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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 589 Response

Eyes for the Inquisitor’s Children

with Jedd Cole

Eyes for the Inquisitor’s Children” appears in issue 589.

Previous discussion appears in issue 590:
Omniscient Databases
What Is the Inquisitor’s Inquest?

Ibrahim lapsed from adherence to the “Myth” and became “dissipated,” but why did Hassan become estranged from his daughter? What “sin” or “sins” are the Inquisitor, Hassan and Ibrahim guilty of?

I always imagined Hassan as one who didn’t put the effort into repairing his damaged relationship with Arielle, and who resolved to abandon both her and Pleiade for his former lifestyle as a pilot.You’ll notice as he’s telling the story to Yusuf that he and Arielle got married because that’s “what she [Arielle] wanted.”

Even in the narrative present, Hassan interprets the past through a lens of blame, and perhaps that shortsightedness is part of his “sin.” Certainly he views his “sin” as that of abandonment of Pleiade, primarily.

The Inquisitor himself also deals with abandonment. The Altar is a term I appropriated to refer generically to the Inquisitor’s corporate religious superiors. It has in a sense abandoned this galaxy, while he had to abandon his own children when he left on his mission.

Ironically, his own “sin” — as he knows it — is abandoning his duty as an Inquisitor by taking in (abducting?) the two children for personal reasons.

In a way, the theme of abandoning and feeling abandoned is a strong connection between all the characters of the story.

Does the Inquisitor kidnap or rescue Yusuf and Pleiade? Is he the children’s benefactor or is he a religious fanatic who commits murder, mayhem and abduction?

One of my goals in writing the story was to cast entirely different moral codes against each other and see what happened. To the Inquisitor, everything he does in this story is justified by his efforts to follow the code of his religious authority.

In fact, at least, as I saw it while I wrote the Inquisitor genuinely loves Yusuf and Pleiade, and does what he does in part out of his experience of that love.

Out of love for his own children, he didn’t kill Pleiade when he confronted (killed? spared?) Arielle. Similarly, he can’t — as he sees it — bring himself to kill Yusuf, but rather negotiates through his moral code a way to spare the child. I think to call him simply a religious fanatic is probably a bit too simple, as it is in real life in many cases.

[Don Webb] Thank you, Jedd ! You’ve given us valuable and intriguing insights into the thought you put into “Eyes for the Inquisitor’s Children.” I would say that you and Michael McNichols, a participant in the discussion in issue 590, are very much on the same wavelength.

All the characters in your story are interesting; they have stories of their own. And that brings to mind one of our most frequently quoted mottoes: “Tell the readers what they need to know, but don’t do the reading for them.”

That motto means a writer has to perform a highwire act by jumping from one wire to another on the way from the opening to the conclusion. If readers don’t know enough about the characters’ situations and motivations, readers mentally invent backstories on their own. And the results may be surprising or incongruous. That’s where the ideas of the “omniscient database” and the “religious fanatic” came from. They’re interesting in themselves but not really relevant to what you had in mind.

At the same time, the motto says, “Don’t do the reading for the readers.” All that means is that the author need not jump into the narrative like a one-man Greek chorus and say, “Okay, I can’t be bothered to show you what this character feels or where he’s coming from. I’ll tell you instead.” You don’t have to worry about falling into that pitfall, but a lot of new writers do.

Perhaps the classic model of the “highwire act” for a first-person point of view is André Gide’s novella La Symphonie pastorale (The Pastoral Symphony). At the end, you realize you have to go back and read the story all over again from an entirely different viewpoint in order to understand it. When it comes to multiple third-person characterization and points of view, Hemingway, to mention only one, can be an instructive model.

I recommend expanding “Eyes for the Inquisitor’s Children” into a novella. Meanwhile, we — and, I’m sure, our readers — are eager to see more of your stories!

Copyright © 2014 by Jedd Cole
and Bewildering Stories

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