Taking on a Challenge

This past weekend, I received the good news that the anthology Guns, edited by Gerald Hausman, is now available both as an e-book and as a trade paperback from Speaking Volumes press.

Guns features my short story “Choice of Weapons,” which, in turn, features Prudence Bledsloe.  More about that in a bit…

Find Prudence's First Appearance

Find Prudence’s First Appearance

When Gerry first approached me about writing a piece for Guns, I’ll admit, I wasn’t at all certain I wanted to write a story for the collection – even though Gerry has been a good friend for over twenty years and I hate turning down a friend.

However, I feared a collection of stories about guns would cater to a certain romance that lingers around weapons – including firearms.  Only a few weeks before, there had been yet another massacre that couldn’t have happened if one person didn’t have access to far too much firepower.  Years ago, my friend Mike Bishop lost his son Jamie in one such senseless massacre.  These aren’t passing news events.  They’re horrible, painful, and scar the survivors forever.

I shared my concerns with Gerry and received his assurance that his planned anthology wasn’t meant to romanticize guns.  What he was hoping for was a collection of stories (and poems and essays) in which guns would be a central element.   He wasn’t going to provide any guidelines beyond asking that the stories include guns in some significant fashion.  He was looking to see what would happen when he did.

Time travel moment…  I’ve just read Gerry’s introduction to the completed collection.  It’s great! It also articulates his goals far better than I could.  The intro’s worth the price of the collection all by itself.

So, I didn’t want to add to the romance, but I knew the issue of gun ownership and use was more complicated than that.   My husband is a gun owner and has been a serious target shooter, up to and including loading his own ammunition.  All gun owners aren’t wild-eyed, attention seeking, hate-filled people.

Moreover, my refusal to look at the issue wasn’t going to magically make it go away.  All it would mean was that I wouldn’t need to think about how to best approach a complex issue.  I found myself thinking how a friend once accused me of encouraging dangerous behavior by writing about wolves – because I was encouraging people to think of them as something they weren’t.  (Aside: She’d never read any of my Firekeeper books.)

So, after careful consideration, I decided to write a story.

When I started mulling over possible approaches, Prudence Bledsloe immediately occurred to me as a perfect central character.  Prudence rode into my life in in my short story, “The Drifter,” which first appeared in the anthology A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Monsters, edited by John Helfers.  “The Drifter” was later reprinted in my short story collection, Curiosities.

“The Drifter” is set in the American West after the Civil War, a time and a place when carrying guns was relatively common.  Because of this, I wouldn’t need to manufacture reasons for my characters to be carrying guns or being willing to use them.

However, for reasons that those of you who have read “The Drifter” already know, Prudence doesn’t exactly need to use a gun, which makes her situation more interesting to write about – especially as related to guns.

Jim and I brainstormed several possible story ideas but, although I plan to write at least one of those stories, I rejected them for Gerry’s anthology.  Although guns would have been featured, I didn’t feel that guns or the issues surrounding their use were central enough to the story.  If I was going to write a story for Guns, I didn’t want the weapons to be mere window-dressing.  I was going to…  (brace yourselves)…  bite the bullet and deal with the complex issue.

I’m not sure when the position the Japanese took regarding gun use and ownership first came into my mind but, once it was there, I couldn’t get rid of it.  I did some research and…  Well, if you want to know what I did with what I learned, you can read the story.

“Choice of Weapons”  debuted when I read it at Bubonicon this past August.  One thing that really pleased me was finding that the story generated discussion, not only about guns, but about the expectations readers bring to a story and how they feel when those expectations are not met.

“Choice of Weapons” is not your usual Western.  Guns is not your usual anthology.  In it you’ll find reprints and original work, poetry and prose, and a lot of thoughtful looks at a complicated subject.  In his introduction, Gerry expresses a desire to find a vocabulary through which the complex issue of guns and what they mean to people can be discussed.  I think he’s well on the way to his goal.

I hope you’ll give the collection a try.

9 Responses to “Taking on a Challenge”

  1. Dawn Says:

    Thanks for the info. I will definitely check it out. You are a wonderful storyteller. I enjoy everything you write. Looking forward to your story and this anthology.
    It will be very interesting to me. I grew up in a gun free house. My Mom HATED them.When my parents got married in 1960 they got a shotgun as a gift. My Dad who was a practical joker left the house for a while. When He got back he started messing with the door. My Mom got that gun and threatened to shoot through the door! My Dad admitted it was him in a terrified voice she put the gun away. They got rid of it soon after.

    • Jane Lindskold Says:

      Thanks, Dawn! As Gerry says in his intro — everyone, even people who don’t have guns — has a “gun story.” They’re a part of our culture and we need to build a broader vocabulary for discussing issues related to them!

