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.


  1. That's very admirable of you to do. It's a problem I'm struggling with in getting my ideas onto paper. I'm constantly taking notes and writing bits and pieces, but I can't just sit down and finish writing it all out.

    After reading your book Bible Camp Bloodbath, I felt it was a fun, quick romp through a mass murder. It was cold and unforgiving to the characters involved. I loved it.

    I'm very interested to see what comes of these revisions and am excited to read the new version.

  2. I'd say: take what you've learned, want you want to achieve, brainstorm for a while, write something entirely new. Hell, a sequel (or spiritual sequel) if need be. Results probably will be better and it'll have a more dynamic appeal.

    Plus, awesome subtitle opportunity, i.e: "Bible Camp Bloodbath II: Red Thirst".

  3. WHAT you want to achieve, rather.

  4. I disagree, I think it was as solid a horror as I've ever experienced as a reader/audience member, and I think there was still enough "hope" in the kid leaving that message and believing in what he could do. Part of why I enjoyed the book so much was how far you did take it into realms I didn't expect. It may not have been especially comfortable but I don't think the characters or story suffered for it. :)

  5. I'm not a horror fan (in fact I avoid it -- I got into BCB slightly unwittingly), and I LOVED Bible Camp Bloodbath. I don't think I could falult it for anything. In fact I think the hopelessness, the facing of reality, the tearing-out-your-heart sense of injustice is what gives it its edge and its strange beauty.

    That said, I find it hard to imagine NOT enjoying anything you write, just on the back of experience :) So I look forward to reading the new version!

  6. While I did enjoy Bible Camp Bloodbath, I was also confronted with the question of what the point of it was. It felt as though you only set up the backstory and the characters so the reader would feel worse when they inevitably died, and I had some trouble with what the message of that was supposed to be, other than an excercise in reader brutality.
    I'm looking forward to seeing what you're going to do with it, as I did feel there was some wonderful human parts that were ultimately just abused.

  7. What you've written here reminds me of something I read by Anthony Burgess. He said that when A Clockwork Orange was first published in the U.S., they made him take out the final chapter in which Alex, having been cured of his brainwashing, comes to his own realization that mindless violence is sort of stupid. The original publishers didn't think that ending was dark enough (neither did Stanley Kubrick), but Burgess always said that people deserved an ending that showed growth, that showed things getting better.

  8. Whether or not there were "mistakes" in Bible Camp Bloodbath, I'm so glad you're going to do this. As a reader, I think this is such a fascinating opportunity to see an author's different points of view on the same story. I'll be reading the two back to back as soon as the new one is available.

  9. Wow, that's really interesting.

    It's hard for me to make an objective sort of comment, because not only do I not like hopeless endings, I also dislike horror.

    On that note, I can't say I enjoyed Bible Camp Bloodbath the same way I enjoy your other books
    (received a copy of One Bloody Thing a few days ago and read it all in one go, despite it being the third time).
    But I liked that you *wrote* Biblecamp. And I liked that you enjoyed writing it. I got what you were going for, even if it's not for me, and I think you did it really well.

    However, if you want to revise things, I say do it~~ It's your book, after all. I find the idea of re-writing something that was already successful and effective one way, into a new way is really interesting.

    As a side note,
    I have to say, I still often think about the note that Martin left. It's just so sweet and then so sad.
    Martin really got me in that book, and his final scene stuck with me. Probably *because* it was so hopeless.

  10. You know... I think I agree with you. I really enjoyed Bible Camp Bloodbath, and I would anticipate new chapters and devour them as they came out, loving the dark humor and brutality of your writing. But I honestly felt unsatisfied at the ending, and it surprised me because of how much fun I'd been having with the rest of the book. I don't think I realized why until you brought up this point. I think you may be right: Pan's Labyrinth is a good example of the promise of hope. Even if there really isn't any, it's important to have that sort of fantasy sometimes. I haven't seen Martyrs (I read your post on it, though), and based on that I do think there are similarities between that movie and your ending. In some cases I like hopeless endings, especially in horror, or when the antagonist is particularly likable. But I just don't know if it fit with BCB. :/

    But please don't think I didn't like it! I loved it, and I've been a big fan of everything of yours that I've read. (clunky sentence :I ) The important thing is that YOU fall in love with it, and that it makes you happy. If you rewrite it, I'll be very excited to read it. :)

  11. I thought that the book you wrote had something else going on. In the middle it was a bit of a joke, people were suffering in the mindless horrifying way that they suffer in slasher movies, and in the mindless horrifying way that makes the audience not care about their suffering. But in that final moment, where you suddenly change the perspective, you create a situation where the reader is forced to care about the main character. Thereby creating a situation where they are forced to reconsider the entirety of the book. Forced to reconsider everything they've just read in the light of their newly rekindled empathy.
    Maybe I suck at identifying hopelessness, but the end of BCB was just so beautiful. The (albeit twisted) innocence of the whole thing was just really touching.

    But I'm very interested to see how the revision goes.