Mostly because I had other fish to fry. However, my experience writing SILVER BROWN (and subsequently 2021’s project for National Novel Writing Month, which was an offshoot of SILVER BROWN) came up as a topic whilst chatting with somebody I met once on one of those crazy apps. The conversation fizzled soon after I brought up the talking ferret, but it got me thinking about what kind of grand artistic endeavour I should tackle next. During the holidays, I spontaneously jotted down something in the notepad on my phone to that effect, which I’ll have to wait until the end of the academic year to pursue in earnest.
If you grew up in Canada and are of a certain age, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein was part of a complete childhood. I learned a few weeks ago that it is currently available for binge-watching on Tubi. Originally produced by CHCH-TV in Hamilton, Ontario in 1971, it aired for only one season. Yet that one season would be shown in syndication for nearly two decades thereafter, where it would find its way into the cockles of the collective heart of Gen X Canada. A sketch-comedy/sitcom hybrid for the whole family with a regular cast of oddball characters (most of which were played by the same actor), set in a medieval castle where Halloween never ended. A diminutive vampire character on this show (specifically the one who was always talking on the phone in Count Frightenstein’s coffin) allegedly served as the inspiration for Mini-Me of Austin Powers fame. Vincent Price was a regular contributor to boot…
One of the recurring segments on Frightenstein was Grizelda the Ghastly Gourmet, which was a take on TV cooking shows featuring a witch as the star chef. Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, I’ll just post a clip of one of those segments here…
Whilst watching Frightenstein at 4:20 the other night, I was suddenly reminded of how convincingly female Grizelda seemed to the sensibilities of my eight-year-old self. The fact that she was actually portrayed by a man in drag never dawned on me until junior high school. It might shock some people to hear this, but my young impressionable mind found nothing traumatizing or world-crushing about that revelation at all, and was even somewhat amused by it. You see, drag performers have been entertaining audiences young and old for literally centuries, and for most of our history it was actually possible to have a man in drag entertaining a group of kids without a permanently enraged mob of cultists throwing a violent temper tantrum.
I totally get that these cultists are out to avenge their dogmas. But it has to be said that the rest of us are not at fault for their own costly public relations failures, and their actions are thus unwarranted. Decades of sleaze, corruption, pointless scapegoating and trying to attract flies with vinegar (to say nothing of coöptation by a political party) arguably contributed way more to the recent spate of ecclesiastical bankruptcies than any drag queen. Drag queens don’t text dick pics to fifteen-year-old girls. Pastors do.
This is a doodle of an eyeball glyph I did in Adobe Illustrator a while back that I’ve never had an excuse to use until now. If you scroll down past it, you will find an excerpt from the current chapter I’m working on. The species so described is part of the established lore of the fictional Environment in which my story is set, but I think this would be the first time I’ve fully realized it in prose. Might give it more qualities in future drafts, but methinks this is serviceable as a rough sketch.
At first glance, this life form looked perfectly harmless. Comical, even. Resembling a course layer of chocolate brown hair growing out of solid bedrock. Carpeting the walls of the burrow. The fur of a shaggy dog, without the dog. But as every worker knew, this fur was not to be petted. If one were to agitate the hairs in any way (either by accidentally kicking them or handling them in any non-gingerly fashion), such an action would trigger an immune response in the organism, causing fruitbodies to germinate in the agitated hair tips. A mere ten minutes or so later, these hairs would have evolved into thick, almost woody stipes bearing mature spherical sporocarps, each one with that characteristic appearance suggestive of the head of an old Morgenstern club with a shiny metallic sheen. One could probably see their reflection (albeit distorted) looking into such an anatomical structure. But no worker in their right mind would dare find out for sure. It was grilled into them from their job training that if a fruitbody had that certain silver look to it, it was dangerous. One should get as physically far away from it as humanly possible, with the same speed and sense of urgency as if it were a time bomb on the verge of detonation. Because in many ways, that’s exactly what it was.
That silver part of the Silver Brown never made a sound when it burst. But a worker would always know when it did. Their sinuses would instantly be assaulted with an odor that was as distinctive as it was repugnant – something like a cross between cheap men’s cologne and a skunk carcass in an advanced state of putrefaction, with a subtle hint of wet dog flatus. The unmistakable stench of untold cubic gallons of the organism’s seminal ether being ejaculated into the open air, a minute percentage of its mist and vapors invariably finding its way into the lungs of any hapless soul who just happened to be in the vicinity.