Welcome to Story Chat where the authors come right into your living room to chat with you and your friends about their short story. You can ask them any questions you want. And they can ask you some, too.
So let’s peek in and see what’s going on. First of all, who’s here? The first two links for each participant takes you to a specific blog post. The remaining links go to the participants’ website.
Cathy Cade has arrived and we are discussing what’s involved in producing and participating in Story Chat.
When you analyze a story, how do you start, Cathy?
To be honest, I scan when reading for pleasure. I’m re-reading Discworld at the moment and I might almost be reading them for the first time. It’s only when I’m expected to comment (or when editing…) that I read again and look for clues. I’m sure the impression the story makes is there all along, but having to give it words makes me look deeper. I ask myself a lot of questions.
I probably read my Story Chats 4-6 times before the month is out. Maybe even more when I’m doing the summary post. Definitely once or twice when I’m replying to comments. I appreciate your involvement in and commitment to this blogging event each month. It is an event that relies totally on others, which is a little scary to step out and do. If no one steps up with a story, or no one comments on the story, then it is all over.
It’s a welcome initiative, though. Hope it continues to grow.
Thank you, Cathy. I hope so too. Gary Wilson just showed up. Welcome Gary. What do you think about the Story Chat model?
I appreciated many of the comments and discussion above because the final paragraph confused me because I had missed the God clue and felt like I must have missed something. I was sure that was the problem because I was trying to finish the read in time to make a family appointment and didn’t have time then to go back and search for missing pieces.
All that said, this was a fun, tight read that sent me on a fun train of thought to answer my outstanding questions.
It looks like everyone is here now. If you are joining Story Chat for the first time, here is a link to the story, “Miniature Planet.” It is never too late to add your comments about the story and the Story Chat Commenters right here.
Participants in Story Chat
- Anne Goodwin
- Cathy Cade
- Doug Jacquier
- Geoff LePard
- Gary A Wilson
- Hugh W. Roberts
- Marsha that’s me.
- Natalie the Explorer
- Norah Colvin
Summary 99 Words No More No Less
Geoffrey Owen Davies, a quiet career public servant, launched an effective silent but deadly attack on neighborhood blight. Through his public office connections, he first rid the street of destructive squatters. Reports of termites, deliveries of gravel blocking cars made it easy for his new shelf-company to purchase properties from frustrated owners and transform them into a delightful oasis.
Soon he became an anonymous caretaker of his neighborhood.
“His shelf-company corporation engaged agents to let the properties to people screened for their green fingers.”
Transgressions met with instant and forceful eviction.
Was he a good or a bad guy?
Right Away the Debate Starts
TanGental AKA Geoff LePard
Geoffrey (great name btw) has an intriguing back story. His Cayman Island accounts, his access to and use of ‘encouragers’ to get his way leaves me wondering who this ‘grey man’ really is. A career public servant could be a contract killer for the secret services with a little sideline in assassination funding his sociopathic retirement.
Because I have these questions I’ve ended feeling a little short changed. Is he some sort of horticultural Walter White driven to excess by the callous obliteration of his beloved tarragon?
Sorry, I seem to have come out whinging. This is a well constructed, character driven piece that fulfils the reader. Will Geoffrey succeed in creating Stepford for vegans? Part of me hopes so… well done Doug.
Many thanks, Geoff, although now that Geoffrey knows you’re on to the reality of his public service career you should be very careful about what you plant in your garden.
Oh, I’ll check my seeds for bobbytraps, Doug.
Great analysis, Geoff. At first glance, a clean organic neighborhood seems ideal. The instant “evictions by men with tattoos and few teeth” gave readers a glimpse of something being just a little off.
The story reminded me of episodes of the Twilight Zone. I’m thinking of two episodes in particular. The first one was when every 19-year-old had to go in for plastic surgery to become their ideal of beautiful. One girl did not want to go until she was coerced.
The other episode was about parents who had created a robot daughter. They wouldn’t let the girl into the real world. She found out she was a robot and chaos prevailed.
Do you remember the Truman Show. https://youtu.be/dlnmQbPGuls
I wonder what would happen if Geoffrey’s secret got out and people realized they were manipulated?
