Thursday, August 24, 2006

New Beginning 88

By the time the Obesity Police knocked on Trini’s door he was already in an Obee safe house, this one in the basement of a long abandoned apartment building deep in the burned out section of Old Detroit. He sat alone at an old school desk eating the day’s free lunch - week old doughnuts and stolen Coke. Although the August day was unusually hot and humid, the basement remained cool and comfortable. There were half a dozen other people in the large room. Trini watched them in silence, trying to guess who was an Obee and who was an Indie. It was easy to assume the fat ones were all Obees and the others were Indies, but that wasn’t always true. Trini thought himself an independent even though the Bureau of Body Mass Index considered him at the low end of obesity. There might even be an undercover Rexic in the group. At least the Rexics let you have their food. The damned Leemies would eat theirs and yours too, and then spew it all over the room.

One of the others sidled up to him. "Hey, man. Trade you a cream-filled for a jelly."

"Deal." Trini gave him a raspberry-filled doughnut. "How long you been out?" he asked the man.

"Three months. My brother . . . not so lucky . . . " He looked at the floor. "They got him for cheesecake. Cheesecake, man!"

Trini bowed his head. "Poor bastard," he said. "Nobody comes back from cheesecake."

Opening: Edd Tury.....Continuation: Feisty/Novelust


Anonymous said...

The story was funny enough it didn't even need a continuation.

Anonymous said...

It's a joke, right? 'Cause I wouldn't read on, thinking it's a joke.

The writing is good, which, I suspect, was the point of this entry.

braun said...

Ingenious! 1984 meets Shape magazine!

The continuation was funny, but mostly because it worked with the story than because it did everything different.

Someone help me out, though. I get Obees and Rexics - but what's an Indie?

Inkmandoo said...

No joke.
I'll be posting the entire first chapter for your critiquing pleasure.
Sharpen your knives.

spongey437 said...

Interesting concept - very much attuned to 1984 I agree. The only thing I would have liked to have seen here is maybe a quick explanation as to WHY being obese is a crime.

Also, BMI is just a horrible way to determine whether someone is obese or not - body fat percentage is much better. I have a friend who is 5'7" tall who weighs 200 pounds and would be considered VERY obese according to BMI calculation, but he is a body builder and has about 3% body fat.

Brenda said...

I love this!

Anonymous said...

Loved it! After days(felt like years) without EE, this is a great post to get back to.

Great continuation too. Especially if it comes with desert.

By the way, I'm definitely an obie. Must... resist... cheesecake!

braun said...

re: explanations

Why does everyone always want things explained in the opening paragraphs? It's definitely the author's perogative to leave the reader a little lost at sea for the first few pages! As long as they're not so confused that they quit, a nice case of what-the-hell-is-going- on's can really draw them in.

At any rate, this situation is basically a given if you read a lot of SF or fantasy: inevitably it's going to take a while to get to know the world the author has created and how it all works together. As a reader, you learn to just sit back and enjoy the ride and hope that everything becomes clear in due time.

HawkOwl said...

I think it's noticeably better than your other New Beginnings so far. I wouldn't read it because I don't feel like reading a social satire about the pros and cons of being fat, but the writing itself wouldn't stop me.

PJD said...

Is this a satirical backlash against the "obesing of America" craze that's gone on recently? If so, I think you've got it backwards. I think we are more likely to have a REAL backlash and end up with Skinniness Police.

Also, you need to change the name of the Obesity Police. It's much too mundane and descriptive. A real government agency, especially one that deals in oppression of a subsection of society, would be called something more along the lines of the "Healthy Body Administration."

I dunno. I guess my reaction was that this is going to be some self-righteous rant against herd mentality. Not that that in itself is a Bad Thing... But the opening paragraph focuses so much on what the different groups are called and segregation that it suggests the message overpowers the story.

My suggestion (and I don't claim to be an expert here) would be to tone down the societal message in the first paragraph. Focus on the character and the story. Then, throughout the opening chapter, reveal to us slowly what the societal situation is. The way it's done now, I rolled my eyes. OK, so this is what I'm in for. I'd rather get to know the characters and care about them, and have the horror of the Obesity Police be shown to me over the course of many pages.

Also, I found it ironic that the main character is so focused on categorizing the people in the room while at the same time running away from prejudice. That may or may not be intentional irony. That part, I kind of like.

Anonymous said...

I would find it very difficult to critique this without knowing where it was going.

One problem that I personally had with it was that I saw "Indies" and thought "hipsters". Sort of a strange image - a mixture of overweight people and skinny kids with studded belts and Buddy Holly glasses standing around not dancing while bragging about owning Tigermilk. The "Indies" seem a bit out of place given that every other subculture appears to be weight-based, rather than based on the desire to eschew commercially released music.

