Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr


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Post July 13, 2005, 11:17:16 AM

Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

<br>gotta say i didn't get this one at all. was the protagonist really "insane"? did Robert try to tell us Billy was OK in the head and everyone else was crazy?<br><br>there must have been a few clues, so either i'm too tired or too daft, but just can't see them.<br><br>a few interesting points: the narrator describes the city as "our town", indicating that Billy was always an outsider, like a prisoner. this does open up a lot of fascinating possibilities.<br>and liked the brief but effective detail regarding the storyteller's unemployed status. it was oddly chilling in its accuracy.<br><br>and the last paragraph has the mental hospital as Werkwork, i think it should be Werkworth? "worthy of work"? <br><br>if the author or anyone else has the time to enlighten me, please do.<br><br>Lee
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Post July 13, 2005, 11:30:07 AM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

Lord, did I screw up another blurb? This was another of Rob Starr's explorations of no-monsters-required horror, to wit, our treatment of the mentally ill. We ignore 'em until they make a nuisance of themselves -- then lock 'em away and medicate them into oblivion unless there's somebody to fight for them. Nobody fought for Billy -- although the narrator (feeling guilty for having pushed him over the edge?) might have, if he'd had more time.<br><br>Were Billy's demons 'real'? I asked Rob if he might drop a hint that perhaps they were -- but he declined, since the situation was horrible enough without bringing in an X-Files beastie of some sort.<br><br>Say ... how do I know that YOU are real? Maybe I just imagined that comment of yours ... Get away from me with that syringe! No! No straitjacket! NO!<br><br>Robert (They're all mad save thee and me -- no, scratch that ...) M.
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Post July 13, 2005, 11:46:46 AM

Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

<br>good question, how do you know i'm real, or anyone else for that matter? i think i'm real because i keep spending money on all kinds of stuff that doesn't REALLY work, like my new LCD monitor with its 400:1 contrast thingie. syringes don't let you down like that, Robert, and cost much less. I spend therefor i am.<br>anyway, i guess my hunches were correct. Mr. Starr confirmed there was no hidden agenda or otherwise paranormal elements. hmmm, if this was supposed to be horror i'm afraid it didn't scare me at all. intrigued yes, but not scared. <br><br>and there's nothing wrong with your blurbs, actually i didn't read the one for Billy Goes.<br><br>wanted also to say that the short bios you put in after stories are cool! they seem more personal and customized, sth i appreciate.<br><br>Lee
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Post July 13, 2005, 12:50:28 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

I think I'm real.<br>Everyone else goes away some times, but I'm always right here.<br>Dan<br>
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Post July 13, 2005, 02:38:45 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

I think I'm real.
Everyone else goes away some times, but I'm always right here.
Dan
<br><br>Ah, but what if YOU are all in your head? Or all OUT of your head, out of your tree, off your rocker, two legs short of a centipede(?) ...<br><br>Robert (closing in on 600 posts, most of them drivel like this one) M.
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Post July 13, 2005, 04:15:01 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

Lee:<br> BGTW is just a story I imagined about someone I saw once ( although I don't remember where or when), or maybe a kind of sterotype I've seen walking the streets where I live for years because we had a mental institution/complex in the next town to mine when I was young. <br> My Dad took me drivng there once and the grounds are pretty close to what I remember.<br> To answer your question, I usually see what the story should be about after several revsions and not before, and BGTW ended up being about the most terrifying thing I could imagine...having your own brain turn on and torment you. That's pretty scarey to me.<br> ;D

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Post July 13, 2005, 06:23:06 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

The narrator displayed enough of Billy's mannerisms and circumstances that I see this piece as touching on the fine line between "us" and "them"; what really separates mental health from insanity? <br><br>I wonder if some (definitely not all) of the imagery was a bit heavy handed, eg, the hospital, and I also thought the ending was a bit melodramatic and ultimately undercut the theme of hopelessness I felt was being cultivated throughout. I think the horror of Billy's circumstances would have been better underscored had he been left to languish in the institution as opposed to having the freedom to choose not to. <br><br>Dan E.<br>

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Post July 13, 2005, 09:42:23 PM

Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

<br>seems like every community in the world has a mental institution which they use in vernacular much like the one you included in the story. <br>and i do second your thoughts on being betrayed by one's own psyche and mind. what could be more terrifying and frustrating than that? however, i didn't get such a sense of foreboding from the story, perhaps events went by too quickly or mayhap it wasn't pounded into the readers in a gruesome enough fashion. <br><br>Lee
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Post July 14, 2005, 11:08:58 AM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