It does have a Truman show feel, doesn’t it? Or Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go about clones. Very sinister and controlling
Yes, and the sinister aspect of “Miniature Planet” doesn’t register right away. Who wants party people wrecking up the house next door?
Hugh W. Roberts
This story reminded me of an episode of The X-Files where Mulder and Scully investigated horrible going-ons in a neighbourhood where even one blade of grass was out of place, got something horrible happening to the house owner of the garden said blade of grass was. Even a flickering street light outside a house was seen as not acceptable. I can’t remember the episode’s outcome, other than some kind of monster came out of the floor at night to take away the resident who had not fixed the fault.
Maybe Geoffrey is that monster from the X-files which has been able to transform itself into a human?
In any case, the neighbourhood in Doug’s story reminds me of those I often see in American TV shows of the 1950s and ’60s. You mentioned ‘The Twilight Zone’ Marsha. There was an episode that featured the perfect street where the residents all turned on each other. I won’t give away the twist, but Rod Serling said it was one of his favourite episodes.
Poor old Geoffrey a monster? Really?
There are some nice monsters in the world. After all, he allowed the neighbours to help themselves to his herb garden. Although I’m not sure the monster in the X-files was very nice.
Watching Geoffrey grow through this story, I could see him at each step descending into a weirder life first as nurtured in his own yard but slowly finding power in quietly crushing those who disturbed his notion of the perfect neighborhood. It was fun.
An In-Depth Character Analysis
Cathy Cade, our Story Chat librarian offers an insightful understanding of Geoffrey Owen Davies.
Is this the author’s general impression of career public servants or just this particular one? I have to say that as a career public servant myself (in libraries) I came away with my local government pension after forty years but, sadly, no Cayman Islands accounts.
Woah, Cathy, maybe you weren’t as good with technology as Geoffrey.
Nonetheless, with the advent of the party animals, I felt quite sorry for colourless, imaginative Geoffrey, content to bring order to his home surroundings with no ambition to upscale – although I did wonder what he planned to do with all that money.
Why did he choose that path, then?
Because he could? It was just an expansion of his retirement hobby, wasn’t it? And think of all that rent coming in…
If this was an extension of his retirement, he might have had some public servant experiences or expertise and accessibility with technology that you didn’t have! He did have some powerful allies, too.
Do you like him better because he chose it, or less?
‘He thrived with the arrival of technology’ and, ultimately, what turns me off him is the lack of humanity in his robotic reactions. Like the toy cars my children had in the eighties, he trundled along the path he was set on until he hit a barrier, at which he turned and trundled along a different path.
He could have moved out and escaped the nuisance. His actions had nothing to do with concern for the neighbours he clearly wasn’t close to. Revenge was most important to him, which is never an attractive motive.
Sadly, I don’t know anyone like Geoffrey. With a little human support, I imagine he might be easy to redirect towards one’s own purposes, if only to lean on for a sub.
He is an interesting character. Perhaps all control freaks would go to such lengths if they had the wherewithal. In spite of the understandable anger that triggers his dictatorship, he doesn’t become more human. Nevertheless, as controller of his own little world, I’m sure he would be, on the whole, a benevolent deity and missed by his subjects on his demise.
Clues Guiding the Direction of the Story
An interesting story.
Thanks, Norah. Still waiting for someone to spot the hidden reference in the first line.
Nudged by the author, readers picked up on the blatant clue they had overlooked in the first read.
Marsha, Doug, Greetings from Toronto, Canada. This story left me with a Mona Lisa smile. I think I’d be afraid if Geoffrey was my neighbour and I knew of his plans. Doug, As soon as I saw Geoffrey’s full name, I was intrigued. Was it intentional that his initials are G.O.D.?
I looked up Yankalilla. I know a few bloggers from Australia but none of them lives in South Australia. Thank you, Doug, for the story and Marsha for featuring it here.
Many thanks and greetings from our village, Natalie. And congratulations on being the first person to pick up the GOD reference. I’ve been to Tronno. I’ve even written about it here. https://sixcrookedhighwaysblog.wordpress.com/2020/09/22/scenes-from-the-road-in-america-3-warning-may-contain-traces-of-canada/
The initials of Mr G O Davies are interesting.
