Aces Crazy!

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts


Creative Writing

First Advisor

Benedict, Pinckney


Aces Crazy! details the story of one-handed navigator Stirrup Milton, the first-person narrator of the story. She leads amnesiac cowboy Crazy Beaumont eastward across a bright, vibrant post-apocalyptic Appalachia in search of a man named Motherfucker, who is connected to Crazy Beaumont’s lost memory. During this journey eastward, the duo are pursued by the bounty hunter who took Stirrup’s hand and murdered her best friend, Bob Dole Desecrator.The novel, first and foremost, is interested in Stirrup, its main character and first-person narrator, chronicling her emotional journey as she deals with the loss of her hand and best friend. In this vein, her narrative voice is heavily influenced by Mattie Ross, the protagonist of Charles Portis’ True Grit. Throughout the first two arcs of the story, the reader follows Stirrup on a quest for revenge, hearing of the origin of her current battered form and witnessing the metastasizing of her obsession grow and contort her relationship with the characters in their traveling party and reader. When that obsession is resolved, the revenge story is complete, but Stirrup’s identity as a result is completely shattered. In the book’s final third, a departure from the linear revenge journey of the prior, Stirrup must create a new identity in the rubble of the old. This novel is primary associated with the western genre, peppered with fantasy elements that help characterize the subtle post-apocalyptic Appalachian world. It also relies on comedy, both physical and witty, to engage the audience, parody its inverted western fictional world, and offer a commentary on the frontier mentality at the heart of the genre. It is, of course, heavily indebted to the classic spaghetti western, and the cowboy’s journey commonly depicted. It also bears influence from the western film genre and film soundtracks, from Neil Young’s soundtrack to Dead Man to Bob Dylan’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. It also is heavily influenced by imagery, in particular the stark action of “Bucking Horse and Rider”, an image trademarked by the state of Wyoming sine 1936 for use on its license plates. At the end of five chapters are links to audio files of a five-episode digital companion to the novel that exists in the same fictional world. The digital companion seeks to expand on the world building elements of the work, while telling the journey of Nathan and Tudor from the wildness to civilization, a story that runs contrapuntal to the novel. During the journey, Nathan and Tudor meet two sister outlaws whose intentions are not initially what they seem, and cross-paths with the Sheriff, a self-anointed lawman bent on bringing justice to the wild, lawless world of Aces Crazy! The themes of the digital companion primarily revolve around the relative nature of criminality, particularly in why crimes are committed and their unintended consequences, as well as the role of firm, unmoving justice in rectifying this essential problem.




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