The Buzzkill

There are books I have had in mind for thirty years, and there are others from between then and now.

Some I could pin-down to “around” a date I could identify if I tried—maybe.

The birth of a child, an anniversary, a death.  Or a broader zone, like after marriage, or before graduation.  After I bought that ’93 LX 5.0 Mustang, but before our first son was born—when is his birthday again…?

Which is why Buzzkill stands alone when it comes to a precise genesis.

This baby was born at 22:03 (South American local time), on Tuesday, October 25, 2017.

The reason I know is that the book was inspired by a specific, rather small group of real people (or are they bots?).  These possibly human beings “meet” at a very specific time and place.

Namely, on YouTube, in a live broadcast, and, for Buzzkill, it was episode #23 of the Final Guys.  This being three… guys… two of them horror-mostly authors and one being a well-versed horror aficionado.

Rearrangements of these people can become the Monster Men and, adding a fourth gentleman, SBIG (So Bad It’s Good: movies you would pay… to not pay… to see in the theater).

The Final Guys broadcast is, as I mentioned, live—very bravely, or perhaps, just… recklessly… and they are wonderful, and loved.  By at least six or seven people.  Eleven, today, which fit the “main event” of Stranger Things, season 2.

I know they are beloved, because I am one of the live viewers in the chat box.  For the record, the Final Guys get a bunch more traffic than this, but not live on YouTube on Tuesday nights.  Teasing one another is half the fun.

The intimacy of half a dozen people typing live while this trio (usually) of pleasantly interactive hosts types a little, and talks more… in a format that involves a drinking game based on a grab-bag of verbal tics (apparently some idiot named Sheridan is guilty of establishing that particular feature) is possible to imagine without ever watching the show, which naturally I wouldn’t recommend to anyone, as you’ll ruin my refuge.

Go listen to the iTunes podcast, if you have to crash the party!  Goodness.

Ahem.

So the Final Guys format, roughly—very roughly—is to babble incoherently about the previous week, if anyone can remember it, the Final Guys taunt each other and themselves, crack awful jokes, swear constantly, and then the remaining 59 minutes gets progressively worse.

I did say I love this show, right?

It’s true.

They discuss what they have read—books are evolving into comics, seemingly in sync with evolving drinking problems—and what they watched, and whether their thumbs go up or down, or are even prehensile.  Next comes horror-focused news (upcoming movies, “celebrity” events, notable deaths, anniversary editions, nerd conventions, etc).

But this structure quickly falls apart into a rambling discussion that dissects either a current movie, junk in the cinema, a televised series, or vintage/non-cinema releases or newly-available DVDs on the small screen (most streaming is via Netflix, Amazon Prime, and sponsor them already Shudder).

On October 25th, when The Buzzkill was little more than a six pack in the old man’s fridge, the Final Guys’ main course victim was a Netflix creation, The Babysitter.

It’s a fun and well-done movie, and the Guys and the “audience” (easily counted on fingers, and I have had my dewclaws removed) agreed it was a winner, all things considered.  Not enough young skin, was a subtext.  Or perhaps I am projecting.  I’m fairly sure this was explicitly noted by others.  Anyway

The show ended with its usual aplomb and fanfare.  If an old television has ever overheated on you, shutting-down three or four seconds before the exciting cliffhanger of your favorite action-adventure show, you’ll know what I mean.  Minus the cliffhanger.

And so I was left staring at a 43″ monitor and recalled ancient history: my time served invested in a small town’s video production nerve center, back when studio monitors were 12″ diagonal and three feet deep and curved to ensure you could never see anything properly.  It had a reel-to-reel.  It was awesome.

As one of two dorks in middle and high school stupid smart enough to run an Amiga rendering computer and $250,000+ in FCC-licensed wipe and editing gear, cameras, microphones, alpha keys, and more—we being supervised, as such, by a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, lizard-skinned and very closeted professor who took the “station” as seriously as we did not, I made a fateful connection.

What would the Final Guys have been like, adhering not to YouTube’s generally nonexistent rules of the road, but rather a public, televised broadcast, back in, say, 1986?

The result of this one-minute thought experiment involved flashes of Wayne’s World, Beavis and Butthead, old SNL pseudo-commercials, and, impossible to ignore as it has become a cultural phenomenon, Stranger Things.

Which demanded, clearly, a book-length treatment, because: duh.

A book dedicated in fact and spirit to the “real” Final Guys, to my mostly forgotten youth, and to the hardy “text box” chatroom of fools (self included) who, as usual when you examine a group of twisted individuals, seem like they might be ordinary if extra-wonderful people who only get super-weird on Tuesday evenings.

They might someday read this, or I would be more honest.

Except that of course, I am being honest.  Adding to the scope of my imagination was knowing none of these people in “real” life.  Not one of them.  Age, sex, location—profession, if any?  Race? Height and weight?  Loves and losses?

Blanks. And happily so.

Sure, some of the participants have a clear gender (preference) and some yield their “age” when they admit (or are they lying?) they first saw The Hills Have Eyes at the drive-in.

But that’s about it: self-assigned usernames in a toneless, 200-character limit (per message) text chat box, spitting wind, sharing recommendations and brief tidbits, and of course, drinking heavily—or enjoying the pretense of social drinking heavily.  Tea, in one case, or so “she” claims.  And don’t throw Britain at me and claim tea is socially acceptable.

If you are an OCD completest, here is the actual rule set for Episode 23…

FINAL GUYS DRINKING GAME E#23
[ HOST 1 ] “pumpkin + whoo-ee! + gorgeous”
[ HOST 2 ] “was she in? + Pie’nuhs + in the boob”
[ HOST 3 ] “tall one + a ton + anamorphic”

It totally made sense to write a huge novel.  Realize I mean “Final Guys” kind of sense.