I don't know. I might read on. You'd have a better chance hooking me if you tightened the writing up some, but I'm not sure I can give specific suggestions without, as I say, seeing where all this is going. The only advice I can give would be to ignore the people calling for more explanation, and in fact to give us less.

Anonymous said...

The concept is cool. It reminds me of "Demolition Man" -which I like a lot. The irony of everything being Taco Bell but everything that is bad for you (i.e. salt) is outlawed.

I would keep reading. -JTC

acd said...

You again! I'll check out the first chapter.

born_liar said...

pjd is right, the Obesity Police should definitely have a euphemistic name. Probably a euphemistic name that is also an acronym, like the PATRIOT Act.

Other than that, I would definitely read on.

Anonymous said...

I loved this! And I think you should keep the Obesity Police. Their name explains so much so quickly that I don't think you want to be euphemistic about it.

I would totally read on; this is very imaginative and shows signs of having quite a bit of dark humour.

Word veri: PMSzy - how I get once a month.

Lisa Cohen said...

I found this original and compelling. Not sure where it is going, but that's a good thing.

I would read on.

Rei said...

Wow, this isn't a joke? I would have wagered money on it being a joke.

Dave Fragments said...

Satire based on BMI - nice idea.

And the beginning is just enough to give you the flavor (ooh that's a bad pun) of the weirdness that must permeat a story on this wild-eyed and goofy premise.

I love wild-eyed and goofy BTW

Anonymous said...

Thought it was a joke, too.

Anonymous said...

This was very funny. I agree with the commenters who vote for a euphemistic name for the Obesity Police.

And Demolition Man was big fun -- very clever.


Kathleen said...

I would definitely keep reading the story, and I loved the continuation too.

nice work.

magz said...

WTG INK-Man! Great writing, period. Look forwards to more.

Cute addition too, kudos to both!

Anonymous said...

I would definitely read on. As a social satire, this has lots of ways to go from hilarious to tragic. Taking anything to the nth degree always provides thought food.

Good stuff!

writtenwyrdd said...

I'd have to read more of this to know if I'd read on, but I have to agree with pjd.

How about change the title to Heavies? Hmmm...That was meant as a joke, but it might work....

Overall, your writing is good, but feels heavy handed to me. I prefer getting my background a bit more slowly than this.

And why only pastry? Why not have pizza in there, and chocolate? Mmmm, pizza. But I have to agree, cheesecake is the killer of all junk food. Nathan's.

I hate you. I'll have to bake a cheesecake when I get home tonight. And order a pizza.

Anonymous said...

You yanks take your freedom for granted. In Canada, home of universal health care, there are growing rumblings about excluding drug addicts, smokers and obese people from the system--or making them pay a portion of their care. It's just a few steps further to the point where government starts forcing them to mend their ways. The society in this novel just went slipping down the slope a bit further.

I'd read it. The writing wasn't bad, and I can wrap my mind around the premise, although I found the word "rexics" a tad off-putting.

The free lunch of week-old doughnuts and coke was a great detail.

Wormy Boy said...

The body-mass index is good. As was mentioned, it's an unreliable measure, which fits well with a repressive régime. ... I guess I agree, the beginning is heavy, but maybe I'm being led by previous comments. Perhaps the hook's too big. We can't really know from one-hundred-fifty words. ... 1984? That's kinda shortin' Eric Blair, isn't it? ... Indeed, if everything is immediately explained, you have a police report, not a novel. ... I just don't care for the word, unusual. ... Is it a long-abandoned building, or a long, abandoned building? ... How 'bout this: The Health Authority; Helping the Workers of our Nation have Stamina for days and Not Burden our Insurance Firms. ... that is all.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what I think. And I already read the comments, to help me sort out my thoughts. Here's my best shot:

You've got a MESSAGE going on. I tend to read books with obvious message only if I agree with the message. That's why I'm having trouble with this opening. I'm not sure what the message is.

I'm also not sure about my thoughts on obesity. Being there myself, and having loads (literally) of family who are killing themselves this way. Don't like the looks, stares, and holier-than-thou types. But also realize obesity is a real problem and supported by our American culture.

Wish it weren't. (more sidewalks and walking, less highway, malls, gas-guzzling cars; more salads & water, less fries and burgers--this is a problem in middle America, not NYC or the west coast so much).

So the writing is good. Loved the free lunch detail.

Didn't like the "indies" because I couldn't fit them into the food hierachy (obees=obese; rexics= anorexics). So your nomenclature isn't consistent and pulls the reader out of the story, imho. Perhaps he could be a "carny"-like carnival guys used to be called, but in this case a carnivore! or better an "omniv"-or a "grazer." In a world obsessed with vegetarian healthy food, these types of labels would work better.

Whatever, though, I didn't think it funny. Possibly interesting. possibly good satire. but funny makes me laugh and this didn't. It did draw me in. Good luck.

