Man Against the Horses! Four Theater of the Absurd Novelettes by Michael D. Smith

Four Theater of the Absurd Novelettes

Bumbling officer Marty Brimfeeler probes the death of a brainwashed terrorist in Houston. Five horses break out of their corral and reduce the city of Dallas to rubble. Hapless insurance executive Bobby Thompson proves his manhood on the mean streets of Dallas. Special agent Atoka surveils Houston on his nuclear-powered bicycle until software glitches trap him on a coastal freeway.

Published by Sortmind Press

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cover art by Michael D. Smith

Synopses and Notes

Man Against the Horses/Highland Park Cadillac Races Medley copyright 1975 by Michael D. SmithBobby Thompson at the Highland Park Cadillac Races copyright 1975 by Michael D. SmithThis informal collection is something like an autobiographical investigation of fresh creative energies arising in my 1975, shortly before I began my breakthrough novel Akard Drearstone. All four stories were completed in 1975, and are presented in order of composition. Though I’ve always referred to them as stories, I see they can be classified as novelettes (word count ca. 7,500-19,000). I hadn’t been aware of that designation until recently, and it may account for their many rejections from short story magazines. These lengths show how eager I was at the time to abandon story writing and move into the exploratory possibilities of the novel.

“Space, Time, and Tania” (begun 1974, completed 1975) was published in 1977 and I haven’t revised it here except for a handful of error corrections. The other three unpublished stories received a bit more clean-up, but these edits aren’t extensive and usually just excise the occasional eruption of obvious BS. I want to maintain these stories’ 1975 quality, but I also want to feel comfortable with what I now decide to publish. I feel I’m bringing out their true 1975 versions as they should have been finalized at the time. However, I left in all manner of stylistic frills that no modern editor would allow; that’s my 1975 style, heavily influenced by late-sixties and early-seventies counterculture.

The illustrations are from my 1975 art journal.

Space, Time, and Tania

Bumbling ex-Texas Department of Public Death officer Marty Brimfeeler probes the death of Tania in Houston shortly before World War III erupts. This is a fun, intelligent, loopy story, despite being inspired by the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and her brainwashing by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974. The story strikes me now, as close to an impartial view after all these decades as I’m about to get, as properly channeling the universe. There doesn’t seem to be a career-minded ego trip to it. Of course it’s not really about Patty Hearst.

“Space, Time, and Tania” was published in PigIron Magazine after three or four rejections.

Man Against the Horses

Five horses in Paris, Texas have finally had enough. They break out of their corral, charge down the highway, and, imbued with fresh superpowers, tear the city of Dallas to pieces. This rough draft manages to express my antipathy toward my new city of Dallas and my post-college job’s bleak regimentation, which felt like a return to high school compared to my insular, satisfied university life in Houston. I deleted several cute, screwy phrases that wouldn’t have survived a second draft, and aligned the tone of the final section with the story’s overall mood.

“Man Against the Horses!” remained in draft form and was never submitted anywhere.

Bobby Tosses his Typewriter from the Sixth Floor copyright 1975 by Michael D. SmithThe Highland Park Cadillac Races

This piece continues my vengeful satire of my new city as it showcases how hapless insurance executive Bobby Thompson, plagued by numerous metaphysical questions, races Cadillac against Cadillac to prove his manhood on the mean streets of Dallas. I removed a disgusting and utterly unnecessary first scene which probably accounted for the continual rejections of this story; otherwise I just made light edits, broke sprawling paragraphs into easier-to-read ones, and took out a handful of distracting embellishments. Whenever I needed to impress the reader with Cadillac engine technology, I just made something up.

“The Highland Park Cadillac Races” was sent to five publishers.

The 66,000 M.P.H. Bicycle

Special agent Atoka evades “the Americans” on his nuclear-powered, 66,000-m.p.h. bicycle until he’s bombed into chewed-up guts on a Texas coastal freeway. The 1975 author was able to ignore physics such as escape velocity, inertia, friction, and sonic booms, but came up with some interesting computer concepts for a 1975 story written by someone who knew nothing about computers. But what works here is the ludicrousness of Atoka’s mission, which is never explained. This final 1975 story only needed very light edits.

“The 66,000 M.P.H. Bicycle” made its way to six magazine publishers.

All words and images copyright by Michael D. Smith