Christopher L. DelGuercio writes and teaches in upstate New York. He is the author of the novella, "Eden Succeeding," available from Phase 5 Publishing. His short fiction has appeared in such magazines as Kaleidotrope and OG’s Speculative Fiction; in the themed anthologies "Forbidden Speculation" and "3 Tales of Horror;" and on the internet at Blood, Blade & Thruster; Fried Fiction; Space Westerns, and several other webzines and podcasts. Visit the author on his website at: www.cdelguercio.com.
I began the rough draft of EVERY GOOD STUD... almost a decade ago. When it meandered for about 35,000 words without an end in sight I put it away and assumed it would always be just a failed attempt at a coming-of-age, dystopian novel. I began work on another story (and a family) instead. Flash forward a few years and that other story turned into my first published book, "Eden Succeeding," which is available now from Phase 5 Publishing through all major distributors (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks/iTunes, Kobo, etc.) It was time to start a new story and something was pulling me back to the sensory-shackled halls of the Fairchild Institute for Young Learners.
Being an educator I’ve been in many different school systems at every grade level imaginable and the thought of students being driven to excel by a universal need or want was an exciting idea to mine. But what type of reward would every student guarantee to chase? The reward of perception, of course. It would be something akin to a drug addiction, or at least that’s what I imagined. Kids would have this tunnel vision to achieve, to get that next sensory hit. But just because you want to achieve doesn’t mean we’ll all be equal achievers. There’s still going to be standouts and slackers. There’s still going to be cool kids and dweebs, except the characteristics that define these classes would drastically change.
This is the setting where I drop my 'everyboy' Tig Fynch. He’s a little down on himself, like most of us were in high school, for not being at the top of the social heap. He wonders how the other half lives, what their experience is like, and what it’s like to actually have deeper sensory experiences. To quote William Blake, If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern. Again, like most teenagers, at least the ones of my day, Tig’s cavern is pretty narrow.
Every Good Stud’s Burgess-esque dialogue is unmistakable and I don’t shy away from the comparison. But the kids of my story have their own post-modern slang terms, they have invented words, and they have some current slang that’s survived or evolved a bit. However, I wanted them to speak with a uniquely American vibe, so I tried to veer away from anything that sounded too Alex DeLarge. If anything, I think my kids’ dialogue has a contemporary urban slant to it. Burgess’s dialogue could be a little on the precious side and, while I loved that in his book, I wanted to strike out in a different direction with Tig, Cheza, and the rest of the crew. My characters are so completely different from Mr. Burgess’s—they’re basically good kids, kids you like even if you don’t always understand them or identify with them. I always hoped this novella would have the aesthetic of "A Clockwork Orange" with a little bit of the heart, humor, and poignancy of an ‘80s John Hughes film. That’s what I was shooting for.
Here’s a fun fact: the dentist story that Linklyn tells Tig & Cheza is actually true. We grew up on the poor side so no novocaine for me as a youngster. My first few fillings were pretty excruciating and the thing I remember most about those trips to the dentist was the smell that drill would make as it burrowed into my teeth. That and the pain, of course. It makes me sick to my stomach to this day just thinking about that smell.