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The Nature of Man
Chasing Cinderella confronts man's nature and discusses if life has any meaning. Storytellers strive to assert their dominant narrative in hell to win the coveted prize of rebirth.Share Tweet LinkedIn Embed pszr.co/zUEHe 816 views
|Literary Fiction Absurdist Fiction|
|6 publishers interested|
Truth is a space that is contested. In relating stories, truth is also being communicated - at least the version that the storyteller wants heard.
Chasing Cinderella explores the contest of truths by using the plot of dead storytellers competing against each other in hell for the grand prize of rebirth. Through their retelling of folktales, the fight between them mirrors the battle of truths.
As they strive to assert their narratives so that it becomes the dominant one, the dead bards are answering the question: "What is the nature of man?' Whose truth will prevail?
In hell, the Devil sets a challenge: Entertain the Devil with a story and the first soul to do so will get a chance at rebirth. Ngurunguur is the first to try.
The Story of the Coyote
Twisted hijacks Ngurunguur's tale, telling the story of the origins of the coyote.
The Boy from Nowhere
Ngurunguur retakes control of the narrative. He introduces the story of the prince who is central to the main plot.
Prince, by any other Appearance
Twisted interrupts Ngurunguur again by contributing to the Prince's story. He also introduces a new, mysterious character.
And so, She Appears
A new challenger in the form of Voice from the Heart joins the contest. She ventures to tell the story of Cinderella once Twisted takes a break, changing the direction of his tale.
Voice from the Heart continues with her version of Cinderella.
Ngurunguur picks up on Twisted's earlier storyline and makes it his own. He also subverts Voice from the Heart's story by introducing Layla, an unconventional beauty who will turn Sarkie the salt merchant's life upside down.
The Ephemeral Gypsy
Ngurunguur introduces the character of the gypsy who has been earlier cast by Twisted. Sarkie will meet his end because of the gypsy's trickery.
The Salt Merchant's Redemption
Sarkie seeks salvation by telling his own life story.
Ngurunguur wrests control from Sarkie and sets the scene for her secret plan.
Layla fails and is transported to the moon.
The Moon Rabbit
Layla makes use of the moon rabbit in another effort to see her plan through.
Ngurunguur wins the Devil’s prize.
The Devil shows his hand.
Out of a total of 253 books classified as absurdist fiction by Goodreads.com, 103 such books were published in this century alone. Considering the fact that some of these books were published in the 19th century, having close to 41 per cent of absurdist fiction books published in this century (a mere 18 years) represents a disproportionate representation of interest in this genre. There is interest in absurdist fiction and Chasing Cinderella will tap on this market and offer its perspective on the genre and the issues that it tackles.
Chasing Cinderella is for readers who are above 18 years old and who fit into any of the following categories:
· Victim of organized violence (e.g. refugees, current military personnel or former military personnel)
· Victim of domestic violence (e.g. abused husbands, wives, children, parents)
· Victim of sexual violence (e.g. rape survivors, molestation victims)
· Perpetrators of crime, indicted and not indicted
· Adults diagnosed with or suspected to have violent tendencies (anger management issues, explosive disorder...)
· Adults with gender and sexual identity issues
· Adults with terminal illnesses
· Adults near the end of their lives (e.g. the elderly)
- Adults struggling with their religion/faith
My love for the written word took off when I started my first job as a journalist for a community newspaper. In my observation and interaction with people from different walks of life - families of murder victims, victims of scams, perpetrators of crime, retrenched workers, among many others, fact and fiction sometimes become blurred as interested parties try to gain the upper hand. This led me to wonder who is the good person and who is the bad one in every story I pursued. Looking at the bigger picture, I became more interested in the question of man's motivation and nature. Can bad people do good things? Can good people do bad things? Why?
This will be my first attempt at writing and publishing fiction. My goal is primarily to use the fictional space to freely explore the timeless question of man's nature. I believe that through fiction, authors are liberated from the limitations of time, space and what most people perceive as facts to tackle uncomfortable and difficult themes and ideas. The boundaries of creativity will be tested and it is up to the author as well as the audience of fiction to conjure a make-believe world so that they can better understand the phenomenon we see in reality.
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Connections who expressed interest in pre-order: 4
Book clubs / reading groups that could be potential audience:
a) 3 prison book clubs/reading groups
b) 1 domestic shelter reading group
c) 1 non-religious book club
d) 1 veterans book group
Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Faber and Faber; 1954)
Brief: A group of schoolboys are stranded on a remote island after the plane they were on crashes. Without adult supervision, their freedom degenerates into violence against each other.
Difference: There is redemption and hope offered by William Golding in the characters of Ralph and Piggy. In Chasing Cinderella, man's nature is revealed to be immutably and irredeemably bad.
The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coelho (HarperCollins; 2001)
Brief: A stranger arrives in a remote mountain village and tempts its inhabitants with the promise of riches provided that the villagers commit murder. The stranger has a mission - he wants to know if people are inherently good or evil.
