Never explain yourself. Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it.
This quote has been attributed to Tycho Brahe, Oscar Wilde, Alistair Crowley, Johnny Carson, William Gaines, Gene Simmons, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and everybody in between. Nobody really knows who said it or when –– which makes it perfect for laying at the feet of your favorite dead rebel, troublemaker, bellwether, or hell–raiser. I’ve attributed it a few people, including the man himself. Not Johnny Cash, though it’d be no surprise if the words were his. No, I’m talking about Dr. Hunter S. Thomson. Which is strange, because this is not quite how Hunter lived his life.
In print, TV, and radio interviews, Hunter did a fair amount of explaining himself, or trying to. Not always on the topics people hoped to cover or to the depths they would have liked. There were only a few times I can recall where he went fully along with someone else’s Q&A agenda. The explanations Hunter tended toward were never to gain himself sympathy or absolution. For others, sure. That’s just the kind of guy he was. And when he explained it was usually for the sake of clarity . . . sincere efforts to reveal the true, tragic, ridiculous, comic heart of any given subject. Occasionally –– rarely –– that subject was himself.
Whoever cautioned to never explain yourself was clearly on to something, though the advice is not always practical. I’ve found, time and again, that explanation can be compelled. On those occasions, it’s wise to explain in the presence of your very own, very good, usually very expensive, legal counsel. Better yet, have them do the explaining for you. Exercising your Fifth Amendment rights is still your first best option –– especially if you’re in handcuffs. But nowadays, thanks to the counter-intuitive ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court, Americans have to declare –– that’s right, come out and say for all to hear –– they want to remain silent. It makes a twisted kind of sense, though most people weren’t surprised or even outraged –– living as we do in a time and place where 2+2 slides closer to 5 –– that more of our Constitutional rights have been excised. Patriots act, indeed. And so it goes.
While the writing of FEAR AND LOATHING OF THE UNDEAD ’78 maybe one of those times my friends (you know who you are) don’t need the whys –- and my enemies (who will please go fuck each other to death) won’t believe anything I say –– there remains a whole world of people who don’t yet fall into either category. I’m a young man and expect to live long enough to exponentially grow both lists. And why not? If you’re a writer not making a few enemies along the way, you’re doing it wrong. And if you’re not making any friends, you’re definitely doing it wrong.
So, in the meantime, for all those who aren’t in either camp, some explanations might be in order.
FEAR AND LOATHING OF THE UNDEAD ’78 IS A PARODY.
Yes, bold caps is akin to yelling, but this point needs to be clear and unequivocal. Just so there is no question or confusion, let me repeat:
FEAR AND LOATHING OF THE UNDEAD ’78 IS A PARODY.
Par•o•dy (noun): 1: a literary or musical work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or ridicule; 2: a feeble or ridiculous imitation
–– Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary
The subject matter should make it pretty damned apparent this is being written for comic effect, evinced first by the skewed (i.e., parodic) reinterpretation of Tom Benton’s iconic cover of FEAR AND LOATHING: ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL ’72, and foremost by the fact it’s a story about Hunter Thompson and zombies. If there is a way to make it any more obvious that this is a parody, I don’t know what it could be. But just in case, I’ve added the word ‘parody’ to my version of the cover. You can’t miss it.
Now to the part about ridicule.
At no time and in no way are any of the real people in this story –– with the possible exception of Richard Nixon –- intended to be objects of ridicule or derision. This holds especially true for the likes of Ralph Steadman and the noted members of the OMNIBUS film crew. Their characterizations, portrayal and manner in which they are treated as told by ‘Hunter’ in this story are consistent with the way the real Hunter Thompson has written about, been quoted or recorded as speaking to or describing people he knows and likes –– friends, loved ones, comrades, etc. Much of the general vibe and feeling Hunter had for these men, particularly Ralph, comes directly from Mr. Steadman’s book THE JOKE’S OVER: BRUISED MEMORIES: GONZO, HUNTER S. THOMPSON, AND ME.
In fact, a brief section of Mr. Steadman’s book is quoted directly. It was critical as his words were the inciting idea for this tale and they lend support to the story’s overall framework. A few other lines throughout the story are taken from Hunter’s own writings and inserted as if written by him. (By the late 1970s, Hunter was establishing the habit of repeating himself, so recycling his own material here would be expected.) In order to maintain verisimilitude and reader focus, these quotes are not footnoted or annotated in the story, however, they are indicated elsewhere on this site.
As for parody’s second definition, it is up to the reader whether or not FEAR & LOATHING OF THE UNDEAD ’78 is a ‘feeble or ridiculous imitation’. Like Mark Twain, Hunter Thompson crafted each piece of writing knowing the incalculable difference between a right word and the perfect word. Every effort has been made to deliver perfection. Long hours of research and writing and re-writing and edits and read-alouds have gone into ensuring the ideas, language, rhythm, and perspective –- the very style of this story –- is finely tuned to Hunter’s writings from the late 1970s and early 1980s.
FEAR & LOATHING OF THE UNDEAD ’78 was supposed to be a short story. At the insistence of several friends and loved-ones (you know who you are) the saga of HST vs. Zombies is being extended to novel-length. The remaining chapters comprise a ‘secret history’ of sorts, involving various aspects of Hunter’s adventurous past, his personal habits and characteristics, as well as ‘clues’ salted through decades of his writing.
Still and all, the fragment that is posted and the final work shall be and will remain, in the best and most affectionate sense, a parody.
Bibliographic links will eventually be found on the forthcoming “In The Library” page. Readers of FEAR & LOATHING OF THE UNDEAD ’78 unfamiliar with the depth and breadth and significance of Hunter’s work will, with a little luck, dig deeper into the particulars of the man and his persona, learn more about what each represented, and how both changed America and the world.
I owe a lot of people a lot of thanks for the ways they’ve aided in the writing of this story. Particulars will be forthcoming. Until then, in keeping with one of Hunter’s publishing traditions, an Honor Roll has been created on this site as a way of recognizing those who’ve helped me to keep writing in spite of myself.
Res ispa loqutor.
bradley james weber
October 17, 2010
p.s. –– There is no charge for the story. Read it for free, love it, tell your friends, repeat. However, if you like the work, there is a PayPal option somewhere on the site. You don’t have to pay to read, but if you like it enough to slip me a couple of bucks, I (and the wife and kid) would appreciate the hell out of it. Your generous donations will go toward Web site maintenance fees, food, rent, dental floss –– crazy crap like that. And if enough folks are kind and cool enough to kick in, I might be able to dump at least one of the part-time jobs and finish the novel sooner than later. Which would be fantastic. Because believe me, I want to read this thing as much as you do. Thanks. bjw