So I just had this conversation in my “office”…
(And, yes, for those of you paying attention, that’s in quotes because my office is the taproom of a brewery. I have more than enough bad habits to kill a small village, and that ain’t gonna get any better. Just deal with it. I do.)
At any rate, we were talking about injustice and racism in the military in the first half of the twentieth century. Now, a bit of background is probably warranted here: I study naval history. I seriously geek out on naval history. Mostly the US in WW1 and WW2, but also a great deal of Royal Navy history. I can nerd out with the best of ’em when we start talking about the War in the Pacific or the Battle of Jutland…don’t even get me started on the Battle Off Samar Island.
That conversation got me to thinking outside the normal frame of reference about such things…and since I have to put a blog post together, I figured I would explore the topic a bit. Not specifically a post about the injustice and prejudice against minorities in the service – it was there, and I can go off on it for hours if need be – but rather one touching on what I see as one of the underlying issues related thereto: the ages-old conflict between the voiced and the voiceless.
Now, I’m pretty damned “voiced”. In fact, I should probably shut the fuck up from time to time. But still this is an area I have thought a great deal about lately. In all honesty, it is one of the subtexts I am trying to communicate in Wrath & Tears (how I succeed is, well, up to readers who are not as close to that story as I am). There is in fact no character I’ve ever tried to write as voiceless as Oz. Oh, not him personally, he talks to Connor all the time, but his life itself. He is a complete and total victim: of his family, his society, and the universe in general. The kid never stood a chance*.
*Note – “Oz’s Theme” is a paraphrasing of a song I really like…please keep in mind, this song is copyrighted, so I cannot and will not use it in the book/story itself, nor in any commercial context (and this blog most definitely ain’t commercial):
My sick, sadden’d heart
Is the cross that I bear
Cuz I was damn’d from the start
–Based on the song “Benediction” by Dave Hause – go buy the album. Trust me, just buy it.
What I really wanted to touch on with Oz (and with dockside in general), as well as with some of the other ideas and stories I have brewing, is just how fucked up the universe really is…and how good people are so often the victims.
I write sci-fi and fantasy, but I wish to hell I didn’t draw so much from the “real” world around me. I wish all the shit and misery I put in stories came purely from my own mind. That would make me fucked up and evil, but in the end that would be better than the universe fitting that particular description…
Both Oz and Connor live every single day with prejudice and intolerance. Their very “name”, the concept of being ghosts, comes from society’s hate of kids like them. They really are ghosts: unseen, unheard and unwanted. And I see that every time I walk through the central spaces of many, many cities.
I don’t exactly live in a “megalopolis” (to dredge up an old dystopian sci-fi name), but my home is more than large enough to have kids – teens and twenties, mainly – lurking and hanging around those central spaces. Some are homeless, and some are just barely hanging on by their fingernails. And don’t even get me started on where I grew up (Los Angeles area)…Port Oblivion has a great deal of LA’s dark side to it.
Don’t watch those kids as they hang-out, watch the normal people walking around them. They don’t see the kids. They don’t hear the kids. It’s like those folks are walking through a cloud of ghosts, and if they ignore them strongly enough those ghosts will disappear.
To bring everything back to the naval history conversation I was having: those kids are just as voiceless as was a black mess steward named Doris Miller on December 6th, 1941. In spite of everything he faced, Miller was – IS – one of the great heroes of the US Navy, and far too many don’t even know his name.
Now ask yourself: do you know the names or the stories of any of those kids you see in your town square?
The voiced and the voiceless.
The unseen, the unheard, the unwanted.