I'm with Lee on this, didn't scare me too much but it scared the bejeezus out of the space monkeys who live in my toaster.<br><br>. . .But I kept thinking about the story for the rest of the day and into the night. . . .which must count for something. I kept wondering just what society's duties are--or should be--when it comes to those like Billy. I seemed that as long as he didn't hurt anyone he was left alone. But when he broke both hands beating a (presumably) innocent car, shouldn't the community take some kind of action?<br><br>And yeah, we had our version of the local mental hospital which became both the boojum with which to threaten and the generic referent for summing-up your opponent's proclivities and/or prospects.<br><br>The story structure seemed sound and some of the imagery--the big window with the human-sized hole in the middle--will stay with me for a while.<br><br>Bill Wolfe<br>
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Post July 14, 2005, 11:17:13 AM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

I think I'm real.
Everyone else goes away some times, but I'm always right here.
Dan
<br><br><br>It should have read: "I think I think, therefore I think I AM. . . .I Think." ;)
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Post July 14, 2005, 12:36:26 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr



It should have read: "I think I think, therefore I think I AM. . . .I Think." ;)
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Post July 17, 2005, 09:29:34 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

I don't see this as one of Robert's best efforts by any means. There is no white-knuckle suspense, no breath-taking adventure, no slam-bang action, and very little drama. The plot is simple. <br><br>And yet this simple, tragic story of a mentally disturbed man grabbed me and held me from beginning to end. I found it well written, and well worth the read.<br><br>I was puzzled by one thing. I've never been on the inside of a mental institution either as a visitor or otherwise. But I did wonder why they would have glass windows so easily accessible to patients.<br><br>All in all, a very enjoyable story.<br><br>Donald<br><br>Notes:<br><br>1.) I didn't think of the story as horror, but as mainstream.<br><br>2.) I think I'm real--until I'm waiting for a clerk's attention at the service counter of a store. The clerks usually look right through me to call the person who showed up fifteen minutes after I did.<br><br>3.) "You oughta be in Chatahoochee!" I heard that expression many times, and thought it was a made-up name ubtil I found out it's the real name of the Florida State mental institution.<br><br>
Last edited by dsullivan on July 17, 2005, 09:38:48 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post July 17, 2005, 10:15:32 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

Donald:<br> thanks for recognizing BGTW as a mainstream story. I've always thought really good horror doesn't always need over-the-top elements; sometimes a subtle approach can be more disturbing and thought provoking.<br> Anyway, the mental hospital around here was actually a compound with a series of beige brick 'cottages' with red roofs. (Each of the buildings had a number stenciled on the side.) When they closed the place down,they left it standing but built a subdivision around it. What's left of the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital sits surrounded by new homes and the underground maintenance and service tunnels are still open. How's that for a future setting?

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Post July 18, 2005, 01:08:15 AM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

...or some alien creature decides the tunnels are a good place to hide and raise its hatchlings...:-)
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Post July 18, 2005, 09:46:08 AM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

what actually happens, or so I've heard, is the Goth kids tour the tunnels late at night. If that isn't a Steven King hook, I dont' know what is. :o
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Post July 18, 2005, 10:52:13 AM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

 what actually happens, or so I've heard, is the Goth kids tour the tunnels late at night. If that isn't a Steven King hook, I dont' know what is. :o
<br><br>Didn't they already do a movie with a similar premise (or at least on similar premises ::)) -- 'Session 9'?<br><br>Robert M.
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Post July 18, 2005, 11:01:24 AM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

tell me more. Is it readily available? Anyway, Robert,you're from this neck of the woods. Does the "Whitby Psyc" ring any bells? (interesting choice of words, no?)

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Post July 18, 2005, 12:17:47 PM

Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

<br>space monkeys and toasters? sounds like cereal to me!<br><br>get the paperwork done, i'm being committed.<br><br>Lee<br><br>
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Post July 18, 2005, 12:29:16 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

