Tragedy Amplifies Comedy
Rarity from the Hollow is an adult literary science fiction novel filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. Its mission is to sensitize readers to the huge social problem of child maltreatment, a world-wide phenomenon without clear definition, in a very different way – a funny, zany story that is fun to read. Half of author proceeds are donated to a child welfare agency where I worked in the early ‘80s. Children’s Home Society of West Virginia
As exemplified in my story, what one person believes to have been abusive, another may consider as appropriate child discipline and these views may be influenced by cultures, societal norms, religions…. Set in an Appalachian hollow not far from where I grew up, Dwayne is a war damaged Vet suffering from PTSD, night terrors, and anger outbursts in the beginning of the story. He firmly believed that spare the rod would spoil the child, literally. Following his completion of a wild treatment plan implemented by an android, one that is not too very different than some technology being researched in real-life today Proceedings of the Third Annual Deep Brain Stimulation Think Tank: A Review of Emerging Issues and Technologies, Dwayne’s insight that he had been an abusive father and husband was essential to the HEA ending of Rarity from the Hollow.
While exact prevalence rated are difficult to come up with, approximately one quarter of all adults in the U.S. believe that they were maltreated as children – physically, sexually, or psychologically. Yearly, 6.6 million children are referred to child protection agencies, one report every ten seconds. Child Abuse Statistics & Facts And, instead of getting better in this day and age of advanced technology and higher education, the social problem of child maltreatment is getting worse according to the latest report that was published last January. CHILD MALTREATMENT STATISTICS IN THE U.S. As a retired children’s psychotherapist, the high prevalence of child maltreatment was part of my training, especially how trauma can mimic other diagnoses sometimes presumed to be based in body chemistry.
Lacy Dawn, the adolescent protagonist in Rarity from the Hollow, an empowered victim, was a genetic spawn manipulated by Universal Management for millennia to maximize her savior attributes. The economic foundation of the universe was facing an imminent threat and she was called upon to diagnose and solve the problem. Lacy didn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends came first. Lacy negotiated with the android to first cure her parents before she would accept the job. Her mother, Jenny, downtrodden and weak willed with rotting teeth, no education, no driver’s license, and no hope illustrate in the story how trauma can mimic other mental health concerns. The android properly diagnosed Jenny:
“…Besides, the transmitter was part of Daddy’s treatment. There’re a lot of other things that he did to help fix Daddy. DotCom is like a doctor. You can see that Daddy has gotten better every day. And no, there ain’t no transmitter in you. DotCom figured you out like a good doctor and the only things wrong are a lack of opportunity and rotten teeth that poison your body. You don’t need no transmitter. He just gave you a few shots of ego boost. I don’t know what medicine that is, but I trust him. You ain’t complained since the shots started — not even with an upset stomach…”
Many jurisdictions have enacted laws to protect children and sanctions that punish offenders. “On an international level, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was formed in 1989, and (ironically) the U.S. and Somalia are the only two of the now 194 member countries that have failed to ratify the CRC’s treaty regarding children’s human rights internationally.” Children Rights Reportedly, the U.S. has one of the worst child maltreatment problems of all industrialized nations – almost five children die every day due to child abuse or neglect – a child maltreatment rate that is triple of in Canada and eleven times higher than in Italy. Michael Petit: Why child abuse is so acute in the US
I’ve worked in the field of children’s advocacy for over forty years. In my experience, the simplistic solutions – the practice of taking maltreated kids out of the families, sometimes locking them up in giant institutions or the children bouncing from one foster home to the next, never finding permanency – the practice of simply locking up the maltreating parent as if punishment would improve parenting skills – may be one reason why the U.S. leads industrialized nations in child maltreatment rates. While sometimes necessary for the protection of the kids, the utmost priority, in many cases simplistic solutions backfire and further traumatize victims. Yes, life in the hollow was hard for Lacy Dawn in the beginning of my story, and worse for her best friend Faith, a victim of sexual abuse who plays an annoying and comical ghost most of the story. But, the last thing that either child wanted was for a social worker to find out about their situations. In 1977, as a young practitioner with a recent Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work, this realization cut me to the quick. When writing Rarity from the Hollow, I refused to apply the cookie-cutter standard of good vs. evil to achieve a HEA ending for my story.
