I finished Dark Underbelly and gave it to the writer's group, Will Write for Food, and everyone read it and pretty much liked it, but I kept getting this one criticism. "Hey," someone would say. "Sure, you solved the main mystery in this story, but there's still the backstory, and we get nothing. What the hell happened to Honlin on the Moon to make him the way he is?" And I'd say, "Well, I'm not exactly sure. Uh, okay, I have a pretty good idea of what it was, but I can't just tell you. If I did, you wouldn't like him anymore."
Anyway, a couple of them kept at me about it. One of them pointed to various figures in fantasy and SF who were pretty monstrous, and he said, "So what could Honlin have done that was worse than that?" So I told him. And he said, "Okay, that's worse. You're going to have to tell the story though, one way or another."
So I began writing the next book, with the understanding that, somewhere in it, Honlin tells at least the bare bones of what happened, but it had to be to the right person, in the right circumstances, and I was really going to have to sweat to make it work out. Somewhere in the first few chapters, another of the writers group got me to give her something about what was coming, and she said, basically, "Yuck! I'm not sure I want to read any more of this." But she did, and eventually came to the opinion that I'd managed to pull it off.
Maybe the past ten years or so have coarsened our attitudes about some things, so maybe it won't be as much of a shock now. Some pretty horrible things have been done in our names in the past few years, after all, and some people seem quite comfortable with it. So maybe we were all just squeamish and now we're fuddy duddies. Still, it seems to me that there is a lot of effort being expended on rationalizations and excuses and all the other ways of avoiding the idea of personal responsibility for brutal behavior. But I'm interested in someone who did something without excuses, without trying to rationalize it as ultimately being "for the greater good," even if it were possible to make the case, even if there were people telling him all those things, to try to make it all okay. But he knows that it wasn't okay. There are some things beyond excuses; there are some things that may be even beyond redemption. However much one might yearn for it, and strive for it, eventually redemption fails. But one strives nonetheless.
So the story of Ed Honlin is about the striving, and the recognition that he will probably fail.
How's that for a teaser?
Begin Blood Relations