Sunday, August 28, 2011
Fixing my own mistakes: Bible Camp Bloodbath (2010)
The movie Martyrs has made me question a few things about my own book, Bible Camp Bloodbath. I think Martyrs was smart, and even admirable in its clarity of vision, but it was so hopeless. It really didn't leave anything for the reader to hold on to. In my review of Martyrs I talk about this in more detail, but the point is that I didn't enjoy it. I appreciated its skill, but I won't ever sit down and watch it again, no matter how effective and focused it was.
When I wrote Bible Camp Bloodbath I think I had that same obsessive focus of vision in mind as a goal. I wanted to write a book that was the kind of slasher movie people were afraid to make, a movie where the children died, where a psychotic killer didn't get stopped at the end. He just runs out of people to kill.
And I had a good time writing the book. There was a perverse kind of fun to the murders, and a humour that I thought kept the book from being entirely hopeless. But now I think maybe that humour stopped being enough in the last chapters. The book became a single minded machine for killing every single child as horrifically as possible. The characters didn't have any agency in those final chapters, they could only react to this monster pursuing them. They could only think sad, hopeless things to themselves as they died. The murders took on the structure of jokes, with setups and inevitable punchlines.
And even writing this down, that sounds like something good to me. It sounds pure in a strange way, and conceptually clean. But I am not sure that I write books so that they can be this pure and clean. I want people to read them and to love them, and people don't fall in love with jokes. Actually, I can't speak for people in general. I don't fall in love with jokes. I enjoy them, and I will laugh at a joke, but a book like a joke will never be my favourite book. I fall in love with characters and imagination.
I want to write books that are filled with those things, and with hope, even if it is just the promise of hope. There are movies I love that have hopeless endings. Pan's Labyrinth. The Mist. But they have the promise of hope in them, too. Their characters fight to survive, and to escape. Rereading Bible Camp Bloodbath after watching Martyrs, it reads to me like a shooting gallery. There are characters and scenes that I think are great, that I am proud of, and that I think deserve a better book. Characters that deserve a book that I myself would love.
So I am going to make it into that book. You don't hear about writers rewriting their own books very often, but who cares? The original version will still exist, and will still be around for people who do appreciate that hopelessness and focus of vision. But I think I made a mistake, and so I am going to go back and fix it.