There are many predisposing factors theorized to contribute to child maltreatment – poverty, mental illness or substance abuse by the parent…. And, there are many similar correlates to societal ills caused by child maltreatment – crime, dependency, mental illness…. Does Child Abuse Cause Crime? Rarity from the Hollow includes social commentary, but I made a conscious effort to not present anything as preachy. Personally, I don’t like to read preachy literature, not even religious pamphlets that one finds on the floors of public toilet stalls. I wanted to produce a novel that may speak to one reader about social issues in one manner, while perhaps interpreted very differently by another reader.
This approach was applied especially when incorporating the political allegory in my story. Rarity from the Hollow was the first, perhaps the only, science fiction adventure to specifically predict the rise of Donald Trump to political power – parody with no political advocacy one side or any other. Readers find out how Lacy Dawn, the protagonist, convinced Mr. Rump (Bernie Sanders) to help talk Mr. Prump (Donald Trump) into saving the universe. The allegory includes pressing issues that are being debated today, including illegal immigration and the refuge crisis, an issue that several European commentators have compared to cockroach infestation, a metaphorical element of the story; extreme capitalism / consumerism vs. domestic spending for social supports; sexual harassment…
Mr. Prump in my story was a projection of Donald Trump based on the TV show, The Apprentice. The counterpart, Mr. Rump, was based on my understanding of positions held by Bernie Sanders as I wrote the story. Part of the negotiations in the story occur in the only high rise on planet Shptiludrp (Shop Until You Drop), a giant shopping mall and the center of economic governance, now more easily identifiable as Trump Tower. The allegory was not addressed by ARC reviewers of the novel because so few people worldwide considered Donald Trump to be a serious political contender until the primary elections in the U.S. The political allegory in the novel is obvious now that Donald Trump has become a household name. I wanted to produce a story that both Trump supporters and detractors could enjoy reading, and with increased sensitivity to the impact that federal funding of child welfare could have on needful children in the U.S.
I selected the literary science fiction backdrop for Rarity from the Hollow because it was the best fit by process of elimination. The novel also has elements of horror, fantasy, magical realism, mystery, romance, self-help, political allegory and parody, satire and dark humor, and thriller. It is not a good example of the historical or western genres, although the child maltreatment has been present throughout history, including in the Wild West. While my own reading tastes are very broad and eclectic, as an aspiring author, a novice, I felt no constraint to keep my story true to one genre or target audience.
In today’s reality, the systems in place to help maltreated children are woefully inadequate. Child Protection and Welfare Reform I felt that the pure literary, biographical, memoir, exposé, and nonfiction genres wouldn’t work for the story that I wanted to write because it would have been so depressing that only the most determined would have finished it. I don’t enjoy thinking about my own childhood as a maltreated child and I sure didn’t want to write about it. A true masterpiece written as an exposé, Push by Sapphire (1996), was later turned into a box office hit movie backed by Oprah Winfrey, Precious (2009). Exhausted from working with troubled kids all day at work, I’d considered giving up on finishing my debut novel until I committed the project to the cause of raising money to help them. This commitment reinvigorated me and I still draw upon the inspiration. As far as I know, Precious didn’t raise any money to help maltreated kids, and, frankly, while it was a great film, if a memory of it pops up I feel like pushing it out of my head. I wanted Rarity from the Hollow to be a story that readers would enjoy remembering long after the last page had been turned.
