Writing Prompt: 05/31/10

"Your phone rings. When you answer it, you make a startling discovery: the person on the other end is dead. What does he/she say and why are they calling you?"

Write for 15-30 minutes. My response will be posted 6/02/10.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Author’s Comments: The Name of the Blade

Every so often you get a story idea that just won't go away. About six or eight years ago I saw a preview on a DVD for the movie The Red Violin. Now, I honestly haven't got a freaking CLUE what that movie was about, but the preview SEEMED to be telling a story as if the violin was the main character.

I'm not really a musical kind of guy. I don't exactly have a tin ear, but I certainly do have a hard time playing musical instruments. I tried for three years to learn to play the guitar. The last time I hit the right note on an instrument, it was because I dropped my triangle.

But I loved the premise. I'm one of those guys that will yell, "You son of a bitch!" When my wrench slips and I bark my knuckles across a transmission housing. Because, you see, I KNOW that the inanimate leads a life of its own, and sometimes it does shit just to irritate me. (I'm worse with my computer. Look, you're never going to convince me that a box capable of playing Baldur's Gate, playing music, and downloading porn is not also fully capable of sitting there and going "Thtptptptptpt!" at you when you're trying to print your resume on the way out the door for a job interview. Of COURSE the damn thing is sentient!)

It was obvious to me, though, that the story needed to be about something I understood, and, sad to say, I understand the very real need (and sometimes desire) to hit things with things. My story absolutely HAD to be about a weapon, and the most recognizable weapon in human history is the sword. It appears in virtually every culture, even the Inca had a type of sword that was basically a wooden club with obsidian chunks stuck into it. I can assure you that they knew EXACTLY what Francisco Pizarro had on his belt, even though they probably didn't recognize his flintlock.

I've always loved the idea of being able to get inanimate objects to tell their stories to us. My favorite magical talent in Piers Anthony's Magic of Xanth series was the forgotten king who could hold any item and see its past. Add in Dor's ability to outright talk to the inanimate, and you could learn a hell of a lot about history.

Admit it, you'd love to talk to the bullet John Wilkes Booth fired through Lincoln's brain and find out what he said as he was loading the gun. Wouldn't you dearly enjoy holding a lengthy conversation with the Shroud of Turin? God knows I would!

As sometimes happens, the first thing that came to me was the title of the story, which is only sort of accurate, since the sword has many names, and they really aren't that important.

What became more important was the sword's message. Although the metaphor isn't as shrouded as I'd like it to be, it actually turned into an essay about gun control. We look back through history at the men who raised weapons in defense of their homeland or their people, and we call them heroes, but in modern society we tend to want to disarm them. It's wishful thinking at BEST.

Some heroes, like Liviu Librescu, the Holocaust survivor killed at Virginia Tech, fight the good fight and defend others with their lives even while unarmed. The sad truth, though, is that even though Librescu gave his life, Cho Seung-Hui was still able to go on and kill at least six more people before putting the guns to his own head.

What if Librescu had been armed? What if he'd been able to drop the shooter in his tracks? Would he be any less a hero if he was still alive? What if, in fact, the very first person Seung-Hui walked up to that day had pulled a .40 S&W and put three rounds in his ten-ring? Would that guy be any less a hero just because he might still be around to go on book signing tours?

It's not really for me to say, but I believe that a DESIRE to do the right or necessary thing is only half the issue. The other half is having the means to ACT on those feelings.

The Name of the Blade is about a young boy who doesn't really pay much attention in school. He's a bit of a disappointment, but like all young men out there he has great potential hidden deep inside. If he's given the right lessons at the right time... who knows? He might just become a hero.

Or maybe he always has been. It's tough to know with kids.


Christopher Rivan

Virgins Slain, Dragons Rescued.
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