CONTRA: The Great American Novel

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I just remembered something ridiculous from my childhood.

I was a little kid when the NES game Contra came out. Maybe it’s not safe to assume everyone knows about Contra… it was about two shirtless military guys who go to a remote island to shoot a bunch of alien invaders. These guys could do flips in the air, so they were pretty hot shit, even compared to “regular” special forces soldiers. I could only beat it using the “thirty lives” cheat code, but I think most people who claimed to beat Contra without using it were lying anyway.

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Anyway, I tried to write a lot, even as a kid. I heard the term “Great American Novel” somewhere, and I was pretty dumb back then, so it stuck with me. Because I was really into Contra, and because I was a pretty balls-out kind of kid, I knew that Contra would make the perfect Great American Novel. So I had to do it.

I pulled a few books off the shelves and looked at them. They were freaking enormous. I started to doubt myself. Surely it was impossible for a human being to write an entire book… but I knew that I couldn’t let the guys from Contra down. They never backed down, never, even if you killed them twenty-nine times, they would still kick ass for America. I had to do the same.

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I pulled out my parents’ piece of shit typewriter. I’ve never understood people who are romantic about typewriters. I spend a lot of my life getting angry at my computer, but a typewriter is even worse. It weighed as much as I did, plus I had to wind a ribbon through it that made my hands look like a coal miner’s corpse. I had to jam paper in there and nothing was ever even.

As I was messing with this awful machine, I realized I couldn’t just write down the events of the game itself. Everyone already knew that story. Plus the thing that intrigued me about the game was wondering who those guys were, why they were chosen to take down an alien invasion force without any backup, why they were capable of flipping through the air, why they wore red and blue pants rather than normal military gear, etc. So I decided that the Great American Contra Novel would have to be a prequel. Keep in mind that “prequel” wasn’t a term commonly thrown around in the 80s, so I was really being a pioneer.

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I started writing. Chapter one started with… and don’t worry, I think I got only a paragraph or so into the Great American Contra Novel… it started with the guy in the blue pants sitting in an air plane. I’m assuming he had his shirt off. But a terrorist got up and started making a real shit-show out of everything. “Not on my watch,” the guy in blue pants and no shirt probably said out loud, then he stood up and walked toward the terrorist… and then… and then…

That’s about as far as I got. As stupid as this story sounds, I saw it recreated in a popular military-thriller while browsing a book store. I was in my twenties. The book opened with a military guy sitting on a plane (I think he had his shirt on in this version) when a terrorist started causing a real ruckus. The military guy was like, “Not on my watch,” and stood up. He made his way over to the terrorist… and then… and then… I quit reading.

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It was pretty bad, but at least that famous writer finished his awful book. I never finished Contra: A Tale of Two Dudes (or whatever it was called). I ended up figuring out that if you slammed your entire palm onto as many keys as you could, it would make all of the metal bits of the typewriter move at once. They would get hooked on each other in mid-air and it was super fun to flip them back down. Oh man, it was great!

Who wants to write a shitty book when you got that kind of action goin’ on?!

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I did end up writing some books, though. They can be found HERE. And one of them is free! Can you believe that?

 

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