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Monthly Archives: October 2012

My entry for my Hallowe’en Writing Challenge is here. Thank you participants, and Happy Hallowe’en.

“The Last One”

The fire had died down too much during the night, but it couldn’t be helped. I’d been in desperate need to rest after three straight days of running from them, and Marcus had been caught by them partway through the second day, so there was no one to share the watch. His screams had followed me, even into sleep.

As soon as I woke, I scrambled for a handful of twigs, leaves, and sticks to rekindle the flames, knowing that they were the only thing that would really keep them away. Once the fire was beginning to burn in earnest, I checked the gun I’d managed to grab from the facility guard’s body, a Colt 1911. “Only four rounds left,” I sighed as I checked the magazine. The .45 had been effective against them so far, but there were so many of them. Only one of us, me, now that they’d gotten Marcus. I sighed again, managing once more to hold back the tears that had threatened for the last day and a half, and chambered a round.

“He’s gone. Get over it. Get up, and get moving.” I added a small branch to the fire, watching as the flames kissed and embraced it, growing larger and brighter. As I listened for footsteps in the distance, I reflected on the past few days and marveled at how quickly everything had fallen apart.

We’d joked  for years, about how we couldn’t wait for it, and how our lives as video game geeks had prepared us for this exact situation. Well, let me just tell you that nothing, and I mean nothing can prepare you for the sight of your best friend being swarmed and eaten by those…things. We said that we’d make it through together, and now…I put my first three bullets into their heads. The fourth went through Marcus’ eye when I realized he wasn’t going to get away, when he realized what would happen if I didn’t.

The fire had scared them away, we didn’t know why, and I still don’t. I had the Zippo Marcus had given me for my eighteenth birthday, even though I didn’t smoke. I told him his habit would kill him. He said my nagging would be the death of him. Well, we were both wrong, but he was closer.

A crack of a twig breaking snapped me back to the present. They were here. I’d not gotten the fire started in time, and now they were here. “Son of a bitch,” I muttered, grabbing the burning branch in my left hand and the Colt in my right. They were getting closer, surrounding me, but there was no way in hell they could know what my plan was. I knew I wasn’t going to survive, but I was going to take as many of them with me as I could. I fired my first three shots as they came into view. I dropped my torch into the dry leaves and raised my gun to my head.

 

 

“Guardian”

I am a guardian, o knowledge seeker.
Ask me your questions,
And I shall ask mine.
If you are deemed worthy,
I will show you the path.
You must make the journey alone.
I am guardian, protector,
Though I was once as you are
Now, in another life.
In my youth, I too was a
Seeker of knowledge.
And on the day that I was
First a seeker, asking my questions
And trembling as I responded
To those asked of me,
I feared, but foolishly.
My questions were answered
With questions, riddles for reply.
Now ask your questions, and
Answer well mine, for perhaps
You are worthy of the path
That led me here, o knowledge seeker.
I am a guardian.

Halloween is nearly upon us, with NaNoWriMo close on its heels, and that thought absolutely terrifies me. In the spirit of the season, I’m taking a page from Sonia M and asking my readers to take part in a writing challenge. This is the first challenge I’m hosting, and so it is going to focus on my favorite holiday. Craft a piece of horror-themed microfiction. Think Poe, Lovecraft, King, Machen, condensed into roughly 500 words.


The rules are simple.

1.) Theme: Write a horror-themed piece of microfiction.
2.) Genre: Other than the overall theme, there are no genre limitations. Write a steampunk/horror story, or a horror/romance, or science fiction/horror, just for some examples.
3.) Word limit: 500 words (approximate).
4.) Deadline: October 31st, 2012.
5.) How to submit: If you have a blog of your own, post your story on your blog and share a link in the comments on this post. If you don’t have a blog of your own, feel free to post the story in the comments here. If you do this, I will post the story in a separate post and re-link it here.
6.) Prizes: The reward of a job well-done and the knowledge that you managed to finish one more short piece before diving headfirst into NaNoWriMo.

This week marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, a week-long celebration of the right to read.

Throughout history, books have faced challenges and bans from people around the world. These challenges come from groups and individuals who have taken it upon themselves to determine what is “appropriate” for others to be reading based on tired dogma and personal opinion. In the words of Granville Hicks, “[a] censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to.”

Some of the greatest pieces of literature ever written have been banned or challenged in schools, churches, and public libraries for various reasons. The Great Gatsby, for example (one of my favorite books), was challenged in 1987 by Charleston, South Carolina’s Baptist College because of “language and sexual references in the book.” Now I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that this particular phrase could have been used to challenge the presence of the Holy Bible, considering the Old Testament features several chapters which single-handedly contain more explicit sexual references than anything written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. J.D. Salinger’s classic tale of teen rebellion, Catcher in the Rye, was banned for being “a filthy, filthy book.” That’s a bit of a vague excuse if you ask me, and makes me wonder if the people behind that challenge had actually read the entire book, as, in an amusing twist, the narrator believes a “catcher in the rye” to be one who safeguards the innocence of children. As recently as 2009 To Kill a Mockingbird has been challenged for use of the word “nigger” among other language that was dubbed as inappropriate. The list goes on and on, and increases in absurdity. The works of Tolkien, a staunch Catholic, burned in New Mexico in 2001 as “satanic.” Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying “[b]anned at Central High School in Louisville, KY (1994) temporarily because the book uses profanity and questions the existence of God.”

More recent works are facing challenges and bans as well. Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Captain Underpants have all been threatened with removal from library shelves. I’ve personally encountered people willing to ban materials on nothing more than hearsay. My mother, herself a Catholic, has encountered this at the bookstore she owns and operates.
Customer sees Harry Potter on the shelf: “I can’t believe you have that book in your store! It’s about devil worship and magic and terrible things!”
Mum: “Have you actually read the books?”
Customer: “Well, no, but I heard that they were bad.”
Mum: “Well, if you actually took the time to read the book, you’d learn that they’re about a little boy who overcomes terrible adversity and still manages to become a good person despite facing an evil enemy bent on the destruction of the world, and that there’s nothing harmful about the books.”
Customer: “Oh.”
It’s enough to drive a person insane. “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” -attributed to Stephen Hawking

My favorite response to any of these challenges is taken from Oscar Wilde, a man who knew quite a bit about dealing with people who were upset by things that he wrote and did. “The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.” Humans have an unfortunate history of trying to hide our mistakes and our failures, from the child who attempts to disguise the fact that he wet the bed to avoid the anger of a parent to the government that covers up evidence that it had authorized criminal acts against its own people. It’s human nature, I suppose, but it shouldn’t stop us from learning from our own mistakes. If we hide away all of the bad things that people have done in the past, we can’t do that. You know what they say about learning from the past, and those who are unable to do so.

We need to get over this. If I may be rather earnest, it’s bullshit. Books are here, and they’re being read. If you stop someone from getting a copy at their local library, that might slow them down for a while, but the information, the ideas, are still out in the world. We can’t stop people from experiencing life. Sex and profanity and hate and love and violence are going to be there, whether someone read about it in a book or not. We’ve screwed things up before. Let’s not do that again. 

It’s Banned Books Week. I’m celebrating by reading as many banned or challenged titles as I can. I work in a public library and a bookstore, and I’m providing the people with free ideas and ideas of freedom. “[a]nd ideas are bulletproof.” -V (This V, not that V