Six to Go by J.E. Deegan


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Post April 23, 2005, 08:21:24 PM

Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

Overall, this was a good story, with decent writing and premise, and a twisting ending that left me mulling it over for a bit. <br><br>Just a couple of quibbles (and some spoilers):<br><br>(1) I felt that some of the impact was (paradoxically, maybe) undone by leaning too much on the usage of single sentence passages to add drama. A good example can be found in the three single-sentence paragraphs following the description of Dennis' shape shift. There's no need for them; Dennis' change is certainly dramatic enough.<br><br>(2) I read certain sections twice and, while it's possible I missed something, I found no indication that he was covered in black grease paint until the detective mentions it. So I wonder, is a writer obligated to hint at or otherwise indicate, however obliquely, something like that is a key to the ending?<br><br>(3) I think that the idea of a monstrous character that exercises his monstrousness on those that are deemed (stereotypically) morally bankrupt, evil, etc, is kind of a cheap way of trying to create a complicated lead character. A were-panther that only feeds on the kinds of scum that so vexed Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver is a tired device and in a lot of ways problematic in that it renders monolithic the kind of people you're apt to find in a place like Limboland. Particularly, when I think Mr Deegan intended for Dennis to come across as not so noble in his choice of meals. Dennis is a guy none too interested in humankind, those "coarse, pretentious asses who sneered at his shy manner and ridiculed his preference to avoid contact and conversation." So why hunt those who might feel the same way as him? Dennis went after someone who might very well have been a homeless person, the epitome of humanity shunned, silenced, and dehumanized. Anyway, I wonder how the story might've read had Dennis been hunting the upper middle class, the soccer moms and Nascar dads. Or if Dennis was really supposed to be someone we might want to root for, why not send him after a child-seducing priest or pharmaceutical industry executive?<br><br>Dan E.
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Post April 24, 2005, 10:04:00 AM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

Dan obviously gave this a lot more thought than I did (me dumb editor, just pick stories me like), but it could be that our psychotic (but not just psychotic) protagonist chose the lowest of the low because they were precisely those whose deaths would generate the least fuss. Police don't work quite as hard to investigate the death of a drug dealer as they do when a church organist buys it. On the other hand, a rich (or politically-connected) victim's case always gets a lot of attention, even if he or she is a Robber Baron / rapist. (The 'Robber' part is overshadowed by the 'Baron' -- viz. the Kennedy clan (who got rich running booze during Prohibition), the Bush clan (whose progenitors dealt with Nazi Germany, according to some sources) ...)<br><br><br>While the mauling (and munching) would suggest animal attacks, forensics would reveal: that the wounds had been caused by metal blades (or claw-like implements); a lack of animal hair; maybe traces of human saliva or other DNA evidence; and probably traces of black grease. These things would point to a human perpetrator -- if anyone cared enough about the victims to look that hard. (CSI: Limboland was the one spin-off that didn't work out.)<br><br>Robert M.
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Post April 24, 2005, 11:04:13 AM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

Robert's first point makes a lot of sense (as usual I want things to work at broad ethical levels that have no bearing on real-world storytelling--Attica! Attica! Attica!).<br><br>As for Robert's second point, I was speaking purely from a mechanical standpoint. I expect the po-pos to know all about the Black Panther since when we know they've had bodies before; and it's perfectly appropriate for the grease paint detail to be fully revealed at the end. My observation was about whether readers should've been given some indication about the grease paint at the start of the story, perhaps at the point that Dennis was looking in the mirror. <br><br>Dan E.
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Post April 24, 2005, 01:38:11 PM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

...I expect the po-pos to know all about the Black Panther since when we know they've had bodies before; and it's perfectly appropriate for the grease paint detail to be fully revealed at the end. My observation was about whether readers should've been given some indication about the grease paint at the start of the story, perhaps at the point that Dennis was looking in the mirror.

