Matthias Sundberg!

Heck of a nice guy! (also, grumpy)

No. 06 - Writing

I'm writing a Western.

I've been working on the idea of a Western for the better part of twenty years, trying to figure out the best way to tell a real, true story through the tropes of the myth of America. The nameless hero, the rebel, the treasure, the sneaky villain who is always some kind of corporate or authority figure, the dumbass henchmen. I've never found a proper story to tell.

Previously, it was a story about a man with no name, The Man In Black, who searches for the men who killed his family. The scene opens with an old man standing in the rain, one of his eyes gone, rain pouring off his hat. He looks at a grave made of two sticks tied together and we flashed back to see a younger man digging that exact grave. The whole thing would have been a switcheroo, where the man digging the grave would have hunted down the man who killed his family, but in the end, is killed by the villain, commenting on the idea that good guys never win. They just don't and never have. The old man at the beginning was the villain, back to pay his respects to the man he killed all those years ago. It's a decent story, and if the Western ever makes a comeback, maybe I'll try writing it again.

I've used various versions of the Man In Black in my imaginings of the character. For a while, I imagined him as a veteran of the Barbary Pirate wars, a Navy man who made his way back home, after facing the vile horrors of piracy and war. I imagined him as silent and saying everything he needed to with his guns and his wit. I imagined him as a man who was impeccably perfect, his heroism impossible to scuff in any way.

That kind of hero is interesting to me. I love Superman for that very reason. He is the best I could ever hope to be and never will be. I love the Man With No Name in the Dollars Trilogy, because he does the right thing in spite of Eli Wallach or Lee Van Cleef (I have a theory that Lee Van Cleef, who is in two of those movies, is actually the Devil and Clint is a prophet/apostle/whatever, tempted in the desert by his malice). I love Luke Skywalker, despite his whine. They're perfect heroes. They win. They do it right, every time, because it's right.

It seemed too rote, but I love the rote-ness of Westerns. The good guy is gonna win, the bad guy is gonna lose, there's a gunfight at noon and there's a hell of a lot of whiskey drunk. It's comfort food for the eyes, a diversion from today to an imagined yesteryear. Revenge and righteousness.

I'm really into Westworld, also, but that's a whole nother thing.

I've seen so many writers talk about how their stories aren't autobiographical, their telling stories and I think that's bullshit. There's a magic to what we do, those of us inspired by Calliope, Euterpe, Thalia and Melpomene, a thing we can't explain. An idea comes from the aether and here we are, vessels for the magic, this thing that came to us, heaven sent. I call it magic because I don't understand it and I resist understanding it at all turns. I don't want to know where it comes from, lest it go away, fleeting as it is; a fairy in the night, giggling at my frustration.


What if it was a woman?