K is for—Kill Your Darlings
The great part about making a horror movie, director Bernard Rose (Candyman, Paperhouse) used to say, is that you can kill off your entire cast, if you want/need to. To that observation I would add a paraphrasing of Stephen King's explanation of The Ghost Trick, as used in the supernatural soap Dark Shadows: Yes, but the problem is—especially when you're dealing with magicians, in a universe already full of both resurrected gods and simple human ghosts—killing people off doesn't always take. So the lure is knowing that you can exploit at will the narrative emotional outpouring which accompanies the “death” of any given character, without ever actually having to permanently shift them off the board at all. Do that too many times, however, and you end up being Marvel (or DC); nobody believes the stakes anymore, because you've bent them so many times in order to bring your darlings/franchises literally back to life. Nothing matters.
I told myself many times that if I pushed the Hexslinger series to where it should logically go, I really would have to kill a lot of people. Which is why it didn't surprise me when the characters I knew I knew in my gut were probably going to survive did, but I must admit, it did surprise me how much the other ones not doing so actually hurt. Which is good, I guess...
L is for—Love's A Curse
Or so Chess Pargeter's Ma always used to say, and she'd certainly know. It continues to interest me how much of my idea of epic love seems to have been inextricably influenced by listening to way too many Joan Baez albums as a kid, in that I just can't reconcile myself with the concept that a love big enough to kill or die for is ever a good thing, exactly. Instead, it strikes me as a sort of wound, a two-person trauma which inevitably hurts as much as it heals. Within the context of the Hexslinger series, for example, I don't think it's debatable that Chess has learned a lot from loving Reverend Rook, and that the people around him have benefited from that same sorrowful tuition in self-knowledge. And once upon a time, Chess's automatic reply to that observation would've been a simple: Oh yeah? Well, fuck 'em all, anyhow...but the fact that he isn't quite as inclined to do so anymore (or rather not as inclined to act on it, because he'd probably still say it, if only to be a bitch) is another consequence of the same scar tissue. Ash Rook has changed him, irreparably, making him a different person. Yet in much the same way Chess has already benefited from the damage he took in loving Rook, by the beginning of A Tree of Bones, Rook—who still justifies the worst of his betrayals by saying he only did what he did in order to “save” Chess from future harm—has already begun to accept that his baseline ideal of love may be exactly as hollow as his hypocrite preacher's faith ever was...and that if he wants to redeem himself at all, if not his choices, he has to give up on the idea of getting any sort of return on his investments, to serve without expectation—or even hope—of gain, like the “true” Christian he's never really felt himself to be. Which really can't help but get messy, as a strategy.
Tomorrow: M and N!