Good and Evil

So the first four Wednesdays of every month (I get a few off over a year), I have a mastermind conversation with some pro. Writing and Publishing Peers, Writing Student (who is a concert pianist, former nude model, social media small businesswoman, literature expert, and composer), or Classical Composer.

You learn a lot of things, talking to people beyond the gang at the coffee shop, unless you’ve found/built the right crowd.

Today was Writing Student (Renaissance Babe, honestly, but she doesn’t always like that title). She had just finished reading a rough draft of a new Book One (the cyberpunk stuff, written using the Heroine’s Journey as envisioned by Carriger), and had comments, questions, and things I could learn. I haven’t dug into her comments as yet, but they’ll be good, because she and I came back to it time and again over two hours today.

She’s read a number of my works now. Some of them haven’t been published yet. But things she needed to know at each stage as she learns the elements she needs to conquer Indie Publishing.

One of her comments today came when we were discussing themes of my work. She pointed out that I frequently return to the overarching theme of good and evil.

So I defaulted back to something Kris Rusch uses as a measure when she is reading or writing a story.

“Why this story?”

Why did you write it? Why should I read it? What is it about this that compels? Why did you pick this topic/story/idea over the others?


I’ve been evil. We don’t talk about those days much. A great many of the folks who might remember them are no longer around. A few of them died early of the sorts of roughness that such a lifestyle engenders. I got lucky and escaped.

I no longer serve evil. But there was a time…

Good and evil is a grand topic. I could write about romantic, comedic misunderstandings. Fish out of water stories. By-the-numbers mysteries.

But I write about characters. People. She has noted that I write “messy people in lived in worlds.”

They have fears. Dreams. Hobbies. Favorite foods. They were not, as the saying goes, “born on page one of a blank piece of paper.”

Frequently, you know you are in a Blaze Ward novel when someone is sticking it to the man. The man usually deserves it, because he is in service to evil. I’m about embark on a new world, where the main character is a wanted outlaw, because he was a high-ranking soldier in the (republican) Commonwealth Army, on the run after the monarchy has been Restored by a counter-revolution. He used to hunt aristocrats. Kill them because if you kill enough aristocrats, you can’t really have an aristocracy.

He was a warrior dedicated to founding and preserving an elected republic. With undoing the divine right of kings and forging a nation of laws rather than monarchical whim.

And that makes him an outlaw. Because the king’s side returned.

Who is good here? The man who wants laws, or the one who wants the divine right of kings to be above any law, anywhere?

For everyone who suggests that aristocracy it a better form of government, I suggest you go study the history of English king Charles I, executed in CE 1649. To quote Roland, my main character in describing someone drawn loosely from Charles himself: “You might never find a more mendacious, churlish, garish, and vulgar man if you spent a lifetime trying.” (I know a few other more recent politicians that might apply to, as well.)

Would you want someone above all laws deciding what your rights were? We live in a modern, democratic world, where the laws are above the leaders, not the other way around. Think about some of the politicians who have blown up their careers recently (Cuomo of New York State comes immediately to mind): Would you want to live in a place where nobody could touch a man like that? You think he’d make a great king?

That’s the problem with aristocracy having any political power anywhere. For every good one, you are likely to have hundreds of useless or aggressively vicious ones using their god-given power to run roughshod over anyone and everyone. You just have to look at human history for any example. How many kings do you know have “The Good” after their name, versus “The Terrible” or something?

But what is evil?

Roland sees it in the Divine Right of Kings. Haselrig (his foe), sees it in the chaos that allows any charismatic charlatan populist to gather together a mob and rule without restraint. (A republic, for example.)

All of us moderns want restraint. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness require that we have the personal freedom to find it. Now imagine you are tied by birth to the land upon which you were born. Subject to the whims of a lord who can do anything he wants, any time he wants. That wasn’t overthrown that long ago, either.

Sound like fun? Nobody wants to be born into the lowest rung of society, unless there are protections. Where do those protections come from?

From laws. Laws above, not below.

So I’m going to explore evil, but it is a relative concept. Roland sees it in a completely different manner from Haselrig. In their confrontations, I expect it to explore many of the same themes as Valjean and Javert did, because if you are going to steal from other writers, steal from the best.

Victor Hugo influenced RL Stevenson. I see Stevenson’s fingerprints in a television show that ran 1977-1982, starring Bill Bixby as an outlaw pursued to the ends of the earth.

Again, Valjean and Javert.

It is all a matter of perspective, when you get down to it.

But that perspective also rests on your ethics.

Who do you serve?