Friday, May 10, 2013

The Duck of Darkness

Came across this image on FB today, and had to laugh at an old memory it conjured up. The story of the Coveted Thelma Award is here, and it it, the tale of The Duck of Darkness

Basically, I was at my first–and only–writer's retreat, waaay back in the day, 1978, down in L.A. This was a homegrown version of Milford or Clarion, with a bunch of newbie writers at a Black Widow spider-infested Methodist youth camp in the hills, over a week twixt Christmas and New Year's. We brought stories, passed them around, made comments, and tried to learn how to write better as a result.

We cooked, we workshopped, we drank cheap wine, we slept in bunk beds, we bonded. 

Most of those folks did grow up to working-pro writer status, including among 'em Michael Reaves, Evelyn Sharenov, George Guthridge, Pat Murphy, Richard Kadrey, Sue Petrie, and Yours Truly. The full list is on the linked page above.

Um. Anyway, I brought a downbeat, sorta-depressing piece called The Duke of Darkness. The guy running the thing, Richard Kearns, put cover sheets on the stories before we passed them around, and retitled mine The Duck of Darkness. Which humor killed any chance of anybody reading it seriously. I was beset with comments that tended to run toward:

"Quack, quack, quack! he quacked evilly ...

Har, har, fuck-you, har ...

Pissed me off. 

This was the same workshop wherein my longtime collaborator Reaves had his name deliberately misspelled to "Reeves," because Kearns knew that pissed him off.

One of Reaves's stories got comments  like this: "Well, this is well-written and slick and all, but ..."

So, for a time, we nicknamed each other "Slick," and "Duke," and developed enough of a bond that we started corresponding and eventually collaborating. 

I don't know where that story is today, I shelved it right after the conference. Couldn't look at it ...

Meanwhile, I was into cartooning, and sometimes I'd doodle on letters I sent out. This was back in the pre-internet days when paper and snailmail were in vogue. Ask your grandfather what this means.

I did a toon on a letter I sent to Kearns, a little image of a duck in a cowled robe, an evil grin, and a reaper's axe in hand, just to show I had a sense of humor. Kearns, working at a print shop, copied the image, added my address, and sent me a ream of paper as a letterhead. Since it was way funny by then, I used that as my letterhead until I ran out or moved. I can't seem to find any of it about; too bad, it was cute.

Eventually, I made a tacky little statuette of the Duck of Darkness out of Sculpy and sent it to Reaves. The paint never quite dried, so it was literally tacky until it collected enough dust to cover it ...

We were easily amused in those days ...

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