Catalysts and Dogmas

Taking a look at “Amazons and Predators”

As both an editor and a writer, I’m often concerned with the question of what constitutes a story and what makes a story good. As a reader, the answer is fairly simple, if it entertains me without driving me crazy in some way, and gives me something to ponder, I’m pretty happy.

A little over a year ago, Danielle Ackley-McPhail invited me to submit a story to an anthology called Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory. The theme of the anthology is Military fae and she suggested I write something about Amazon fae. I’ll address my approach to creating “Amazon fae” at another time. However, the theme dovetailed with some of my own questions about the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan, what it means to the world at large, and the nature of warfare itself.

Sitting on panels at science fiction conventions, I have heard an idea posed almost as dogma. The idea is that a story must be deeply involved with character and it must involve a major change in one of the characters. Now, I think its great when a story does that, but I don’t believe it’s a fundamental requirement. An example of a type of story that doesn’t do that is a parable. A story-parable is meant to be a catalyst for thought. It’s meant to present ideas that you can learn from. “Amazons and Predators” is not a parable, but it is meant to be a catalyst for thought.

One question that I pose in the story is whether the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan is really a war of liberation or if it’s really an act of revenge for the actions of terrorists on September 11, 2001. I don’t pretend to have an answer to such a charged question and I don’t try to suggest an answer. I only present the idea that it might be such for at least some people.

Another thing I have heard presented as virtual dogma is that warfare is at some level the result of male sexuality. It’s hard to miss the idea that guns are no more than phallic symbols. However, I find myself wondering if it’s really limited to male sexuality. I think sexuality tends to drive us all a little crazy at some point in our lives, and that sometimes results in aggression, whether you’re male or female. Perhaps that’s not surprising. Who we mate with and why defines who our descendants will be. Whether you’re male or female, the ability to control that choice is important. Again, though, this is something of a charged issue. The person who deals with this in the story is a faery. She’s not bound by human rules. I don’t suggest that the choices she makes are human choices. However, if my story serves as a catalyst to make you consider human choices, I’ve done my job.

What happens when a group of outsiders is caught up in a conflict? This is one area that was weak in the story’s first draft, and I have to credit editor Jeff Lyman for helping me bolster this part of the story. The answer I suggest is that the people in the middle don’t care about one side or the other. They only care that they were caught up in an unwanted conflict and want the fight to stop. Perhaps there’s no surprise that no one wants to be caught in the middle of a fight, but I do find it interesting that people are sometimes caught off guard when those people in the middle suddenly lash out at the attackers.

Now because this story is set during the present day and because it questions some of these fundamental issues, I will not be surprised if “Amazons and Predators” annoys or offends some people. By itself, that’s not a measure of the story’s success or failure for me. If the story entertained you enough to take the questions seriously and think about them, then I’ll have succeeded. If you come away saying “Summers is full of it”, then so be it. It’s not my objective to win you over to a point of view with this story. It’s merely to get you thinking about some things that we take for granted. After all, isn’t that one of the things fairy tales are for?

There’s a lot more than my story in Bad-Ass Faeries 3. There are great stories by L. Jagi Lamplighter, Patrick Thomas, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jeffrey Lyman and a host of others. I hope you’ll check out the anthology and feel free to drop me a note letting me know your thoughts on some of the issues raised by my story. To learn more about the anthology, go to:


4 comments on “Catalysts and Dogmas

  1. Faith Taylor says:

    Hi David. Your thoughts intrigued me, and put me face to face with a mirror pool. My husband is in Afghanistan with the VT National Guard. He is a civilian, but he works for them, and so he’s in the mix, on his second tour. Before I met him, I didn’t focus on the politics around things like this; I had a cynical attitude and avoided it because it hurt me and scattered blood in my waters. Even so, I naively assumed there was an answer, something I could get my teeth into if I should try.

    Over the last 3-4 years, since his first deployment to Iraq, I’ve discovered there is no pie, no enemy, nothing to bite into. Indeed, the whole thing has the quality of the faery realm; it swirls around before my eyes like fog, shapeshifting into this or that before my observation, defying understanding, justification, or reason. With my love in the midst of it—-who, by the way, has no answers either—-I am continually gazing into the void at pieces of myself, because that’s the only thing that makes sense. It’s a bit like writing a story. You start, and things come leaping out at you, things you didn’t know were in there before you wrote them. This war is like a huge collective shadow generator.

    So needless to say, I’m very curious about “Amazons and Predators,” to see where you went with this. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Cheers -F

    • Hi Faith – Many thanks for sharing your thoughts. The war in Afghanistan raises a lot of complex questions. I only hope I did them some justice — and told a good story at the same time. If you get a chance to check it out, I’d be happy to hear what you think.

      • Faith Taylor says:

        Good story, David! You covered a lot of ground in that, slippery, sandy, muddy ground…I commend you. Doing it from the point of view of a woman and an ancient faery gave a thoughtful, heart-oriented perspective on the terrifyingly blurry line between good and evil that this war throws up in our faces. I also liked the dry, witty commentaries you scattered throughout, which made an uncomfortable thing more accessible.

        This tale engaged me because it was close to home. Like a lot of people, I watched the WTC towers come down as it happened, and I know someone who used to work in one of them. Like you, I don’t have answer for the question of liberation or revenge; I think it might be bigger than that. Everyone involved is looking at it through a custom prism. Mine got more complex when my husband went over there. He is in Bagram now (interestingly), he works in HQ, but he goes out on watch occasionally, sits in a tower all night and studies the desert. In addition to touching on the big issues around this, your story also brought up that image and made me wonder what really is out there. We aren’t isolated, you know, all these myths and fantasies come from somewhere….

        Anyway, nice work!

      • Thanks for reading the story, Faith, and I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it. I appreciate your husband’s service to our country and hope he stays safe. I think you’re absolutely right that the issue is far more complex than simply a question of liberation vrs. revenge and it’s an issue we all need to confront. We’re lucky to live in the United States because our elected leaders answer to us. However, that also carries responsibility. We need to get beyond slogans, look at the issues and evaluate our leaders and the issues on election day — and all the time, for that matter.

        Thanks again for taking time to read the story and send along your thoughts!

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