If you have already heard of the new Zenoscope book “No Tomorrow” you have probably heard that all sorts of personal tragedy helped fuel the story written by one Raven Gregory. Well, am a writer myself, and I will say right now that the works of writers, musicians, artists…all get way too much credit and benefit of the doubt for having personal issues attached. An artist gets cancer and flings paint on a canvas and says “this is what cancer feels like” and everyone marvels and says “woo…deep…you can almost feel the cancer!”…ignoring the fact that it ,in and of itself, is just a bunch of paint flung onto a canvas. Good songs, stories, art, should be able to stand on their own. It’s either good or it’s not, and saying something is good because there is a back story is in my opinion the same as saying it’s not good…but the back story is.
If someone tells you as a consumer that one song, painting, story, is better than another because of some personal tragedy or bad life experience that person is a con man. IF someone tells you as a writer, musician or artist that same thing…that person is giving you the most crippling, destructive advice you’ll ever get. It leaves the impression that to really be great you need to have misery. I will tell you right now most of my best stories were written when I was as happy as a clam. The really great Voodoo Joe stories all came out of a time when I spend most of my time with a wry smile on my face laughing all day long. Was there ever a comedian as great as Bill Cosby in his prime? I personally would say no, but no one can disput he was great. His life was a far cry from the clusterf*ck of often self-imposed tragedy of the gloried mess that was Bill Hicks, or Sam Kinison, or (even thought he wasn’t specifically a comedy writer) Hunter S.Thompson.
Some people are great and talented and skilled and work hard to perfect their craft and happen to have misery, and some people are great and talented and skilled and work hard to perfect their craft and have relatively happy stable lives. The hardship is not a variable that is needed for greatness. The men like Kinison, and Thompson could have been every bit as good without living ridiculously screwed up lives.
That is a cautionary note, my main point here is that art, writing, music, needs to be able to stand on its own. You shouldn’t need to read an autobiography of someone in order to enjoy their work. Their job is to communicate/entertain in their chosen medium. If they did not do this without a back story then they have failed. If you look only at the lone canvas with paint flung on it and you don’t get the feeling of pain…and that is what he was trying to convey, then it is a failure.
With that understanding, onto “No Tomorrow”. I read the first issue cover to cover, knowing it would not be the usual zenoscope type book. This one would be relying heavily on story with art and visual stimulation taking a backseat. There are a couple of elements that are required for a good story. The reader needs to no not know what is going to happen next, which is tricky but not too tough…AND the reader has to CARE what happens next, this is much more difficult. Even a sub par writer can stick a twist and turn in a story or throw something in out of left field, but getting the reader to give a damn is what separates the men from the boys.
I read through this book, and at times I was riveted. Not only was I left wondering “what the hell?!” but I cared “what the hell?”. In only a few subtle pages I found myself actually wanting to see what happens next, I found myself wanting to just skip to the end. It had nothing to do with the emotional hurricane I know full well the writer went through…in fact…within only a few pages of a book that has been tied at the hip to the writer and his recent life, I had forgotten all about Raven Gregory. I was involved in a very odd, very well done, very tricky story. Another mark of good writing, in a periodical at least, is will you get the next issue? I will, I did something I haven’t done in years…I had my comic book store reserve something for me.
If you know anything about me, and my life, and my daily disposition, you’ll know the weight this next sentence carries. No Tomorrow is a good book.