Plotting out Florida Man vs the Elder Gods, I decided to re-use a character/arc from a previous, unfinished project (Gods and Monsters). The character and his arc will both fit better with the current project than they did in the original. So what does that mean for Gods and Monsters? That project’s “trunk” status has probably just become permanent.
So, wanna hear about it?
Gods and Monsters was named after a line from Bride of Frankenstein (not the Ian McKellan film, which was a biopic of BoF and original Frankenstein director James Whale). One of the main characters was named for Whale and another director you may have heard about, Ed Wood, Jr.
The principals were Ed Whale, writer-director of low-budget films; his wife, Nora; her father Lester, a cranky former actor living in beachfront retirement; and Ed’s writing partner, a closeted homosexual Chicano.
The plot would have followed the four main characters slowly and independently of one another uncovering a pernicious cult (based on Scientology), eventually discovering the cult was started by evil aliens. The aliens would have no high-concept goals or ambitions. They were going to be the kind of pulpy alien monsters L. Ron Hubbard might have written, or the kind you’d see in a terrible 50s B-movie. They came to mate. There were going to be tentacles.
The setting was an alternate-history version of the early 2000s. (I never stated this directly, as I wanted readers to think it was set in the 1950s until they figured it out from in-universe historical context.)
In this parallel history, Russian spies managed to infiltrate the Manhattan Project and it was Stalin who deployed the first atomic bombs and ended WWII in the Pacific. Obviously this alters the post-war environment considerably. America doesn’t import Nazi scientists – the Soviets do. America doesn’t have a long and weird relationship with Japan – the Soviets do.
The entire Cold War goes a lot differently. By the story’s version of present day, the West is losing. Badly.
McCarthyism is the dominant political ideology of the United States. Blacklists and HUAC are still very much a thing. (The cult I mentioned earlier has been under a secret HUAC investigation, and during the story manages to infiltrate the committee.)
The seismic cultural shifts of the 1960s in America never happened.
This let me have a “modern” setting that looked, culturally and even to some extent technologically like the 1950s. Nora is trapped by marriage and social mores, and there was going to be this strong parallel between that and her mother (whom her father had committed to an insane asylum years earlier when he discovered her infidelity). There was going to be a serious yellow wallpaper component to the tale, which is one reason I quit working on it – I’m not the writer for that. (Another reason was Ed’s writing partner, whose homosexuality, if discovered, could land them both on the Hollywood blacklist. Also not my story to tell.)
Nora’s father. He was the biggest trip. Before becoming an actor, he’d been in the Army. During the Vietnam War (which lasted much longer in this AU) he’d been seconded to the CIA and worked on anti-Japanese propaganda. Remember, Japan is aligned with communism in this universe. It would eventually be revealed that his classified work there exposed him to the aliens first arrival.
In the present day, Lester is losing his fucking marbles. He starred in detective serials. When an old friend from the Hollywood days sends him an enigmatic letter, Lester goes to see him – and discovers he’s been murdered. As his grip on reality slides, Lester’s personality becomes increasingly eclipsed by the character he played in the serials. By the third act, he thinks he is that fictional detective and this is his biggest case yet.
I’d love to go back to this world someday. But I probably won’t.