Thursday, August 09, 2007

Death of Pretension

News: New short story — Death of Pretension

I’ve also finished my fifth novel, Traitor Betrayed and since I’ve gotten it down to 120,000 words I’ll try to get it published. On the music side, I have a title for my next song: This Dog, which has a jazz-rock feel with a slight latin flavour. The lyrics and structure are complete and all I have to do is add some rhythm guitar, tighten up the vocals and add some backing vocals, and then I can start stripping bits out in preparation for the final mix.

For this entry, I thought I’d write about this short story, partly because I’m in two minds about it. In my last blog, I wrote about I wrote about not submitting a story unless you are absolutely certain about it. Death of Pretension is a prime example. When I submitted this to WOTF, it didn’t even make it to the quarter finals, even though someone hand-wrote a request for more like this. Perhaps, if I had just submitted the first half, it might have done better.

First half, you ask? Let me explain.

But first, if you haven’t read Death of Pretension then go here and read it, because I’d like some feedback on what you think. (In the comments for this blog please.)

Death of Pretension is basically two stories tacked together, which is why I’ve always felt unsure about it. And yet it does what I want it to do and says what I want it to say. So that’s what I want to know. Should I have discarded the second half? Or does the whole work for you?

It’s not unusual for a story to go through a number of rewrites that can have it change direction. With Death of Pretension, I had originally titled it Evolution and it finished where Jarold Morgan is confronted by the robot incarnations of his greatest love and his greatest fan. It was a dark story.

But it left me unsatisfied. At the time, when I wrote the story, a lot of dark things were happening in the world, like 9/11 and the Bali bombings, and I felt a need for the main character to do more than confront his failure. I wanted him to change, to accept his guilt and change for the better. I guess I wanted the same for all these terrorists — and any others involved in human rights abuses, whether they be dictators, warlords or supposed freedom fighters, and even in our own western governments. Self-belief is a great source of strength, but it can make your outlook become so blinkered as to leave you blind to the reality of what you are actually doing.

And so I extended Evolution so that Morgan came face-to-face with his past and had the chance to achieve his goals. But in confronting his past, I wanted him to have a choice. He could redeem himself by turning his back on his past.

Doing that though, only gave two possible endings: either he does or he doesn’t, and I like to find three possibilities if I can. What the ending of a story comes down to is the theme(s) that the story is built on. Evolution’s main theme was about the unpredictability of one’s actions, or rather, the inability to see the consequences of one’s actions, but pretension was also a theme and Death of Pretension would have also been an apt title.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that pretension was the main theme. This was what I wanted to get through the thick skulls of all those that committed these terrible deeds, whether it was in the name of god or liberty (or in retaliation): you are not the chosen ones, nor do you have the moral right to trample over the many innocent victims to get to the few perpetrators. There are other paths to reach one’s goals.

But in the end, it’s easier to blow oneself up or torture someone and call it something else....

And so I gave Morgan three choices. Achieve what he set out to do, accept that what he had done was wrong and let the old society re-establish itself and continue on as before, or let the old society start up again, but give it the choice of staying the same or changing, whether it be to take the path he wanted it to follow or take a different path. In the end (at least I hope) Death of Pretension isn’t only about pretension but is also about free will, as in the freedom to take responsibility for our actions.

So which is it? Does the whole story work or only the first part?

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