not like playing the role of “The Abandoned Ones,” those who are staying and must spend the rest of eternity burning in Hell. This casting against type is particularly offensive to the local chapter of the Keepers of the Deity, the former congregation of the Strangers Rest Baptist Church who jettisoned the old, dead, discredited name and now worship in the combination gas station/Exogrid church out on the interstate.

"Keepers of the Deity"? That doesn't sound like a good name for an ostensibly Christian group, does it?

Our main character continues to go on about his dream movie, and even has plans for its premiere:

A group of dedicated Marienbadists have already begun preparations for the world premier, which will be conducted at a specially constructed drive-in movie theater located somewhere in the Himalayas. Cylindrical clock chimes hanging from clouds will convene the moviegoers from around the planet. I will be stationed behind the camera, encircled by a multitude of grips and gaffers, vocalists and primal goddesses. Uniformed orators narrating manuscripts in marches and spectacles will fashion their share of the exploits along with the primal goddesses, whose dance routines will incorporate eye signals and stroking of the fingertips in combination with aromas of enjoyable fragrances as well as pungent, smoldering flame. Columns of anger will dot the landscape, and fire will explode in streams of luminosity and expanses of conflagration. This will continue for seven days. When the movie is finally over and final credits roll, the world will at last come to an end. And there will be a new Deity in the heavens.

I'm starting to get tired of this guy's pie-in-the-sky delusions. I'd like to hear something else for once, like what on earth would inspire him to make something like this.

So why a sequel to “Last Year at Marienbad”? Why did I select this enigmatic creation from the ‘60s as the template for my end-of-time film?
The real story is I wish to compel you to play the role of “A,” clad in 1961 Chanel and feathers. At its heart, “Last Year at Marienbad” is a love story. Robbe-Grillet had it right: Boy gets girl. That is the conclusion I yearn for in my own art and life. The boy should always get the girl, even when the world comes to an end. Or especially then.

Where is that restraining order?

The next few pages are almost nothing but the protagonist awkwardly and creepily hitting on the reader and offering to penetrate them with his alien organs.

Eventually, we're told a bit more about the Stranger's motives:

“I cannot fully explain my life,” he tells me. “It is not always about life. My life no longer functions on that level. To be sure, one half is still life. But the other half is raw, undifferentiated tissue. Alien. That's why I want to make the movie. For years, I have experienced my life as a sort of dream movie. I have always wished to be about the Odyssey, the journey. I am the 2001 Space Odyssey astronaut, traveling in the divine sky clock, recast as cosmic child. The Deity is sending me back to Egypt, I think. To save us. Imagine this dream movie: I am Jonah, the man in the fish. We all know that it is a specially prepared fish (i.e., a visual rumor of the Son of the Deity). So I am swallowed up in Him. The wound is inscrutable. I offer my own little interpretation: The Deity showed Jonah what it is to be reborn as the cosmic child. I think I would like that role, suffering in the belly of the fish. We could do it up with soulless cool special effects, visual rumors of the forgotten, abandoned church with the flooded basement and the old bearded preacher withdrawn from employment in advance of death. And the tag line: Am I dying?

Like the protagonist, he's also slowly turning into an alien, and wishes to leave behind a legacy before he fully transforms.

Speaking of the protagonist, it seems he now has his sights set on someone else:

The new object of my desire is the woman next door. In Lancelot’s case, she was the patient in the next room. In my case, she is on the neighboring island. I’ve not observed her in the waking world. But in a dream last night, I believe I may have compelled her to commit unnatural acts upon my DNA delivery organ. Some might say that is not a good start to a meaningful relationship. But as this debasement took place near the Land of the Dead, I believe the physical moral code is suspended in favor of communicating a greater metaphorical truth. Is that not the beauty of true romantic affection and the visionary religious experience? Years ago, traveling with you across the vinyl back seat of the Cutlass convertible, membrane to membrane, I could say to you “I am fond of this physical response stimuli, aren’t you?” And you could reply “oh God, bring forth the warm globs of ectoplasm.” Or something to that effect.

Now I fully understand why he's holed up in some desert island.

The next scene begins with another anecdote, this time about him accidentally killing a giant bug with his lawnmower, while Jack Dawson, his neighbor, complains about the heat.

The cidaca [sic] is only the latest in a series of poisonous insects, potentially-rabid small mammals, blood-sucking reptiles and other creatures that have recently grown to nightmarish proportions. (The scientists blame it on environmental contaminates; the Keepers of the Deity insist it is a sign of the conclusion of time.) These B-movie monsters are brave, too, refusing to observe the faded neon pink surveyor’s flags as the limits of their habitat.

I'm willing to take a wild guess here, but I think this might actually be connected to the protagonist's and the Stranger's alien transformations.

