Due to technical difficulties, members of my critique group haven’t been able to open the file I sent around as an email. I’m hoping to have better luck posting the attachment here for them to download.
So, for the readers of this space who aren’t follow Long Island genre writers, consider this a sneak peak of Mighty Mighty, my second novel. I’ve got more than 70,000 words down already, with another 30,000 to go, I figure. So we’re getting into the late chapters.
It’s not just a superhero spoof, although I hope it works like that much as I hope Land That I Love works as space opera. But, just like LTIL is really a political satire, M2 is really a social satire. In the world we live in, we all have abilities that make us special, and yet almost all of us end up in unchallenging, dead-end jobs and spend our lives bothered by the fact that we could be doing so much more. If we lived in a world where “as many people have superpowers as have herpes,” as one of my characters puts it, would it be any different? No. Those with superpowers would just find some excuse or another not to make the best use of them. We’d just have flying mall cops. And, in a bit of political relevance, M2 nationalizes security for malls, banks, parking garages and so on; it’s all a TSA function now.
It’s also a love story, but not a traditional one. Not to compare myself to Woody Allen (boy meets girl, boy adopts girl …), but I’m a big fan of Annie Hall. That broke all the romance rules. It doesn’t take 90 minutes for Annie and Alvy to finally hook up. It takes about 10. Then the audience asks itself, “Will they stay together? How will they stay together?” Ultimately, not to spoil the movie for those of you who haven’t gotten around to seeing it over the past 33 years, they break up — which is entirely against the rules. The romantic element in M2 is represented by three characters: Missy, Kevin and Orville (the names are all provisional and subject to revision). This isn’t your typical triangle. Early on we find out that Missy and Kevin, each of whom grew up in a blended family, are actually biologically brother and sister. We find out the same time they do, i.e., the morning after such information would have been more timely. That gives Orville an open goal. Missy admires Orville deeply for the work he’s done as a superhero and is actually starstruck at the prospect of working with him. But he is an Asperger’s case with obsessive-compulsive disorder and doesn’t know how to process or express whatever feelings he might have for Missy. And, as hinted at in this installment, Missy might no longer be receptive to Orville should he figure all this out.
M2’s structure is either a tribute to or a send-up of (you decide) Moore’s & Gibbons’s Watchmen. I could probably tell this story in half the words, but the events that happened in the world and in these individual’s lives 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, provide insights into why they do what they do, and how their arcs brought them to the degraded and degrading situation they’re in now.
Here’s the story so far:
Orville is a superhero whose disabilities (OCD, Asperger’s) and rather disgusting power (his mucus is highly explosive) rendered him an unsuccessful candidate for membership in the elite superteam, The Crusaders. As the story starts, he works for for the TSA as a security guard at St. Louis’s Chesterfield Mall along with a bunch of other Crusaders rejects. His colleagues include Bobby, a constantly stoned speedster; Lugh, a blue-collar Celtic god with an obscene vocabulary that dates back millennia; and Shel, the boss, whose super-strong arms aren’t supported by his normal-guy spine. There are two more recruits: Kevin, who is an undefeatable hero on the astral plane but completely useless on earth; and Missy, an ardent feminist whom the goddesses burdened with the power to transform herself into Georgiana, the most beautiful woman imaginable. Missy is accompanied by the spirit guide the goddesses provided: the ghost of Eva Peron, who is seen, heard and touched only by Missy and Lugh.
In this world where so many people have superpowers, mundane people compensate by possessing trading cards; these talismans offer the kind of power you’d see in a Yu-Gi-Oh cartoon. The team is caught up in a battle to control the lost card that would complete the Malificium deck; its power is not specified in the early chapters, but it is important enough that the industry lobby for evil — the Washington-based American Malevolence Institute — will stop at nothing to get it. The Crusaders, trying to prevent that, come down from their headquarters in geosynchronous orbit to battle the Institute’s villains over the collection at the Chesterfield Mall’s card shop, owned by the mysterious Seth Hill. In the ensuing battle, the card shop and the surrounding stores are trashed; the TSA fires all the mall heroes except for Orville; half of Seth’s cards are stolen by the Institute and the Malificium card might or might not be among the missing; and the Crusaders’ tactical leader, Colonel America, is turned into a flaming homosexual by the Institute’s newest villain, Gay Ray, and now considers himself unfit to continue as a superhero. The colonel resumes his civilian identity and passes his powers on to Marisol via a transfusion administered by Dr. Rudy Goldman, the government’s leading expert on superhero physiology. The mall heroes who were fired by the TSA decide to, a la The A-Team, go underground and hire themselves out privately. No sooner do they get settled in their new headquarters — an abandoned loading dock at the mall which Bobby had years earlier transferred into his man cave — that the call comes in: the small town of Plainville, Illinois, just a couple hours’ drive away, is under attack by a maneating beast that is half woman, half vicious predator. They arrive at the same time as Orville’s new TSA team which includes two heroes with woefully insufficient power (controlling traffic lights, perfect spelling) and their leader, the cunning antihero Lou Noble, an anachronistic film noir detective (he is visible only in black-and-white) who revels in being known as America’s Greatest Dick. The two teams join forces. Unknown to them, Doc Rudy and the new Colonel America have already arrived in Plainville. Ray has also driven up in advance of the rest of the Institute villains. The woman-badger, named Bella Brock before her transformation, keeps hungry eyes on the whole proceedings.
Meanwhile, Marvin, the former Crusader known as Black Man who has lately fallen on hard times, employs guile to swipe back one of the cards from the Institute’s Washington offices and transports it back to St. Louis.
I’ll leave this synopsis up, but will take down the file after Sunday’s crit group meeting. (I’m excited. We used to meet in book stores. Now we generally meet in a diner. But this week we’re meeting in my backyard — inside a structure I’ve come to call Sukkahenge.)