Now, with both the Fully Booked contest and the recent Sci-Fi/Fantasy Convention behind us, I ended up digging through my cobwebbed works and rediscovering my working draft of "Masks". While I still feel that the story isn't fit for publication, I've found a strange attraction in most of the descriptive writing. "Masks" was meant to be an outline of the underlying plots behind a fictional imperial court, and as such, it contained heavy amounts of visual reference.
My favorite excerpt from "Masks" follows. I find it odd that I fixate so much on this piece of writing, especially for a story that doesn't seem too good to begin with.
The Emperor wears no mask.
Each eye is dyed with inks of blue and white. Each sleek hair upon his brow is clearly outlined. Each wrinkle, each imperfection upon his skin has been brushed away with the finest flesh-colored powders.
The Emperor wears robes of gold and green, cunningly tucked and folded to hide his growing paunch. He carries an extensive train of silk and lace, all the more to conceal his diminutive stature. He gestures with white satin gloves that cover hands so soft they would bleed at the slightest blister.
He wears a construct of gold and diamonds upon his head, although every single courtier knows – much to the Emperor’s detriment – that the wig is obvious, and that the baldness is already in its advanced stages.
In a sense, the Emperor is his own mask.
Why do I post this excerpt here? I don't know, really. Maybe I just like this little bit of writing *that* much.
I remember typing this part of the text at a fast and regular pace, as though I already knew what the Emperor character looked like. I think I got my primary references from Samurai 7 (an animé by Gonzo Digimation, based on Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai); the Scorpion Clan from Legend of the Five Rings; and Hotep and Hoy, the Egyptian priest characters from The Prince of Egypt.
I believe that I worked my reflections from a certain ethical standpoint into "Masks", which got frustrated when I deemed the story too low-quality to publish. This probably got me writing a blog post some months later: As a result, "Faces in the Crowd" holds many of the themes that "Masks" was supposed to produce.
I find it funny that we can somehow do something right, even when we did it wrong to begin with. This episode actually has me wondering why I didn't just try to salvage the work instead of hiding it in a pile of old junk for me to unearth five months later. I'm not proud of the short story as a whole, mind you... but I'm proud of writing this particular excerpt, as I am with a few other bits and pieces of the draft. And if I'm proud of something I've made, then I believe that it at least deserves to see the light of day.
That's why this excerpt is posted here, far from any notions of Neil Gaiman or a prize of thousands of pesos, far from any prospects of awards or convention notability. This excerpt is posted here because I decided that I liked this set of five paragraphs after all. Hopefully, you'll agree with me.