Difference: Coelho shows a duality in man's nature. Chasing Cinderella is unabashed and unwavering in its commitment that human nature is rotten.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (Longmans, Green & Co.; 1886)
Brief: Framed as a thriller and mystery crime drama, the story reveals how Dr. Henry Jekyll has a malevolent side (Mr. Hyde) with the use of a serum.
Difference: Through science and the reliance on a serum, Stevenson suggests that man's nature can be altered externally. Chasing Cinderella argues that it is innate and incurable.
Tales from the Thousand and One Nights (or the Arabian Nights) translated by N.J. Dawood (Penguin Classics; 1973)
Brief: Over 1,001 nights, Scheherazade tells several stories to her husband King Shahryar to delay her execution.
Difference: Not all tales within the collection are connected to the overarching story line. In Chasing Cinderella, even though there are smaller stories, they are all part of the whole and relate to the overarching theme. All the characters can be linked to each other.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (William Heinemann; 1962)
Brief: A gang of youths wreck extreme and wanton violence upon the community in a dystopian England set in the future. The chief protagonist and perpetrator is arrested and is subjected to attempts to re-condition him.
Difference: The description of violence is stark and gratuitous in Burgess' account. Chasing Cinderella delivers the same verdict about the human condition in a less graphic manner.
Like many other nights under the sparkling diamonds that dotted the desert sky, Ngurunguur’s people sat around the fire after their nightly meal. They eagerly await one of Ngurunguur’s many stories. With the darkness, save for the light from their fire, surrounding them, they had nothing to do or look forward to before the sun rises the next day. Listening to his stories sparked their imagination and prepared them for their own dreams when they sleep. Dreams are stories imparted to them by their forefathers, they believed. A night’s sleep without dreams meant that their past have abandoned them as their ancestors refused to communicate with them and that their night’s rest would be incomplete. And so now, like any other nights in the desert habitat, the expert storyteller begins:
“Out of the dark, milky solution, the black python stirred. Its first movement – lateral, tiny shakes of its muscle fibres which have been dormant ever since it created the cosmic milk that the reptile needed to sustained itself, caused several undissolved flakes to dislodge from the vast expanse of the python’s dark world into the sky-world that was nearer to the world of men and earth. The stars were thus formed. For the python’s dark, viscous realm of existence was far beyond the world of men and earth and could only be reached after travelling to the farthest end of the sky-world. But one day, a tribe of the bravest but also the most desperate men of the land of men and earth ventured out to look for food. Their wives, children and parents have been starving. They lived on an island and have never been in contact with anyone else. Fishing and gathering of fruits were what sustained them. Then came the terrible season. The sea around the island turned yellow and fish, which were once plentiful, were nowhere to be found. After two weeks, having eaten all the fruits – bananas, coconuts and mangoes, on the isolated island, there was nothing left. The only way was to row their boats out to search for other lands – something that had never been successfully done. The island tribe had a fable about a young girl who rowed out to the sea and never returned. One day, the girl found a strange, foreign object on the beach of purple sand. She picked it up and saw the picture of a man’s face. She knew that the man did not belong to the island, for this man had red, curly hair and a yellowish face. Her people had black hair that was long and straight and their skin was of a dark, chocolate colour. As if possessed and a spell was cast on her, the young girl stole a boat and rowed out to the vast ocean, never to return. Every islander knows this tale from birth. None dared to venture out except for the fishermen who made sure they tied their boats with rope to other boats and at least one boat – usually the one nearest to the shore, had a rope secured to a pole on land. Their style of spear fishing did not require them to row out into the deep sea anyway. But the tale of the missing young girl spooked even the bravest of fishermen among them.
The islanders were left with no choice in that terrible season. So, the strongest, bravest young men were gathered to save the tribe from dying of starvation. They will row out to find food – fish, sea birds, or another land, and return to save their families. They gathered their boats – there were five boats and twenty men in total, and bade a tearful farewell to their families on a bright, sunny morning. The sea was clear, though still slightly yellowish and calm. Soon, they were nothing but a tiny speck on the horizon to the families that they had left behind on the shore. The desperate but brave men rowed for days without rest as they knew that their families depended on them. Despite their continuous effort, there were no fish, no sea birds and finally, no land as well. Sad, fearful and weak, they decided to tie their boats together with rope. This way, only a few needed to row while the others took turns to rest. There came a point when there was no more day and there was only night. Using the stars as their guide, they simply rowed towards any star they saw. It did not matter which star they followed as they were too tired to care and the ones who took over the rowing were not instructed well by the ones who were rowing before. Stars were all they had and they rowed towards them, all of them. In their fatigue and delirium, the young men did not even realise that they have fallen off the edge of the world of men and earth and were traversing in the sky-world towards the python that stirred every now and then in its eternal slumber.