Dan E.
<br><br>Ah, but our big kitty-cat really believed that he was physically changing into a black panther. Hence he was not consciously aware of donning the metal claws and slathering on the grease -- he saw and felt only the sheen of black fur over muscle and bone, felt the claws growing from fingers and toes, and as long as the story was from his POV, so did we.<br><br>Waking up in human form wouldn't necessarily jolt our boy out of his delusions, either -- the lycanthrope (or in this case, ailuranthrope?) always returns to human shape at the moment of death in all the tales that formed the basis of his delusions. The nine lives part, however, was (from) another story.<br><br>Robert M.
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Post April 24, 2005, 02:40:02 PM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

OK, I still wonder if readers should've been given some clue about grease paint whether Dennis was conscious of it or not; but it is after all just a personal quibble.<br><br>I am aware of some of the "rules" of lycanthropy (now, I don't know, would they clean a dead body of all the grease paint?). But your comment raises a question: Wouldn't the authorities be suspicious of having killed the same guy three times? Wouldn't the police also be suspicious that twice prior the body vanished from the morgue? They'd have photographs of the body and some record of what they'd have to assume was body snatching.<br><br>Dan E.

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Post April 26, 2005, 01:08:02 PM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

I'm going to rewite this story and eliminate all reference to grease paint and snap-on claws. They just muddle things up, and I should have thought of that when I initially wrote Six To Go. I'll make Dennis Bonn a black man with long, sharpened fingernails and toenails. Dennis, you see, really does transform into a Black Panther with nine lives. At the story's end he has six remaining. That's what I want the reader to realize.<br><br>J.E. Deegan
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Post April 26, 2005, 01:20:15 PM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

I'm going to rewite this story and eliminate all reference to grease paint and snap-on claws.  They just muddle things up, and I should have thought of that when I initially wrote Six To Go.  I'll make Dennis Bonn a black man with long, sharpened fingernails and toenails. Dennis, you see, really does transform into a Black Panther with nine lives. At the story's end he has six remaining. That's what I want the reader to realize.

J.E. Deegan
<br>That being the case, why did you have any references to the fakery?  Did you change your mind as the story evolved?  Personally, I found the double twist (he wasn't physically transforming (only thought he was), but he DID have supernatural characteristics (nine lives -- or maybe a kind of immortality?  What will he do if he dies TEN times, but still comes back?)) made the story more interesting.<br><br>Ye editor<br>(Robert M.)
Last edited by Robert_Moriyama on April 26, 2005, 01:21:33 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post April 26, 2005, 01:40:33 PM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

For what it's worth, I agree with Robert. <br><br>

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Post April 26, 2005, 04:26:28 PM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

<br><br>You raised some thought-provoking points, ye editor.<br><br>As for the references to the fakery, I can't say I rightly know why I did that. I do remember that the idea for the grease paint and the metal blades occurred as I was writing the scene under the bridge when Dennis was shot. I might have been trying to entice the reader into wondering just what the devil was going on...is he or isn't he a Black Panther? I may not have thought that through well enough.<br><br>I like your take on things, though: the double twist; the supernatural characteristics; a kind of immortality. If most readers come to that conclusion, I'll be satisfied.<br><br>Thanks for your insight and for sharing it.<br><br>J.E. Deegan
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Post April 27, 2005, 12:14:10 PM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

I'll have to agree with the others. I found it more interesting when I thought Dennis was a misguided psychopath who only believed he was a were-panther. That also cleared up a troublesome plot-hole for me: as incompetent as the cops of Limboland may be, there is no way they would mistake an animal mauling for a serial killer, especially multiple killings.<br><br>Another comment. Dennis is hardly sympathetic as a protagonist. If you're going to have your main character be a villain, he needs to be more than a two-dimensional killer. Few writers can get away with writing from a villain’s perspective and get away with it. It can be done, but it's extremely difficult.<br>
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Post April 27, 2005, 01:05:49 PM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

I'll have to agree with the others. I found it more interesting when I thought Dennis was a misguided psychopath who only believed he was a were-panther. That also cleared up a troublesome plot-hole for me: as incompetent as the cops of Limboland may be, there is no way they would mistake an animal mauling for a serial killer, especially multiple killings.

