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…
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.