LOL at the continuation. Great stuff. Looking for cheesecake now. NO, NO.

pj said...

How about "normie" (normal) instead of "indie"?

Kanani said...

A whole book of this? So is this a crime novel? Someone gets figures out the code to the Krispey Kreme bank accounts and funnels it all into an offshore account? Or is it a murder mystery, where someone gets killed over Krispey Kremes?

Perhaps for x-marketing you could include a coupon for a dozen free Krispey Kremes?

The writing is clean, though things like Obesity Police, BMI could start your eyes to glaze over.

HawkOwl said...

Kis - Between you and Inkmandoo, I can't stop thinking "freedom is slavery." LOL

McKoala said...

I like the start. But some paragraphing might be good.

PJD said...

I think I understood "indie" to be a sympathizer to the cause but who would not show up on the Obesity Police's list of bad guys. Sort of an anti-authority activist.

I don't like the name "indie" (though I loved the flying ghoti's description of why not).

If you've got obees and indies, why not rexies? It's much easier to say than rexics.

Anonymous said...

I loved this opening; I agree with the earlier commentator braun who stated that everything shouldn't have to be explained in the first 150 words -- to sit back and enjoy the ride. It was clear what obees, leemies, and rexics were, so I assumed an indie would be someone who didn't want their eating habits regulated, but I trust that if I kept reading all would become clear.

I disagree with the suggestion to change obesity police, it makes the situation clear right off the bat. "Obee safe house" made me laugh; so did "Bureau of Body Mass Index."

Anonymous said...

Drug addicts and smokers should be excluded from the health care system. Why should everyone else pay for their bad habits?

braun said...

Yes, and we should also exclude the elderly, whose health care needs account for some 90% of medical costs.

In fact, I think we should provide health care only for the healthy!

Oh wait, we do that, it's called health insurance.

Dang, come to think of it you could have a real winner on your hands if this is the kind of issue your tongue-in-cheek message novel skewers.

Anonymous said...

Drug use and smoking are choices, growing old isn't.

Anonymous said...

You put the elderly in the same catagory as drug users? -JTC

HawkOwl said...

If we wanted to reduce health care costs, the first thing we should do is cut back on prenatal care drastically. So much of it is totally useless. And then cancel million-dollar surgeries that extend a person's life expectancy by five years.

braun said...

I live with a doctor, believe it or not.

As Hawkowl said, we sink vast amounts of resources into extending the lives of the chronolgically challenged by a couple of years.

Smokers and druggies aren't even a drop in the bucket.

Regardless, I'm not sure I like the idea of deciding whether or not someone "deserves" medical care.

In other news, I detect a thread hijack coming on.

Anonymous said...

This piece was not my cup of tea. It's partly because I just don't like future dystopia stories very much, but also because the writing takes itself too seriously. I agree with other commenters that the beginning is full of "message." Additionally, I didn't like the nicknames "obee," "rexie," "indie," and so forth. They sounded contrived.

Wormy Boy said...

People do things. They drive cars, smoke, drink, eat, get injured working on the new freeway or on the new strip-mall. Some of 'em shoot dope. Some climb mountains or jump from airplanes. People hurt themselves all the time chasing a ball around. They get gassed at the refinery, they breathe smog, they get into pollution of some kind every time they turn around. They get their legs blown off in stupid wars. They take all manner of drug for every little thing, sometimes to cure invented or non-existent ills. Some are sedentary at work, some at home, some all the time.

Look at yourself, and you will eventually find a fault and a reason for your dismissal from the club. To exclude any of these people from medical help is to exclude everyone.

If you'd be so kind, please visit my fledgling blog for fun-filled debate and silliness of all kinds.

HawkOwl said...

Not coincidentally, most of the risks you mention are insurable. Work accidents are covered by Workers' Comp, which is a mandatory insurance program. Car accidents are covered by car insurance, also mandatory. Sports are generally insured if organized by someone else, and you can insure yourself if you're doing it on your own. Soldiers are uninsurable, but they do get a pension.

Hey, maybe what we should do is levy an insurance premium on cigarettes, and buy group insurance for smokers. Booya! Same with fatty foods. That would totally work.

Wormy Boy said...

Well, anything's insurable. Gimme a billion dollars, and I'll pay for anything that happens to you for the rest of your life, no matter what. In the meantime, I'll buy myself an island and relax until I hear from you. Then, we'll go to court.

Anonymous said...

Actually an insurance actuary in Canuckyland crunched the numbers and discovered that if all the "sin taxes" levied on tobacco went to health care (like they're supposed to) and not general revenue, smokers would be subsidizing the Canadian health care system something like 150% per smoker. Something about the fact that smoking kills people before all those knee surgeries and hip replacements and cataract procedures are necessary.