The novel “Tribunal and Rapture”, completed in March 1988 as a printed manuscript on an ATT 6300 computer with “QA” is the word processer and printed with a 1985 HP laser printer (one of the earliest possible at home), at 546 double spaced pages, is at this time the most complete fiction manuscript that I have. The diskettes are lost, but I do have one printed, very legible copy (a few pages tore out and are missing).
The first cut of the book was written throughout 1986, in the second of the two condos I owned in Dallas, a two-story unit in the “Canterbury Crossing” development on Lake June Road in the Pleasant Grove Section of Dallas. I have a vivid memory of the day I finished the first draft, and then couldn’t sleep that night as a stray dog barked all night long.
The novel has some threads similar to the “Rapture” document of the previous post, but the story is more compact and takes place over much less time. In particular, it starts as “Al Bruckner” (that’s the pseudonym for me, “Bill”, this time) struggles at his mainframe IT job in Dallas and meets a charismatic young man, Craig Nickershtann, at a pseudo-evangelical church service. A couple meetings happen, and Craig tells Bill about a strange research facility and “academy” in West Virginia. In time, Al loses his job in Dallas and travels to West Virginia to attend the “academy”, where be slowly builds up a relationship with Craig. The relationship comes to a climax about the time that Al tells of his background and a previous experience with “tribunals” at William and Mary. Bill undergoes the “tribunal” at the end of his training in West Virginia.
In the meantime, the external world is falling apart. As in the previous novel, but offstage this time, Communists attack the East Coast with dirty bombs, and part of the country comes under commie control. But Craig has arranged for Al to be “raptured” along with other people chosen to be “angels”. But then the geopolitical climate settles down, and the US is partitioned, with a communist East and a privatized but “fascist” (and heavily Mormonized) West. Al finally returns to Earth (from what looks like an angelic output on Titan, the moon of Saturn) to see Craig get married, and he gets to be best man.
The novel is in 32 chapters, divided into four parts. Part I is “Peripetia”; II is “Communion”; III is “Tribunal” and IV is “Rapture”. Each part is prefaced by a title page with a few applicable literary and biblical quotes.
The relationship between Al and Craig is built up slowly with repeated scenes and a lot of tension. Craig is represented as a musician, able to play some of Al’s old piano compositions at the academy in an event just before the “tribunal”. He shares his own past, and eventually, for the “tribunal”, Craig satisfies Al’s every fantasy. Later, during the “Rapture”, the significance of Al’s lifelong fantasies is discovered with great detail. In particular, Bill can watch the changes of his own body (and those of others) in time-lapse.
The novel, like the two previous ones, is “concentric”. It assumes that the protagonist (here Al) resides at the center of his own universal, like anyone does in the sense of cosmology and physics, due to the nature of space-time. His world seems normal and “universal” to him, even if it seems weakless (by cutting out normal heterosexual passions, which still can be manufactured) when compared to the worlds of most men. He feels anyone could become tantalized by his own universe.
There is a passage in Part 3 that speculates on a new kind of retrovirus, one someone what like AIDS, but which prefers to live in cooler areas of the body, as on the legs, perhaps of diabetics. The books speculates that a retrovirus with very limited transmission might have longer incubation periods when smaller amounts are transmitted or the transmission is cutaneous. I am not aware that any disease has ever clearly fit this pattern, but if one ever did, it could have enormous implications for public health and for calls to regulate sexual freedom. (See “Do Ask Do Tell Notes” blog Feb. 11, 2014, here ).
The manuscript was mailed to a literary agent, Scott Meredith (author of ‘Writing to Sell”) in March 1988. In about four weeks, he wrote back quite a long commentary, while rejecting the manuscript. He did say that the speculations on public health were quite frightening and seemed credible, and that the relationship between Al and Craig did show a lot of tension and suspense as it built up. He said that the relationship had been the subject of some “meetings and conferences”. But he thought that the plot itself was weak; outside of Al and Craig, the other characters seemed stock and their interconnections not well developed or particularly interesting. A successful novel of this size (or film or television project) would need a number of diverse interesting and original characters, not just two.
There was a much earlier attempt to write this novel, which I sketched in 1985, my first year at the Lake June Condo, but with the “academy” still in Texas, and with the superman character named “Charley”, introduced early in the book, and with a second “commune” scene on a space colony (much as in the 1982 novel). This document is lost.
(Published Sunday, April 6, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT)