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Composing Holiday Blue
Switching from Writing Historical Fiction to Science Fiction: Utah, 8/31/2022
© 2022 James LaFond
I have just completed Cox & Swain, a historical novel, three days ago. I found that it was easier to finish Plantation America, a history book on the same subject, than to switch from Historical to Speculative Fiction.
I had intended to write a mythic fantasy.
Once again I have taken the coward’s road. 14 months ago I outlined Of Ichor and War and have declined numerous opportunities to execute the mythic fantasy about men rebelling against the gods. The reason is that I am afraid I’m not a good enough writer to pull it off. I think Gene Wolfe should have written it.
I was inspired to do a Sunset Saga spin off, titled Timejacker, based on some politics on the train west, an easy pulp novel that would have been a total cop out. Then, a number of things happened that brought me to a science fiction exploration of the fantasy concept of men versus gods.
I have been with Bob for17 days now. He is a life long hunter, who has grown mostly sick of killing, and needed help slaughtering his “good laying hens” who were too old to warrant the feed any longer.
Before I return to that, two longstanding aspects of Bob and my relationship are:
-1. my wonder at his meat hunting ethics and how it applies to humanity,
-2. my wonder at his disdain for domestic animals as a man who has worked slaughtering and neutering various domesticated critters, from sheep, to mink, to those feathered raptors, compared for his admiration of wild animals, as in many ways superior to men, something he shares with Shayne, who was in town to run the chicken slaughter for his blood weary old friend,
-3. The fact that I am very much “Bob’s legs,” on the mushroom hunt and in various foraging ventures, that we have joked that he should rig me up with a go-pro and a headset, drop me off and then remotely direct me from his truck as I caper about the mountains as his avatar.
That gave me an idea for a novel titled Legs, about remaining working class men being used as activity avatars by infotech nobility. I might still write that.
There was a discussion of the flavors of meat, of how the feed of an animal determines the flavor of the meat, and it occurred that if aliens came here as meat hunters, that old stringy bulls like Bob and, Shayne and I would be safe, and that young plump women would be desired.
Then there is the intersection with meat hunters working in slaughter yards, how they can’t stand eating domestic meat after they have been up to their elbows in blood and guts and have spent weeks listening to the death screams of live stock that knows it is about to die.
I experienced this sadness combined with labor as Bob pointed out the chickens to Shayne and they were brought to me. These things are not easy to kill. Bob helped me with one like his father had and it was not efficient enough. While Bob held that bird’s head through two nails stuck into a board and I wielded the ax, I was so worried about not hitting Bob’s hand that I did not take the head off with one stroke, but just broke the neck.
Bob rung a few necks. Shayne killed most of them. I killed 1, failed to kill one that Bob re-killed, and re-killed two.
The smell of death was in my nose and still is after two days of foraging in the mountains. It smells like a grocery store meat room. I was butchering, working at the table, while Bob was pointing out victims and Shayne was wringing their necks until they gushed blood. Behind me he hangs the chickens on cords, by the feet. I am butchering one on the table.
They are rounding up another. The few chickens know that the giant who has fed them for years, is now their judge, pointing them out to the executioner. I knew Shayne would insist I kill one clean, so I went inside and got my foot long black war club, fits well in the back pocket and belt. Axing and wringing necks caused a lot of blood. One of the chickens that Shayne had wrung its neck, was squawking and spattering me with its blood.
As I was working at the butcher table in the shed, I noticed that the dead chicken hanging there, with its neck bone sticking out bloody, was following me with her yes. I pointed it out to Shayne and he said, “Take care of it..”
The war club brained it dead.
Ripping the breast and thigh feathers out was brutal, sometimes the skin coming with it. I said to Bob, who was de-feathering one, “I’m glad they’re dead. This would be terrible.”
He ripped some feathers out of his and it squawked. He said, “Damn, this thing had its neck broke twice. It must be a reflex. I must have pressed on its breast.”
He ripped out more feathers.
“Jesus, I’m, sorry, Hen—she’s alive!”
The next hen was brought to me upside down and I was glad, on humane grounds, to be able to whack it in the head with the narrow blunt instrument and put it to sleep…
Bob thanked us both and the conversation turned towards guiding hunters, and what a pain in the ass it was guiding trophy hunters from New York, who did not respect the animals or eat the meat…
This brought me to the middle ground between writing a mythic fantasy and a pulp science-fiction. By the time we had gotten the shed cleaned up, disposed of the bodies and I reassured the betrayed chickens that their government did care by feeding the survivors apples, I had decided on a science-fiction take on Titans; of ancient, fleshly but in some cases deathless beings, having left earth, after seeding it with us, after their image so that we would provide the perfect physical and spiritual nutrition, so that there meat hunters could return for breeding stock for domestic farms and they might also guide the nobility on trophy hunts.
The image of the Good Shepherd, of a god that cares unconditionally for the welfare of an inferior race of beings, was soon crowded around by the many images of antiquity of human sacrifice and that the first priest-kings, enshrined in myth and religion as part mortal, part divine, were, quite likely, in actuality, cannibal warlords and didacts like the warriors and priests of the Aztec Civilization.
So, I hope to write Holiday Blue in 16 chapters, Wife— in 16 chapters, and Of Ichor and War in 16 chapters in the 49 days I have left in Utah.
PS: The question is, will I chicken out again and write Timejacker instead of Of Ichor and War?
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nc     Mar 6, 2023

Killing chickens:

make a chute, small at the bottom, big at the top. Place chicken in chute head 1st. Pull head through chute. Cut head off with sheers. Let chicken bleed out for 1-2 minutes.

Have 160F water in a pan ready (keep it on the fire). Place chicken from chute in hot 160 water for 60 seconds, Remove and pluck. After pluck place in cool bath (hose running) and let cool, then gut.

Rinse repeat.

After 6 chickens are dead, cut/trim as desired.
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