I felt that Rarity from the Hollow had to be hopeful but honest. I wanted it to inspire survivors of child maltreatment toward competitiveness within our existing economic structures, instead of folks using past victimization as an excuse for inactivity. I didn’t think that anybody would bite on the theme of a knight on a white stallion galloping off a hillside to swoop victims into safety, like in the traditional romance genre. That almost never actually happens in real life, so that genre was too unrealistic as the primary. But, given that the power of romance is so strong in life, including, maybe especially for victims, I also wanted true love to drive my story. So, after having been cured of their mental health concerns, Lacy Dawn’s parents fall back in love, including sexual innuendos and puns just like true love in real life.
And, also true to romantic life, most people experience their first romantic crush at age five or six How to Handle Your Child’s First Crush; and, most people report falling in love for the first time at age fifteen or sixteen. This Is When Most People Fall In Love For The First Time, Lacy, at age twelve, develops a heavy crush on the genderless android. She dreams of him becoming her boyfriend when she is old enough to have one. She is fourteen when the story ends, having made a commitment to wait for sex for the first time until after she is married, and the story ends with her never having experienced her first real kiss. When writing, I wanted the story to be wild, but premarital sex that result in teenage pregnancy is not wild, it’s irresponsible and a correlate of child maltreatment, the opposite of the message intended.
As outlined, there would already be enough horror in the early chapters of my story, so that genre was out too. What could be more horrific than child abuse? Perhaps influenced by Stephen King, the horror element was built to fall into the class of “everyday horror” for which King is so famous. A Bulgarian book critic named the Advance Review Copy (ARC) of Rarity from the Hollow one of the best five books of 2015 along with Revival by Stephen King.
The protagonist in my story and her traumatized teammates would need fantastical elements to achieve empowerment. But, as in life, one cannot overcome barriers to the pursuit of happiness by simply imagining them away. That’s where the science fiction came into play. It provided a power source. I tied the science fiction to Capitalism because in today’s reality it will take significant financial investment by benefactors to improve the welfare of children in the world. While well received, the fantasy and science fiction elements didn’t work for two book critics of Rarity from the Hollow. Each wrote glowing book reviews, high praise and five stars, but interpreted my story as magical realism, I guess:
“…Lacy Dawn, the eleven year old protagonist, perches precariously between the psychosis of childhood and the multiple neuroses of adolescence, buffeted by powerful gusts of budding sexuality and infused with a yearning to escape the grim and brutal life of a rural Appalachian existence…the story bumping joyfully between the extraordinary and the banal…. About the only thing in the book that is believable is the nature of the narrative voice, and it is utterly compelling. You find yourself convinced that “Hollow” was written as a diary-based autobiography by a young girl and the banal stems from the limits of her environment, the extraordinary from her megalomania…absurdist humour in satire….In the spirit of Vonnegut, Eggleton takes the genre and gives it another quarter turn.” A Universe On the Edge
Yes, while Vonnegut is perhaps my favorite author, if this brilliant review represented my writing, the influence must have been subliminal. Another critic praised the novel, five stars, but interpreted my adventure as being all inside of Lacy Dawn’s head: “…omnipresent voice explores the decent of an adolescent girl into madness… The satirical plot, the harsh existence which became an escape to the stars, or the closed spaces of the mind, is very clever. The message: “however life shits on you, don’t shit on the children” is delivered so harshly that only the comical prose could carry the ‘normal’ reader to the stories psychotic conclusion. If we don’t protect and fight for wholesome family values, our societies will all decay into an impoverished, disease ridden, Hobbesian Hollow….” Rarity From the Hollow
I loved this brilliant review, but I’m decided to share a little truth. Rarity from the Hollow is more real than not. I met the role model for my protagonist during a group psychotherapy session that I was facilitating. The above critic envisioned Lacy’s future as involving being incarcerated in a mental institution as she aged. In real life, Lacy Dawn motivated her father to seek treatment for his PTSD and substance abuse from the VA Center in Huntington, WV. He ended up getting a very good job that, as far as I know, he has continued to hold onto. Lacy’s mother got her G.E.D. and driver’s license, and became a L.P.N. And, in real life, my protagonist graduated from college, teaches behaviorally disordered students in a public school, and, the last I heard, is engaged to get married. Empowerment, surviving beyond overwhelming barriers to happiness, was the reality of my story. There is no inevitability for victims of child maltreatment.