Which means that I felt it wise to take the Final Guys for a cameo, steal a few characters (with permission, obviously) from the authors of books I read and liked, and harass the preferred names (again, permission!) of the text-chat individuals of the cult group.

I would write something fun.

And so the Final Guys would appear “as themselves”—twisted like a $30 chamois simonizing an ’84 IROC by the darkness that is my mind, but, well, sort of as themselves.  The way zombies still have a fry-cook apron on, so you know it’s that pretty blonde with her jaw torn off and a hankering for brains. 

The resemblance is there.

And so, in the summer of 1986, on local public broadcast, and not in stupid New Jersey or whatever, and cursing rather less, the Final Guys would see their primary audience “distribution” in and around Conover, Nebraska, population 6,500, smack in the Reagan years.

That began Buzzkill.  I didn’t have a plot, obviously, but I had motive, and it is more often the motive that makes a crime memorable.  This book, I assume, will eventually be called one.  Against humanity, if I know my luck.

Two weeks and (I think) at least one shower later, I was 90,000 words into the fastest anything I had ever written.  It was even… moderately… coherent.

A few Twitter and Facebook friends, none of whom I have met, either, joined the cast.  Authors and friends of friends.  One of them changed his 13-year-old self’s character arc completely… requesting he be killed, and horribly.

What’s that, Lassie?  Little Timmy fell down the well?  The gaping void filled with squeaky toys and rusty knives?  Wait, Lassie, why is there blood on your muzzle?

That sort of thing.

These are not monsters, these are people who make and/or enjoy (fictional) monsters, and monstrous acts, and horrible situations, because terror is always out there, and it is very rarely as safe or simple as standing to Freddy, Leatherface, Jason, or Hannibal.

As an aside, if you would like to know who requested their character die—an author, and one you should know, or get to know—please join the newsletter to receive members-only content.

As the book is not out, the page is not up yet, but I will release a page of Easter Eggs, achingly dull explanatory liner notes, and general spoilers exclusively for subscribers after the book has been published.

Included will be helpful links to sites and books of those who consent to being “outed” as characters and pals—primarily authors… if you’re in the gang, you’ll then have dozens of curated and recommended books to get and enjoy.

In fact, a few representative characters from those books make brief, 6th-grade “oral report” cameos of themselves in The Buzzkill.  Awkward!

It may be a few more weeks of polishing and attempted perfection before I launch and publish The Buzzkill, but tonight, November 14, 2017, 19:00 EST, you can find me tuning to the Final Guys, live on YouTube… the third week since that fateful day in late October.

Right now, I’m sitting on first- and second-pass editing, with a draft bulging at ~127,000 words.  Only 21 days have passed since the first word hit digital paper.  Which is absolutely not bragging.  It is a testament of appreciation to the Final Guys and to the handful of friends from the text box of YouTube Live.

Yes, they provided some amount of inspiration, but far more important is the provision of motivation—I disappoint myself on a daily basis, and I plan to continue the tradition… but I desperately hope to entertain this group of friends.

Oh, yes—as I assume you have already joined the mailing list (if not, like, you know, click here already…?) you might like to see the cover reveal…

THE BUZZKILL Cover Reveal

The Buzzkill.  Coming to Kindle and in print editions, summer, 2019.

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Sheridan

W. Sheridan Bradford is an American author of the old west (Face of Water, Sevenfold), contemporary westerns (Last Harvest Trilogy), science fiction (The Wreck of the Molon Labe), apocalyptic scenarios (The Bust of Mazorro), short stories (Pesebre), and poems (Sestina No. Four). Usually found in: CO, NM, or TX.

Show 8 Comments
  • Audra November 15, 2017, 8:07 pm

    i cannot wait for buzzkill – that is all

    • Sheridan November 15, 2017, 10:55 pm

      I would think! Considering that The Buzzkill includes the presence of one…

      Age 45—Audra J. Stinson neé Keller. I nailed the age, or if not, apologies for making you too old.

      I know I got the name semi-wrong. Forgive me? 😉

  • Audra November 16, 2017, 6:42 am

    nice ! you shaved a few years off ! i appreciate that

    • Sheridan November 16, 2017, 9:20 am

      I will be our secret. What I should do is find a razor and see if I can shave a few years off of me. I am not entirely confident that there is still a face under there. If so, I hope it’s not the same one I tried to bury, tee hee.

  • Pamela November 18, 2017, 9:48 am

    Jumps up and down – well, at least in my head! Really looking forward to reading about my fellow cult members! Your fearless – well, unless it involves spider or any sort of insect, and maybe big leaves, those are really scary – but that’s something else completely – leader.

    • Sheridan November 18, 2017, 9:58 am

      Oh, yes, I am sure you will have a fine time reading about others… but you will need to peck and hunt for them… compared to the time spent reading about… you! 🙂

  • Jason Brant November 19, 2017, 11:39 pm

    Really interested in reading what you do with this. Please make Jack a really “special” character.

    • Sheridan November 20, 2017, 8:19 am

      Oh, he is special all right. Tell that big lug to answer his Twitter DM because I can’t hit publish until he decides if he has been accurately misrepresented.

      I am this fluffing close to featuring Mr. Camp Easy showing “you Guys” his hand-knitted horror-themed Gremlins socks, knocking his shoddy camera off its tripod of the water heater, and revealing his broadcast headquarters to be a corner of his great-aunt’s furnace room.

      And by “this close” I mean, it’s in the dang outline.

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