Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Octoberguest! Pinckney Benedict

These days, my husband the writer, creative writing prof, gun nut, and all-around genius guy Pinckney Benedict doesn't spend much time on the web (with the exception of some office hours in Second Life). So I feel privileged that he agreed to do a post for Octoberguest!

If you write or read, you should check out his books. Wrecking Yard is my favorite. And this is the one we edited together.

He writes today about ORGO, a piece he did for the Versus Anthology. I love how he pushes boundaries!

Welcome, P!

When I was a kid growing up in rural West Virginia, my favorite reading material was a comic book series called Weird War. If you’ve seen the animated film Heavy Metal, in particular the segment titled “B17,” about a World War II bomber that ends up being crewed by zombies, then you know what Weird War was all about. Awesome war machines and desolation and the supernatural. Also the occasional combat robot.

Every issue of WW was introduced by the figure of Death, dressed in some bedraggled military uniform. For a kid who liked nothing better than playing combat and thinking about ghosts and monsters, it was pretty much the perfect entertainment. My family thought I was odd for liking it, but they thought I was odd anyway, and it was my allowance I was wasting on the comic books, so I guess they figured What the heck? God bless them for their benign neglect.

Years go by. Weird War ceases to be an active part of my reading and imaginative life. I write some stories. I become a professor. I grow old and bald and fat. Still, there’s nothing I like better than playing combat (in my reading, in video games, while watching movies, or just sitting in my leather recliner and listening to Metallica and wishing I had a Browning .50 caliber tripod-mounted heavy machine gun and belts and belts of ammo) and thinking about ghosts and monsters.

Then I am asked by Josh Woods if I will consider creating a piece for his innovative new anthology, VS (“versus”). The idea of a VS piece is simplicity itself: pit some iconic character or force against another (for example, “Jesus VS Thor,” which Josh himself wrote, and which is brilliant and inspiring).

And I say yes.

What to do? The answer seems simple. Create a comic. (I cannot draw a lick, so why this seemed obvious escapes me now – but it sure did make the whole process a challenge.) Make it a comic about the central conflict in the universe, which if you are a fellow who grew up in Appalachia is obviously the war in which the hillbillies descend from their mountain fastnesses to take on the rest of the world.

Make sure the comic is full of violence and monsters and medieval weaponry and so on. Add a soupcon (maybe more than a soupcon) of nudity and sex, since those elements were wholly missing from Weird War back in the 70s; and this is my version of Weird War, and I like those things about as well as I like the classic WW elements. More comic books should incorporate them, in my opinion.

Have the whole shebang narrated by Death Incarnate, who in this iteration is a chimera who goes by the moniker (which came to me in a dream while I was working on the comic) of Mother Dust.

And voila: you have my 21st century version of Weird War.

Below, the cover and first four pages of the comic, which is thirty-four pages long. It will appear in its entirety in the VS anthology, which is set for release in the spring of 2009 by the marvelous Press 53, who are also the publishers of the anthology Surreal South, with which the lovely Laura and I are also associated.

And so: Orgo VS the Flatlanders.

[Remember--Everyone who comments is entered to win $100 Godiva Chocolatier and Harry & David giftbaskets, plus books from several Octoberguest! authors! Drawing held November 2nd.]

Tomorrow: Maggie Caldwell


Ian smith said...

Raw and emotional, Benedict crafts his prose with a decidedly masculine voice. The characters are gritty, the action is razor-sharp and the defining landscape is unnervingly real. Benedict recognizes in his native West Virginia a terrain rich with storytelling material. As Joyce Carol Oates writes in her introduction to The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, "indeed, in writers so clearly linked to an idiomatic oral tradition as Flannery O'Connor and the young West Virginian Pinckney Benedict, place is voice."

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Kyle Minor said...

I've seen Orgo vs. The Flatlanders in its entirety, and, let me assure you, you're in for a treat, you Versus Anthology readers.

sheryl monks said...

Zombie-geniusnous, er -ness? Smart. And funny. My gosh. Hilarious. In that terrifyingly amusing way.

And what Ian Smith said. Go, Ian.

Karen McBryde said...

I love the kudzu crown. My spellchecker doesn't even recognize the word kudzu. Anything that multiplies like that (my grandfather said if you stood in one spot long enough you'd see it grow) should be a literary staple. I even challenged Sheryl Monks to write a woman-stuck-in-kudzu story at our annual writing retreat two weeks ago.

The image of you sitting in your chair blasting Metallica while fantasizing about a Browning .50 caliber tripod-mounted machine gun and belts and belts of ammo is the most vivid word picture I've received in weeks. Thank you.

Joe P. Frick said...

I think Laura forgot to enable the "Enter Sandman" ap for this blog, as right now all I'm hearing from my computer is an NPR report, and the current speaker has a British accent.

And what's with the stereotypical shot of a skyscraper--the Empire State?--to represent the Flatlanders?

Your prejudices are showing through, methinks...

Pinckney said...

Thanks for all the nice comments, all y'all. And thanks, L, for giving me this space to pimp my stuff.

And Joe: Orgo is nothing but my prejudices.


Michelle's Spell said...

Hi Laura and Pinckney,

I'm so happy to see you in the handbasket! Love this piece and all your writing (of course, who couldn't?!) and the picture with the gun is great. You guys are the coolest couple ever.

bonniejo said...

ORGO rocks, though I won't write off the (presumably two-dimensional) flatlanders. I look forward to the new book and everything Press 53 publishes, including, hopefully, another Surreal South. The story that has stuck with me most is the fatwood story. Okay, am I really in a drawing for chocolate?

Laura Benedict said...

Hi, bonniejo! I'm so glad you stopped by. I think Orgo is amazing, too!

The drawing for chocolate was done on Nov. 2nd--but I love to give stuff away, and chocolate is always appropriate.

I'm giving away an enormous Demonically Delightful Basket of Lovely Goodies when Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts comes out, and that's sure to have chocolate, too. Please come by again! L.