Another comment. Dennis is hardly sympathetic as a protagonist. If you're going to have your main character be a villain, he needs to be more than a two-dimensional killer. Few writers can get away with writing from a villain’s perspective and get away with it. It can be done, but it's extremely difficult.
<br>Like I said, CSI: Limboland was the one spin-off that failed. Keeping in mind that Dennis at least occasionally ate parts of his victims, provided that the metal claws were shaped properly, perhaps microscopic examination (that would have revealed traces of metal in the wounds) was never considered to be necessary. (J.E.'s proposed re-write would remove this factor, anyway.) As for the question (raised in other posts) of why the cops never noticed that they had killed the same guy three times, J.E. never said how Dennis died in the prior incidents. Could have been shot or stabbed by some of the other denizens of Limboland and left for dead ... in which case there would be no detectives' or morgue attendants memories and no crime-scene photographs to help make the connection.<br><br>As far as writing from the bad guy's perspective -- remember, a great many of the monsters out there do not think of themselves as monsters. Dennis, by choosing those he considers unworthy to live as victims, assuages any guilt he might feel; and he also believes (rightly, according to J.E.) that he is only being true to his nature as a predator by killing (and eating) them. And (aside from the killing) some of history's worst have been downright boring. (Who was it that said that evil is often banal?) Not everybody can be a Bond villain (or even Snidely Whiplash).<br><br>Robert M.
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Post April 27, 2005, 01:16:43 PM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

As for the question (raised in other posts) of why the cops never noticed that they had killed the same guy three times, J.E. never said how Dennis died in the prior incidents. Could have been shot or stabbed by some of the other denizens of Limboland and left for dead ... in which case there would be no detectives' or morgue attendants memories and no crime-scene photographs to help make the connection.
<br><br>I guess I should have elaborated. I was referring to Dennis' victims, not Dennis himself. If he was indeed a were-panther, as J.E. stated, then he should have left animal marks on the victims' bodies.<br>
Last edited by Jaimie on April 27, 2005, 01:17:02 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post April 27, 2005, 01:50:29 PM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

I believe Robert is referring to my comment regarding the multiple deaths of Dennnis. I assumed that if the cops had enough info to attach the label Black Panther, or to recognize a manifestation of this Black Panther character, than they would have had some knowledge of the bodies (although it is true that there is nothing about the cops having killed Dennis before--so, again, I stand corrected); however, multiple sightings might be enough to establish such a folk figure.<br><br>But it is also true that the police would be on the alert for a serial killer, even if the vicitims are from Limboland; I imagine the viciousness of the murders would make for good headlines (might be that Dennis would need to be a drifter to maintain his habit).<br><br>Regarding Jaimie's comment about villainous lead characters, one book that pulls this off is Patrick Suskind's Perfume.<br><br>I would like to say that I think Mr Deegan's story works at its core and really only needs some tweaking--I would argue against a massive revision.<br><br>Dan E.

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Post April 28, 2005, 02:20:49 PM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

To Jamie:<br>First off, thanks for your comments. I find it enlightening to read opinions from people who give some thought to what they read. Same goes for Robert M. (ye editor) and unforgibbon.<br><br>The police who cover Limboland aren't incompetent; they simply have been anesthetized to the bizarre and horrific happenings that regularly take place in Limboland. They believe -I believe - that Dennis Bonn is (was) a psycopath, but as long as the killings were restricted to the human debris inhabiting Limboland, tey weren't going to divert resources that are needed elsewhere (yeah, the decent areas of the city).<br><br>Why is Dennis a villain? He only kills when he's a Black Panther, and he kills for food, as all predators do. As Dennis Bonn, he's a shy introvert who lives and works alone. He was quite content with that life, and he didn't ask to be mauled by that terrible tabby that fateful night in the park. Is the panther his alter ego? Sure...at least in a sense. The panther is everything that Dennis is not: powerful, aggressive, feared, the king of his domain. And let's not forget that the panther - like Dennis - is a loner, a creature that eschews the company of others of his kind. <br><br>Ye Editor: <br>I don't understand what you mean by (CSI: Limboland was the one spin-off that didn't work out.) Could you explain please?<br><br>unforgibbon:<br>There is no reason the police should be on the alert for a serial killer. During the conversation between Sergeant Casey and the rookie cop under the bridge after Dennis is shot, the sergeant says that some people think there have been others in Limboland like him (Dennis with the blades strapped to his hands and feet). No one associates Dennis with similar killings that might have taken place.<br><br>Thanks again to all of you.<br><br>J.E. Deegan
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Post April 28, 2005, 03:10:21 PM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