He goes on to talk more about his favorite movie:

Yes, I am admittedly enraptured with my favorite movie, “Let Me Love You.” Why do I like it? For starters, it was made in Texas. One of the settings is Waco, which is where I was born and some of my family still lives. Also, there is the protagonist, Clark Caring. He is a sort of minor deity. And like him, I am periodically subject to many god-like delusions. So the real-life parallels are considerable.

From there, we get a truly bizzare scene:

Blessings – and apologies.
It has been 2,000 years since my last heavenly manifestation, my beloved creations. Time gets away from you, right? I make no excuses for this lengthy delay. The blame belongs solely to me. Shame, humiliation, self-criticism – I accept it all. You won’t find me trying to pass the buck. No way. I’m all about honesty. That’s just the kind of God I am.

Yep. This following scene is from the point of view of God Himself. And he seems to be awfully passive-agressive at that:

It is hard to be me. As far back as I can recall I’ve been misunderstood, particularly by those I care about most. It seems we are always hurt by the ones we love, eh? And yet, despite the unfortunate events of 20 centuries ago, isn’t it true my wrath has been generally exercised in your favor? Have I not done great things – marvelously incredible things – precisely for you, my beloved creations? Who showed you how to pound your plowshares into swords? Who caused your enemies to fall in battle, allowing you to sweep in and enslave their soldier drones, cart away their gold and smash in the heads of their larva until green goo oozed from their twitching, quivering mandibles? Who did it? That’s right – me. Your God. So do I not deserve your exultation and veneration? Am I not entitled to your admiration, you who I have brought into existence as citizens of the universe?

Weirdly, God seems to compare humanity to insects throughout this scene. You don't think this has something to do with the alien bug transformations?

The reason for his being passive agressive seems to be due to a terrible disaster He brought about some time ago.

I do not deny this troubled episode in the life of Planet Luh – and yet, did it truly rise to the level of a terrible calamity?
Let’s be fair. Did I not cause the nuclear rain to quickly wash the fire and brimstone from the sky? Did I not employ the radioactive isotopes to create a genetic transmutation allowing you to quickly and (somewhat) painlessly shed your burned exoskeletons? And did I not cause new exoskeletons to grow again, albeit in a somewhat mutated form, at a greatly accelerated rate?

First of all, why does this planet have the same name as the protagonist's mistress?

Second of all, why is God acting like the effects of what appears to be nuclear Armageddon were in some way fixed by its secondary effects?

Forgive me. This sort of thing happens to me a lot. Back in the day, four billion years ago, I would often find myself getting carried away in the beauty of chaos, in lurid intervals of narcissistic horror. I would digress into the shattered violet neon dusk of my own atrophied human citizenship and the dazzling garbage heap of my tragic, dead age.
Even now, when I am like this, unpleasant things happen. The walls start bleeding. Nazi paratroopers land outside the window. Tiny white eggs on the back of my hand hatch into hungry wolf spiders, stripping the flesh from my bones.

Nazi paratrooppers? Wolf spider eggs? This is just what the protagonist was mentioning earlier...Oh no.

Not only is he a pretentious, deadbeat lunatic, but he also has some sort of God complex!

Naturally, God goes on to state that the apocalypse has arrived--just what the main character is seeking to bring about with his movie.

The scene closes with yet more passive-agressiveness:

Let me tell you something, you artists and heretics: I HATE THAT! A mysterious and awesome being? You make it sound as if I am some sort of irrational creature, some sort of anti-deity, a monster of the id, the Fiend of the Unconscious. Let me tell you, my beloved creations, I am a God of Love! I would not have to tell you that if only you would stop with your incessant questioning and let me get on with being me. Let me get on with loving you. Let me love you! [...] That’s good 1950s B-movie sci-fi! You like? I see. Well, it’ll grow on you. Meanwhile, back to Jack Bryson.

Good sci-fi? Not at all.

In the next scene, Jack is utterly nonchalant about a)The protagonist's end-of-the-world movie that he's still intent on making and b) the fact that he has someone named Missy locked up in the laundry room. He shows him an article about a device meant to scan and record people's dreams:

The virtual implant maker, whose Jazz technology is used in medicine for artificial retinas and plays a behind-the-scenes role in collective unconscious dreamware and services, is stepping up efforts to shape what users see on their implant canvass. In one dramatic example, Summon has been developing interface dreamware with four-dimensional effects that are a time-twisting alternative to the familiar virtual implant metaphor of landscapes, portraits and still life art.
Summon this week will announce plans to make the interface, dubbed Clockscan II, along with related Jazz technology available on an “open foundation” basis, allowing people outside the company to view and modify the implant code used to create the programs. The announcement, one of many at Summon’s annual JazzOne conference in Chicago, is designed to encourage other programmers -- particularly fans of the open-foundation Morel operating system -- to adopt and refine Summon’s technology.