  2. henrietta abeyta Says:

    I value peace sincerely enough that I almost can’t handle hearing the worst news / stories that include guns. When I see a gun collection at a store I have to look away so I can avoid sorrow and fear. I don’t care if it’s related to wildlife work or human habits I hate guns. My frowns are huge when the various kinds of guns increase I choices, this is an increase I find senseless. I’d wish to crack empty guns more than yucky scattered cigarettes. I’d sure cry if I saw an animal get shot!!

    Jasmine Olson sharing her Harmony with Jane

    • Jane Lindskold Says:

      I see your point, certainly. I wish looking away was all it took to fix the problem.

      And, remember, wolves — which you love — eat meat and kill and rend. You might find real wolves more scary than you think.

      Accepting the balance between violence and peace is where real “harmony” comes into place. We can’t deny the violent element exists.

      • henrietta abeyta Says:

        I don’t deny this part of balance existing dear Jane Lindskold it’s I’ve learned enough behavior science facts from what Grandma had to learn in college to be a social worker, and so I once in while find the hidden friendliness a bit quicker than most people would expect as I watch the wolves’ actions. I’m able to discover plenty of the hidden friendliness within the wolf to find wisdom and caution repeatedly thanks to both my insights and my reading skills too. I understand enough of their real spirit to know most of the time what looks like violence in our human eyes is actually the active ways of a wolf showing kindness to it’s pack or it’s brave human friend. Wolves just show more action than domestic dogs so they’re misunderstood sooner, but they’re quite equal in true loyalty! It’s the hunter who causes my immediate huge frown not the wolf, that’s one of the biggest deals their rescue actions are misunderstood by us! Plus if you study their pack facts and behavior facts enough it’s clear alpha pair put their pack members before themselves in the chart of who they care about. A pack member disagreement or blocking a hungry rogue wolf both do mainly with avoiding immediate danger. And then I know what Nava says in Balto 2 Wolf Quest tells the truth less and less food is what would happen if too much stealing happened, which would be absolutely harmful. It’s true wolves are skillful with prudence, animated wolves just speak their caution in calmer ways.

        I understand enough behavior science facts and attitude facts to handle people who act like they have difficulty controlling their loneliness. Like my African American friend says a few of the worst words but that’s usually when she’s bothered by what others near her are doing. Vanessa this African American friend of mine usually overwhelms the crowd quickly, but I can keep calm hold my patience and respect her with bits of comprehension. I can figure out what she said by accident what she actually meant. Vanessa acts with me both churchy and friendship related habits like I give her the joy she wishes others would share with her, she calls me an angel repeatedly, speaks like others don’t protect her as thoughtfully too. I’d probably lack confidence if it weren’t for behavior science facts from Grandma’s college days Jane. several people call me a favorite, probably from the level of loyalty I show.

        I don’t mind which world I recently learned from, and I’m not picky about how to find clear guidance. Human or animal. Hard or easy I have my open heart dear Jane, and surely my tolerance is the other thing that helps me face wolves as calmly as I do. I’ve read a few non-fiction wolf books dear Jane, I just mention the fiction choices more often. YELLOWSTONE IS MY DREAM TRIP my once in a lifetime trip chosen emotionally from how I’m touched personally, comparing money and my sincere sympathy shared with wolves. It’s a trip I emotionally can’t skip!

        Patience, Courage, Music, Spiritual teachers, Learning about myself , Books, Stuff seen from movies……… Proceed with faith, and follow the spirit one step at a time with some steadiness.

        Jasmine Olson again sharing agreement, plus explanation of what helps her see balance and resolve calmly.

  3. henrietta abeyta Says:

    Grandma’s behavior science class, these facts increase my firm acceptance of having to resolve, they increase my daily level of courage too. I’ve even once been chased in High School. Tone and Body Language are what I concentrate on mainly no matter who I’m facing at the moment.

    I Believe this behavior science stuff is what started forming my insight so early in childhood.

    Jasmine once more on this page

  4. CBI Says:

    I enjoyed both “the Drifter” and “Choice of Weapons”, although I did disagree with the conclusion reached by the Japanese gentleman in the latter. The story was very well-written, thoughtful, and thought-provoking.

    I hope you don’t mind my offering a modification to this Wednesday Wandering. Instead of “All gun owners aren’t wild-eyed, attention seeking, hate-filled people”, might I suggest, “Only a minuscule percentage of gun owners are wild-eyed . . . .” At least, that’s the case in the less restrictive portions of U.S., where firearm ownership is very common. It also matches my wife’s and my experiences as handgun instructors operators of a small after-work firearms business, where we see many gun owners each year, from all walks of life–of differing races, creeds, ages, wealth, and even politics.

    I do like the Prudence Bledsoe character. May she continue to do well and do good.

    • Jane Lindskold Says:

      Hi James, I’m glad you like Prudence and I think your modification is valid. We may be doing a signing for Guns in Santa Fe. I’ll try to remember to let you know when so you can alert your clients — and maybe show up yourself. I still haven’t met your wife!

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