They must have rowed to their deaths. They have forgotten when was the last time they ate or saw their families back in the tropical island far, far away. By the time they saw the python slithering in its darkness – for by now the starlight from the sky-world were permanently lit in their eyes, the young men were skin and bones. Sallow, with bulging foreheads bigger than their pathetic tummies, the men looked like crazed demons. They jumped off their boats and seized the python. Drive by insane hunger, the island men sank their teeth into the python’s flesh. Gnashing, biting, cutting, gnawing. They looked like dingoes and not men. These demons from earth must have their fill before they can get back home with the remainder of the python to feed their tribe. The python trashed about violently as the crazed island men bit off chunks of its flesh. If it could scream, its cries would have filled the realm with blood curdling shrieks. No matter how hard it tried, the men would not let it go. They sank their long, untrimmed fingernails into the python’s body. Even as the python tried to coil its slithery self around them to kill the men, it was futile as there were too many of them attack the snake from all sides and angles. Some of the men even tied their long, unkempt beards to the reptile so that their jaws will never leave its succulent flesh. They kept chomping away, driven by blood lust. It was a crazy, frenzied scene. The only thing the python could do was to move across the space-realm – staying put at any one spot without moving was too painful. By then, the island men had forgotten why they were there in the first place and what their mission was. Eating became their obsession after the eternity that they have endured from rowing through such vast spaces. The python – with the men still suckling it like it was their blood mother, would reach the world of men and earth. It writhed about in the sky, dripping blood that would form the burning magma in volcano craters. Its tears would create rivers, streams and waterfalls. When its tortured, exhausted and ravaged body fell from the sky and onto land, a long, winding and ragged path in the desert was etched. As the men who had forsaken their starving families fell from the sky and onto the ground below, they became rocks. Future people would use them to build houses in the deserts as punishment for their selfishness. They would forever bake under the hot sun and witness the warmth of family but never to feel such love again."
The first night Chibuzo was on the deck with Layla, Layla took his hand and led him to portside while the ship sailed silently under an overcast sky. It was the start of a new moon cycle and the waxing crescent moon could barely be seen behind the clouds. They stood admiring the serene calm of the night sky lightly illuminated by the new moon. Layla knew that Chibuzo was the right one to enlighten her because without any words exchanged between them, mythical dragons appeared high up in the night sky. No one else except Layla and Chibuzo could see them. While the rest on deck only saw what they could not have, Layla and Chibuzo witnessed dragons from forgotten lores soaring and hovering in the sky above them. It was an amazing sight for Layla. She has only heard about these remarkable creatures from tales spread by travellers and storytellers who spun fantastical plots that revolved around them. Never in her many lives did she ever thought that it was possible for her to see them in front of her in all their magnificent glory. An entire flock of fire-breathing dragons, armed with talons that looked infinitely more menacing than the Claymores wielded by Scottish highlanders, with wings that covered several feet – wider than the roof of her house, and eyes that sparked fear and awe in any one who looked into them, filled the night sky. Remarkably, despite their terrifying reputation and fearsome appearances, Layla never felt so calm looking at these now extinct beasts in their element. They did not bother Layla or Chibuzo and appeared to be relishing their lost moments in space and time if only because of the magic of the young boy with immaculate thoughts. Layla never felt so liberated, having been the sole focus of attention all the time when she is among people. That night, she was free to be herself and directed all her attention onto chimerical beings that did not care for any person in their primeval realm where they ruled eons ago.
For the next two nights, Layla looked for Chibuzo to relive the magic of their first night together on deck. Chibuzo was never one to initiate contact. He was contented to be in the care and company of his aged grandfather who seemed much more eager than him to announce Layla's arrival every night. It seemed out of turn that the unattainable and haughty woman so admired and desired by many would be actively requisitioning the companionship of underaged Chibuzo. To the lascivious observers, they could not fathom the platonic, immaculate interaction between Layla and Chibuzo. All they witnessed were two people standing on deck the whole night looking at the emptiness of the night sky above and beyond them. To them, those nights were extravagant, mindless loss of opportunities.
Layla's pleasure would not last endlessly, for Chibuzo has a story to reveal to her. On the fourth night of her bliss on deck under the stars with the pubescent boy, the dragons were still brought out to play by Chibuzo. No one could see Layla's bright and guileless smile at the state of nature before her all those nights because the observers stood a respectful distance away from them in the dark. Besides, her face was always turned away from them and tilted up towards the night sky. That night, Chibuzo allowed the wondrous creatures to frolic in the heavens for an hour. Then, one by one, the flying leviathans disappeared from sight. Layla became more and more frantic once she realised what was happening. The night sky looked barren and desolate without their fiery eyes and raging balls of fire spewing from their mouths. She turned to Chibuzo on her right and pleaded with her eyes. Layla knew that this was Chibuzo's doing. Chibuzo looked back at her, revealing no emotions, except having the look in his eyes similar to when a young child wanted others to know that he has already done his best. That was when Layla realised that Chibuzo was trying to protect her from the truth.
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Dear friends and supporters,
The campaign for Chasing Cinderella will end today. It has passed the 250-preorder milestone and has surpassed my initial target.
Thanks to ...
Thanks to the generous support of everyone so far, Chasing Cinderella has just passed the first important threshold of 50 pre-orders! Hurray!
I am very ...