tell me more. Is it readily available? Anyway, Robert,you're from this neck of the woods. Does the "Whitby Psyc" ring any bells? (interesting choice of words, no?)
<br><br>***<br>Plot Summary for Session 9 (2001) (from imdb.com)<br><br>An asbestos abatement crew wins the bid for an abandoned insane asylum. What should be a straightforward, if rather rushed, job, is complicated by the personal histories of the crew. In particular, Hank is dating Phil's old girlfriend, and Gordon's new baby seems to be unnerving him more than should be expected. Things get more complicated as would-be lawyer Mike plays the tapes from a former patient with multiple personalities, including the mysterious Simon who does not appear until Session 9, and as Hank disappears after finding some old coins.<br><br>... and from a commentary by another contributor:<br><br>...The plot concerns an asbestos cleaning crew working in an cavernous, abandoned mental hospital (the real life Danvers State Hospital in Danvers, MA). Under a tight deadline to make a $10,000 bonus, tensions soon run high as they grow familiar and interact with the institution's history of lobotomies, multiple personality disorders, child abuse and gloomy incarceration. ...<br><br>The labyrinthine institution dominates the film and the actions of the characters. ...<br><br>***<br>Haven't seen the movie myself. It sounds like there may be hints of supernatural happenings -- but the real horror derives from the revelations of sadistic treatments used at the hospital in the past, and the disintegration of at least one of the crew's sanity (with gory results). imdb.com indicates that it should be available on DVD and on VHS, although it would probably be harder to find on tape these days.<br><br>***<br>Never heard of Whitby Psyc. I grew up (well, maybe) in London, Ontario, and we had our own Psychiatric Hospital. Dunno what the nickname for it was, or is ...<br><br>Robert M.
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Post July 18, 2005, 08:35:23 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

I looked upon this one not as a horror story, but a tale of sad failures.<br><br>Billy was locked inside his own head sure enough, but I was moved by the sorrow of his situation. Shunned by even a "friend" like the narrator, he freaks out and is sent away. Would he have been better for one friendly word from another soul? At Werkworth, the sanitized and sanctioned lack of real caring quite literally pushes Billy over the edge to his death. Outside, a ring of faceless white coats watches his death, while the one person who wanted to reach him runs away. The narrator is so into his own life and motivations, that he doesn't even have the courage to provide a friendly face for Billy to see before he passes into the beyond.<br><br>The narrator is "locked up" in a prison of his own selfishness and guilt, but he gets away and is called normal.<br><br>Distressing, and truly sad.<br><br>In terms of the storytelling, I'm with Dan E. on the melodramatic ending. I thought that was overdone, and took away some of the punch it should have had.<br><br>Nate
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Post July 24, 2005, 12:17:51 AM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

I enjoyed this one for the sentences were balanced very well, and the story captivated me! Held my attention until the end, and I was never wishing that the story would end as I read it! <br><br>I'm not sure about what the author was trying to suggest. Perhaps nothing! After all, to write a story we need characters in it whether ghosts, aliens or one of the variety of humans.<br><br>A mental hospital would guard against easy access to a window. I don't know much about them, but I'm sure if that hospital were an old one, somebody through the years would have notice how easy a patient could jump out that window.<br><br>This author has talent and I hope he keeps publishing!<br><br>
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Post July 24, 2005, 12:01:09 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

This is an extremely well-written story. The narrative flowed smoothly with poignant imagery. The use of first person was appropriate, giving insight to the narrator’s mind as he himself fixated on someone else’s. I viewed Billy as a warped mirror of the narrator, and therein lies the horror. What drives the narrator is not compassion (or even guilt, for that matter), but that there is the seed of Billy’s insanity within himself.<br><br>I agree with the others that this is more mainstream/literary. There seems to be this dichotomy between genre and literary writers; they don’t seem to view each other’s works with much enthusiasm. That’s a shame, as I feel the perspectives are somewhat arbitrary and limiting.
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Post July 24, 2005, 02:14:18 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

Hey Jamie and Megawatts.<br><br> Thanks for the kinds words from both of you. I agree, Jamie, that some people seem to like only genre or literary fiction, and some of those people feel the need to down the kind of writing they don't usually read. Too bad, but 'C'est la vie.'<br> Personally, I'll tip my hat to Robert M. for publishing the kinds of stories that grab his attention-either literary or genre.
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Post July 24, 2005, 03:14:42 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

I agree with the others that this is more mainstream/literary. There seems to be this dichotomy between genre and literary writers; they don’t seem to view each other’s works with much enthusiasm. That’s a shame, as I feel the perspectives are somewhat arbitrary and limiting.
<br>You find this surprising?<br><br>Literary fiction is widely considered the pejorative antonym of genre fiction, and I've certainly seen little crossover. <br><br>Lit. writers by and large consider genre fiction to be lowbrow and poorly crafted, since literary focus is on style and character for more educated markets. On the flip side, genre writers tend to think of lit. fiction as pretentious and deliberately obscured, as their focus is a plot that appeals to a mass market.<br><br>However, in this case, a few quibbles over the emotion or logic of the ending doesn't mean we genre writers are casting aspersions on the world of lit. fiction or in any way on the quality of Rob's story. I believe we all said we enjoyed this story, and were moved by its tone and content. IMO that's pretty good commentary for any story.<br><br>I think Robert M. would give his eye teeth for half that many comments on his story, no matter how it was viewed.<br><br>Nate
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Post July 24, 2005, 04:02:50 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

good point Nate. I'm flattered by any and all comments.
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Post July 24, 2005, 04:54:36 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

...I think Robert M. would give his eye teeth for half that many comments on his story, no matter how it was viewed.