As I pursued book reviews of the ARC leading to release of the final edition of Rarity from the Hollow to Amazon on December 5, 2016, several book reviewers disclosed that they had been victimized as children and asked if reading my story would trigger old and painful memories. Of course, such a question is impossible to answer, triggers are so personal. About a year ago, I wrote an article on this issue for a great book blog. Rather than repeating it here, please see, “Fictional Characters / Emotional Triggers” at Inside the Author of Rarity from the Hollow
In summary, I modeled the story after a mental health treatment episode: harsh and difficult scenes in the early chapters are like difficult to make disclosures early in treatment; middle chapters are more empowering and comfortable like after therapeutic trust and relationships have been established during treatment; and the final chapters are comedic and satiric, relief in the realization that the demons inside have no power to control our lives and that nothing is more powerful than the decisions that we make about how to live in the present.
By far, the vast majority of book reviewers of Rarity from the Hollow have experienced its comedy and satire despite the seriousness of the issues that the story addressed. Nobody has reported having been triggered, but a few book reviewers have declined to engage the story because of concern about triggering memories of their past victimizations. I do recommend that if you have experienced childhood maltreatment, like so many of us, and decide to read my story, that you stick with it beyond the early tragedy to finish, the same as I would recommend that folks complete their treatment episodes to closure.
Speaking of which, I’ll close with a few findings by book reviewers related to whether my story would trigger survivors of child maltreatment:
“…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only instead of the earth being destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, Lacy Dawn must…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…Eggleton sucks you into the Hollow, dunks you in the creek, rolls you in the mud, and splays you in the sun to dry off. Tucked between the folds of humor are some profound observations on human nature and modern society that you have to read to appreciate…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.”
“…I was hesitant to accept. I usually do not read or review books that discuss child abuse or domestic violence; however, I was intrigued by the excerpt and decided to give it a shot. I am glad that I took a risk; otherwise, I would have missed out on a fantastic story with a bright, resourceful, and strong protagonist that grabbed my heart and did not let go…if it does not make you think, you are not really reading it…” Rarity from the Hollow: A Lacy Dawn Adventure by Robert Eggleton
“…Full of cranky characters and crazy situations, Rarity From the Hollow sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved…” Rarity From the Hollow – A Children’s Story for Adults
“…soon I found myself immersed in the bizarre world… weeping for the victim and standing up to the oppressor…solace and healing in the power of love, laughing at the often comical thoughts… marveling at ancient alien encounters… As a rape survivor… found myself relating easily to Lacy Dawn… style of writing which I would describe as beautifully honest. Rarity from the Hollow is different from anything I have ever read, and in today’s world of cookie-cutter cloned books, that’s pretty refreshing… whimsical and endearing world of Appalachian Science Fiction, taking you on a wild ride you won’t soon forget…”
In summary, I believe that readers of my novel will become increasingly sensitized to child maltreatment because it is fun to read with tragedy amplifying subsequent comedy. Even if you don’t believe that Rarity from the Hollow fits your reading interests, please consider the higher purposes related to the prevention of child maltreatment. I’m not asking you to buy a book that you don’t want to read, or to value a book because the author proceeds support a good cause. Absolutely not! Instead, I’m asking you to look around in your own communities and find likely underfunded programs to which you can contribute. Speak to your children and encourage them to listen to their peers, truly listening if one of them brings up a sensitive matter, like having been abused, bullied, or raped. Everybody can do something to put an end to this huge social problem, even if it’s just sending a small gift to your local emergency children’s shelter anonymously.