Seasoned critics of Impishidea, I present you a very likely candidate for the title of the Worst Novel Ever Written. Behold: Moon People by Dale M. Courtney.
While it lacks the sheer derivative unoriginality of Inheritance, the rabid fanbase of Twilight or the shady marketing of Maradonia, it makes up for this with its prose which can at best be dressed up as ‘idiosyncratic’ or even ‘postmodern’, but in reality is nothing more than a mangled, garbled succession of words that sound vaguely coherent. Please avert your delicate eyes from the introduction’s grammatical horror if you do not take well to that sort of thing:
This story focuses on one man by the name of David Braymer and his adventures as 1st Science Officer on the Lunar Base 1 mobile base station. One of three. This book is based on the turning point for Earth into a new era of space travel and the beginning of the “Age of Aquarius.” David also has a romance with one of the locals in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. Her name is Cheral Baskel a [sic] local restaurant owner. Now during David’s experiences he encounters some alien life forms some friendly some not so friendly throughout the universe. David also experiences the space battle of all battles and saves Earth and our new friends. We start our story in the year 2048 when Earth has an aggressive space program.
Fine, I will recant the part where I said that Moon People was a grammatical horror, since it only commits affronts to the language itself with the same frequency as the Maradonia Saga. However, it is an utter defilement of the sacred art of storytelling and narration; Courtney’s practice of wedging in what is essentially a summary that removes all suspense from the ensuing story is virtually unheard of, and coupled with extremely bland and trite prose, along with the aforementioned smattering of grammatical idiosyncrasies, make for what Minoan Ferret of the II Forums so eloquently describes as “[something that] sporks itself”.
However, yet more atrocious is Courtney’s tendency to trail off into lengthy descriptions of irrelevant elements, as a child (or Chris-Chan of Sonichu fame) would. Consider the following which picks up immediately where the last excerpt left off:
They have just completed two large mobile base stations called Lunar Base 1, 2, and are almost finished with the third base station called Lunar Base 3. They are two miles long and one mile in diameter. They also have one very big surprise. All three ships split into three independent working sections. In addition, all three sections have lasers and rockets and their own engine. They also have shields that are a liquid that turns into a solid mass as hard as 4 inches of steel. When exposed to the cold of space [sic]. They also have a couple of lounges where everyone goes for fun.
This section, which is longer than the one following it describing the central conflict between Powleens, “angels from heaven to Earth” and their “arch enemy the Arcons”, can be construed as one of two things. The first is an introduction to an element just as central as the Powleen-Arcon conflict, which would mean that the Lunar Bases—and their non-Newtonian fluid walls—are vital to the plot in their role as what could very feasibly be the novel’s primary setting, that is, the Moon. Though I am no expert on science fiction, this section may very well be Courtney’s attempt at hard SF. Later passages, where Courtney gives a (perhaps overtly) detailed outline for earth’s space exploration plans, lend credence to this theory.
However, the second, which is simply the rambling of one who knows no structure or restraint, is much more plausible as per Occam’s Razor, in that it is uncannily reminiscent of the work of an autistic manchild.
We understand that Eragon was written when Paolini, at the tender age of fourteen, had allegedly become disillusioned with the fantasy market at the time but was nevertheless marketed in its self-published incarnation—which is to say, it was not written solely to sate Paolini’s artistic desires—and that Twilight was written with the pure (as somebody put it in an analysis long, long ago) intention of appealing to tweens and their mothers. Maradonia is just like Inheritance, except much less successful and more unsavory in its promotional tactics (a la Robert Stanek), and places great emphasis on the author and her age, but what was Moon People going at? What did it try to achieve?
Occam’s Razor would have me believe that it is simply Sonichu without pictures, but first, I did a little research about the author…
However, Courtney’s About-the-Author section on Amazon offers another theory:
D. M. Courtney is Married and a father of three, a writer and also does work for National Security on the part of foreign policies and war strategies and world economic equality. My hobbies are Scuba diving and fishing. I was raised in Miami Florida at the time of the Muriel flotilla of refugees from Cuba in the early seventies. Also did a tour in the military in the Army, went to Korea for a year. I’ve always enjoyed Writing about science fiction and I hope you really enjoy my book Moon People. Thank you and may God Bless your life.
I gathered the following information from this little blurb, assuming Courtney is above Stanek’s shady shenanigans:
- He could be anywhere from his late 40’s to his late 50’s.
- He did not receive much training in Writing, nor does his day job have anything to do with it.
- He has no problems jumping from third-person to first-person—a sure sign of sloppy writing.
- He is something of an outdoors person.
- He wasn’t going for avant-garde or a parody when he wrote Moon People—he wants us to enjoy it.
Now Occam’s Razor points me toward a new theory—Courtney is simply a bad writer who had neither motive nor opportunity to improve himself, who would find his equals in the authors of The Adventures of Archie Reynolds and Shadow God.
Allegedly, there is also an interview with Courtney floating around on the net, but the closest that I’ve come to getting my hands on it is the Digg page. However, a couple of comments on the page caught my attention and drove me to seek out a more refined theory that would offer a comprehensive explanation to Moon People’s transgression of the boundaries of badness:
No wonder Iraq is so messed up if Bush was taking advice from someone who can’t even put a sentence together!
He must of have [sic] been a speech writer.
What if Courtney’s work in “National Security on the part of foreign policies and war strategies and world economic equality” amounted to writing speech drafts? That would have made him eloquent—or required him to be in the first place—in putting spoken language on paper, but proficiency in drafting speeches does not necessarily translate into skill in writing fiction. Courtney would have typed words according to how they sounded, hence the following recurring mistakes and quirks:
- “action pact” (which had become near-memetic among “fans” and reviewers)
- random Capitalizations
- fragments, sounding as though they are hasty afterthoughts
- sentences that begin with “Now,”
- lack of punctuation
The explanation is simple—they make no difference to how they sounded in Courtney’s mind when he put them on his screen. This links to my earlier theory, where Courtney was blind and dictated his masterpiece to his young child, who is just as unversed in the differences between their, there and they’re as he is. And neither blind Courtney nor his offspring would have any idea that there was anything wrong with his manuscript when the latter read it to his father for revision—if there was any revision at all.
Moon People sounds almost coherent in its pedestrian, bland prose if one were to read it aloud. It sounds even natural if one forgets that it was being read from a book. In my mind’s eye, I could see the very likely scenario of a white-haired Dale in an armchair, rocking back and forth as he told the tale of Moon People to his grandson, who would have no idea that his grandfather’s story was mocked decades ago as he listens attentively on his grandfather’s lap.
Perhaps, the only mistake Courtney made was choosing the medium of (print-on-demand) paper.