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Post July 24, 2005, 05:40:56 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

I agree with the others that this is more mainstream/literary. There seems to be this dichotomy between genre and literary writers; they don't seem to view each other's works with much enthusiasm. That's a shame, as I feel the perspectives are somewhat arbitrary and limiting.
<br><br>I did see BGTW as mainstream, but not literary.<br><br>I once did an article on writing terms for Calliope--A Wrter's Woekshop by Mail, and did quite a bit of research on those terms  both in the local library and online.  One of the things I found is that there's lots of confusion--and disagreement on many writing terms.  But here are a few of the things I found that most "experts" agree on:<br><br> Many people think of mainstream and literary as the same style of writing.  Actually, the opposite is true.  Mainstream is itself a genre, just as are mystery, romance, and others.  The opposite style of literary fiction is commercial fiction.  Here's a few definitions:<br><br>Literary fiction=Fiction that is devoted to the literary aspects of writing, with the emphasis beingon the style of writing rather than on the art of storytelling. <br><br>Commercial fiction= Fiction that has a broad appeal among the general public. <br><br>Mainstream fiction=Realistic stories of people, the tragedies and joys they may experience, and the decisions and choices they may face throughout life<br><br>Slipstream fiction=Mainstream fiction infused with fantastic and/or surreal elements.  Slipstream is more fantastic than mainstream fiction, but less so than speculative fiction.<br><br>Speculative fiction=Fantasy, science fiction, horror.  (note:  literary fiction cna include speculative fiction and other genre fiction, for example, literary horror).<br><br>Writer's Digest gives a pretty interesting answer on the literary vs commercial question.<br><br>Q&A: Commercial vs. Literary Fiction<br>Q. In my quest to submit my work, I have stumbled across a problem. I'm having trouble placing my work into a catagory. What is the difference between Commercial, Mainstream, and Literary fiction? Have any idea where I can find a basic list of definitions for these catagories?<br>  --Nichelle<br><br>A. In general, fiction is divided into literary fiction and commercial fiction (also called mainstream fiction). There aren't any hard and fast definitions for one or the other, but there are some basic differences, and those differences affect how the book is read, packaged and marketed.<br><br>Literary fiction is usually more concerned with style than commercial fiction. Literary fiction also usually stresses characterization more deeply and is paced more slowly than commercial fiction. Literary fiction usually centers around a timeless, complex theme and rarely has a "happy ending." Good examples of literary fiction are books by Toni Morrison and John Updike.<br><br>Commercial fiction, on the other hand, is faster paced, with a "stronger" plot line (more events, higher stakes, more dangerous situations). Characterization is generally not as central to the story. The theme is also very obvious and the language in not as complex.<br><br>The biggest difference between literary and commercial fiction is that editors expect to make a substantial profit from selling a commercial book (not always true of literary fiction). Likewise, audiences for commercial fiction are larger than those for literary fiction. Tom Clancy, John Grisham and Stephen King are all prime examples of commercial fiction authors.<br><br>One of the easiest ways to determine whether your work is literary or commercial is to ask yourself, "Will my book be assigned reading in college English classes, or will it be sold in grocery stores?"<br>  --Jerry Jackson Jr., assistant editor, Writer's Digest<br><br>Donald<br><br><br>
Last edited by dsullivan on July 24, 2005, 05:43:22 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post July 24, 2005, 07:20:21 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

thanks, Donald, for giving us all a framework. I,for one, didn't have any definitions clear in my head. Still, there seems to be a lot of room for crossover.

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Post July 24, 2005, 08:50:52 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

Not only is there a whole lot of room for crossovers, but I think it goes on all the time. I once sold a story that I didn't think of as literary at all to The Small Pond, a literary print zine. (I was new at writing, and had only a vague idea what literary meant!)<br><br>Donald<br><br>
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Post July 24, 2005, 08:53:48 PM

Re: Billy Goes to Werkworth by Robert Starr

That's why I said mainstream/literary. This one had elements of both, in my opinion. Of course, that's an opinion. That's always the case when one argues art.
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