It wouldn’t be in Geoffrey’s initials would it? (Of course I had to go back to check. )
Almost the first garden too. I did need a hint though.
Thanks for the hint. Had to check too.
Gary A Wilson
I enjoyed this story as a simple read. I too like to let the story unfold as the author chooses. I completely missed the G. O. D. reference, but going back later to reread it, even if I had caught and wondered about it, I would have dismissed it. As there were many very flawed-human references that built the character in several fun ways but they would have completely dismantled any notion that Doug was trying to weave God into being this character.
Controversy #2 Which is worse: controlling neighbors or bad ones?
Have to say I have any LOT of sympathy for Geoffrey. Noise from neighbours drives me nuts and I have fantasies of forcing everyone to do it MY way! I think it’s always the case that when we try to create the perfect system it backfires. We need that variety even when we hate it.
Geoffrey has done pretty well with his neighbourhood. It sounds like a lot of hard work to me. I’m surprised a lot of the neighbours didn’t leave of their own accord.
Maybe they did leave. People leave for various reasons – bad neighbors is one of them! Controlling rules is another, such as you find in Home Owner’s Associations. Some people don’t mind the control if it means neat and tidy front yards.
Don’t expect me (or Geoffrey) to take up residence anytime soon.
It’s frustrating to have noisy or otherwise irritating neighbors. We had one who let his dogs out and they killed at least one of our cats. We got the dogs on camera when they came on our porch about six inches from our house and chased the cats who were at our table outside. Vince called the sheriff who gave him permission to shoot if they ever came over again. Then he paid them a visit and told them that Vince had permission. The dogs came over again. Vince shot a round to scare them, and the sheriff came back and took the dogs away. Within a week they had new puppies. We moved. The local police chief bought our house. I’d loved to know what’s going on!
I love that the police chief bought your house! Makes a great story.
Some new housing developments here have covenants too. Fortunately, I haven’t lived in one of those that would make rules about what I must do with my front garden. However, if someone else wanted to do it for me, I wouldn’t object. On the other hand, I am fortunate that I don’t live in one of those neighbourhoods where everyone has six rusting car bodies in their front yard and three old sofas on their verandahs. Otherwise, I might prefer a covenant.
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I think it’s good to have a bit of flexibility.
I know housing estates that try to be, but the rule-makers rarely live on them.
Many thanks for your detailed comments, Cathy. As someone who was once a public servant myself, I certainly don’t see Geoffrey as typical but he is of a type that we call in Australia ‘mandarins’. He was used to being in control of his working environment and he saw no reason to discontinue that practice in his retirement. I know some Geoffreys (but, as far as I know, not quite as extreme) and many housing situations are peopled by those determined to have the environment exactly as they want it.
Ah, but often their partners manage to keep their more extreme ambitions in check (I had a line manager like that once – dread to think what she was like at home). And, of course, their finances.
(But we can all dream our revenge…) The phrase, “Map out his dish of revenge?” seemed something of a mixed metaphor.
Try being in an HOA (Home Owner’s Association.) My mother was in one that was very contentious and had lots of control-types in the same organization. YIKES! Geoffrey, would never let his miniature planet be subjected to other views. He might have created CC&Rs, which restrict and necessitate activities that you can do in and with your home. Without enforcement, these can be ignored, but home owners know about the restrictions before they buy and sign the agreement to them as part of the purchase. I can see Geoffrey taking this step without even being monsterly. If you don’t like the rules, you don’t buy the property. If you like them, you’ve got a nice-looking and sounding clonish neighborhood.
Comments for the Author
I would have loved for some of the story points to have come from Geoffrey rather than the narrator / storyteller, but this is a personal preference and technique I use to make my characters more real and compelling. All that said, nice work Doug! Count me among those who would welcome the chance to read more of your work.
I missed the GOD reference but enjoyed it when it was pointed out. I’m wondering if there’s any way that could be emphasised for those of us who glosses over the deep meanings?
That would take out half the fun, Anne.