Why is Dennis a villain? He only kills when he's a Black Panther, and he kills for food, as all predators do. As Dennis Bonn, he's a shy introvert who lives and works alone. He was quite content with that life, and he didn't ask to be mauled by that terrible tabby that fateful night in the park. Is the panther his alter ego? Sure...at least in a sense. The panther is everything that Dennis is not: powerful, aggressive, feared, the king of his domain. And let's not forget that the panther - like Dennis - is a loner, a creature that eschews the company of others of his kind.
<br>Hmm. It seemed to me that Dennis knew he was killing people and actually relished being a black panther. If I was in his situation, I would do everything in my power from having more people hurt. Not only would I consider him a villain, but an amoral psychopath. Anyone disagree?<br>
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Post April 28, 2005, 03:44:36 PM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

I agree with Jamie. A lot of the posttransmogrification (yikes) language seemed to glorify the change. Was it a function of a perception shift as well? That is, are we seeing from the alter ego's perspective, the one that is a pure hunter? If so, we don't have sufficient knowledge of Dennis' morality, only his cynicism. Further, he installed a mirror in his motel room to watch himself change. That suggests that he likes what's happening.<br><br>And, not to be too argumentative--well, maybe a bit--I think all law enforcement agencies are at this point thinking of the possibility of a serial killer after even one nonanimal-generated mauling of even the worst scum on the planet (insert anti-regime joke here) whether they publicized the concern or not. I think the police are pretty learned about such things. If as you say, Dennis killed for food, the remains would be horrible not to mention sensational and hard to cover up....<br><br>Dan E.

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Post April 28, 2005, 05:23:30 PM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

He had no control over the transformation that took place four times a year and no control over the acts he committed thereafter. Should he, as Dennis Bonn, have killed himself to prevent further transgressions?
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Post April 28, 2005, 06:07:26 PM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

Re: CSI: Limboland -- as you said, crimes in Limboland were not given as much attention as those elsewhere in the city. Hence no CSI-type forensic work (or not as much as for crimes elsewhere in the city) -- and if there WAS a CSI: Limboland, nobody would watch because they just wouldn't care about things that happen there.<br><br>(It has been pointed out, by the way, that the stuff they do on the CSI TV shows is rather unrealistic. Real forensic work is (a) time-consuming, (b) highly specialized (people tend to be experts in one or two aspects of the work, not all-around geniuses), and (c) bloody expensive (the equipment and consumable items ain't cheap).)<br><br>Re: Dennis's status as victim or villain. viz. the character Oz in the Buffy TV series. Once he realizes that he is a werewolf, Oz tries to chain himself up (or lock himself in a cage) during those periods when he expects to 'wolf out' (the three nights of each full moon). Dennis, on the other hand, goes to a specific hotel room where he has had a full-length mirror installed, planning to hunt and kill. Not exactly the actions of an innocent victim of circumstance. even if you subtract the fake-claws and greasepaint factor. I think you would have to demonstrate that Dennis knows that there are terrible consequences if he tries to contain his panther-self (perhaps uncontrolled rage during the daylight hours once caused him to harm someone who didn't (in his view) deserve it) if you wanted to portray him as not-a-villain.<br><br>Robert M.
Last edited by Robert_Moriyama on April 28, 2005, 06:10:50 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post May 18, 2005, 11:47:37 PM

Re: Six to Go by J.E. Deegan

Most of the comments have focused on the philosphical points, which are important, but I think very personal.  Watching Macbeth fall is just as curious as watching Arthur rise.  I think if J.E. wants to have Dennis be admirable or at least pitiable as the board suggests his springs into cathartic murder need to be inspired somehow, or add some sort of supporting conflict in which he has to expose his inability to control himself to someone who has empathy for his place in the world.  Just some thoughts.<br><br>Also, being a biology enthusiast, my feeling was I wanted the experience of the mutation embellished a little more.  For example, did you know that the vertebrae of felids are not joined by ligaments?  The mutation would require each of Dennis' vertebra to separate from each other.  That would kinda hurt if you know what I mean.;)  It just goes to show what exhaustive research can do even for us fantasy writers! ;D<br><br>Aside from that, I liked your literary style.  You know just what to say and when to say it.  A few passages did feel a little rushed, but perhaps it's just my reading style.<br><br>I registered and appreciated the "double-whammy" especially because--and I think many readers of fiction agree--spending time with a character that's mostly non-existant is disappointing.  Like everyone else, I was confused how Dennis could manufacture the scene at the end.  But I still would like to read how the other six lives turn out.
Last edited by DT on May 18, 2005, 11:59:17 PM, edited 1 time in total.

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