I'm pretty sure Elon Musk is working on something like that.

The conversation continues, and it manages to be both mundane and mildly incomprehensible:

“You are tired of being you.”
“If I were more like you, then I would be less like me.”
“Exactly. So take a nap. Take some sacraments.”
“I don’t do that any more.”
“Yeah? But you’d still do it onbeam.”
That is true.
“You know, buddy,” Jack continues, “sometimes you’ve just got to let your sleek dog run.”

Eventually, the protagonist makes something clear regarding the cicada he killed earlier:

A confession: I didn’t really run the mower over a giant cicada (or any other creature of the unconscious). It was just a snake, an ordinary water moccasin. But I thought a cicada worked better for the story. Cinematic license.

Who do you think you're trying to fool? How on earth do you mistake a water moccasin for a cicada? No amount of "cinematic license" can possibly make them look similar.

We abruptly go back to God's point of view:

Why does “this god” let bad things happen to good people? Here’s a better question: Why did the Valuosity Life Planning Inc. hire a new truth doctor and give him my corner office and my parking place with my name on the curb in the basement parking garage reserved for my fellow executives? And why did it transfer me to the LET department and assign me to a little cubicle to write technical documents while my Lexus LS400 sat under the blazing Texas sun with all the insignificant cars in the insignificant employee parking lot? Let’s see one of you answer that.

So God, who appears to be a stand-in for the main character, works for a life insurance company?

This is the true story of a different Apocalypse: the last days of Planet Earth. The end falls generally, give or take a few years, between the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the attainment of eternal life for all through the superior scientific achievements of Valuosity Life Planning Inc. and other companies in the military/industrial techno-structure.

Not just any insurance company, but one in bed with the military industrial complex? Once that's trying to make people immortal?

This is either a really misguided allegory, or there's more things that our main character is hiding from us.

Anyway, this is a really good story, complete with 1950s B-movie flying saucers, gratuitous sex and a homicidal laptop computer. I think you’ll enjoy it. But first, before the temple crumbles and everything goes up in the proverbial ball of fire, let’s check God’s divine mail bag.

Yesterday you asked me if I ever think about Allison. As a matter of fact, I just received a letter from her, a response to my request that she grant a blurb for the trade ads at Oscar time. You know the sort of quote I mean. “Electrifying!” or “A tour de force in cinematic storytelling” or “Brilliancy in a bottle.” Such a simple thing to ask, really. But the news is not pretty.

This pretty much confirms that God is meant to be the protagonist's self-insert: we immediately go from a "divine mail bag" to a letter he received from someone named Allison.

In the letter, Allison states she wants no part in his movie, due to one character in said movie being an obvious stand-in for some real-life person. I wonder who it could be?

For some reason, the protagonist views the wording of the letter as a sign that the insect transformation is starting to take hold in her.

We have just learned that the DNA of every human on the planet has been converted to that of an insect. We feel unchanged, but I comment to those around me that the outward transformation will begin soon. The new genetic code will transform us into new beings. And sure enough, I am right. The scene changes and I find myself standing over a comatose Allison. She is nude, covered in damp dirt. I am cleaning her with a sponge, revealing the beginning growth of an exoskeletal thorax. “We’ll all look like this soon,” I tell myself.

First of all, how were you made aware of this? Secondly, how is it even possible to convert every human on earth like this without anyone noticing?

Of course, “she” is really me. The insect DNA is my own blueprint, the unifying global pattern for life. And the journey.

How? I thought it was aliens? What are you talking about!?

He goes on rambling about the Land of the Dead and the Deity on whose behalf he's making this movie, then goes on to reveal the true nature of the cicada creatures:

Here’s a significant observation concerning Clark Caring’s extraterrestrial insects: They are from inner space, too. These cinematic aliens are actually the forgotten spirits imprisoned within contemporary Americans. The Cicadans pilot the aerial timepieces from the great beyond to the rim of our earth with the purpose of resurrecting the spirits of the comatose. Their emergence from this underground “beyond” is an indication of the outer incarnation of our inner alienation. So we needn’t resist the transformation. Rather, we should just attempt to revive our own self, even as we know that the self we seek could be a sham and our revival an extraterrestrial conspiracy. Or something to that effect.

Up to this point, I had assumed that these cicada aliens were from outer space. But now, I see that they both dwell underground and in the souls of Americans?

Also, remember the first scene we saw from the movie? The one with the clock dial in the air? The cicadas are behind those too.

Now seems to be a good time to take a break from all this nonsense. We're about a third of the way through the text, and I'm already feeling overwhelmed and confused. I think I understand now why, as far as I'm aware, no one has taken Mark Leach up on his offer.

To be continued...