Ryan Sayles Tells the Story Behind His Story in UNLOADED: Crime Writers Writing Without Guns

Everybody wants to stand out. That’s why we have Mohawk haircuts, tattoos, people trying to marry their German shepherds and torture porn movies. So when Eric Beetner invited me into the UNLOADED anthology Down & Out Books recently published, I wanted to stand out. After the list of contributors he put together, it was clear I was going to have to do something to be noticed because my “talents” weren’t going to cut it against them. Except Joe Clifford. I mop the floor with that guy.

So I figured, why not write something that takes a sharp left turn from where everybody else was going to go? Beetner wanted crime, just without guns. I could do that. We all could do that. Right? So I set my brain upon the task, letting the crime without guns idea sink in.

And then it hit me: two bumbling stoners seeking revenge for a wrong they suffered, and their weapon? A dildo. And not just any dildo, but a dildo that could spit fire. It’d be hilarious. It’d be crime-y, but most importantly it’d be not-gun-y. (Now that I look back on it, there was an old lady with a shotgun standing on her porch. Oops.) Hijinks ensue, and then in typical Sayles fashion, everyone dies in the end. No one else was going to touch that. No one. (Now that I look back on it more, it might as well have been a retelling of just about any average Saturday night for me.)

I’d stand out. In a sea of better known, more talented writers, I’d finally stand out. My hour had come on the back of a flame-shooting dildo. “Hey, NY Times person, did you read that killer new antho from Down & Out?” “Yeah, guy, I sure did. I loved that fake dick story!”

But then — and don’t ask me why I didn’t see this coming — Beetner said I should probably write something else if I wanted to play with the big boys. (Just kidding. Beetner was very kind about it, and simply suggested I move away from lowest-common-denominator college humor and write something with fewer man-junk mentions in it.)

So I wrote a story called “Racheting” instead. Since it would be a straight noir/crime thing, I decided to stand out by writing it in second person. There’s barely a mention of a penis in it.

You see, dear reader, awhile back I wrote a story in the second person that was published by a web site called Pulp Metal. The story is called “It Just Goes Downhill From Here” and it’s the opener in my collection, I’m Not Happy ’til You’re Not Happy.

Second person is the narrative voice reserved for things like instruction manuals and “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels. The narrative talks to you. You know, “You run off and do this, then you drive over here and do that. Slide the 3/8″ carriage bolt into slot B before tightening the nut down with the provided tool. If you wish to use the last of your magic potion and teleport away from the troll horde, turn to page 48.”

I enjoy the second person narrative. It has all the omnipresent narrator traits of third person while retaining enough of the first person closeness to make it intimate. (On a side note, Joe Clifford also wrote a second person story. His is called “Tattoo”. I have no evidence of this, but he copied me because he wants to be me. YOU’RE NOT ME, JOE. BUT NO RESTRAINING ORDER IS GOING TO STOP US FROM BEING BESTIES. EVER!)

Beetner accepted “Ratcheting” and all was well. In fact, if you ask my mom, it’s the best story in the collection.