“The Keeper of the San Lo Gate”
with Gary Clifton
“The Keeper of the San Lo Gate” appears in issue 598.
[Gary C.] For what it’s worth, I toyed with the idea of, earlier in the story, pointing out that words were chiseled into the rock above the gate. The old man could remember his father or grandfather speaking of death by fire from the sky, when the airplanes came many years earlier.
Perhaps the message could be delivered by massive burn residue on those rocks and there would be no mention of airplanes. Then, when the kid in the end stands in that gate, he reads out the words: "Pennsylvania State Line" or something equally recognizable.
Then I figured it added nothing to the yarn and didn’t proceed. Now I have an idea to use a loose form of that concept in another story.
[Don W.] Talk about dodging bullets, Gary, leaving out ancient airplanes and “Pennsylvania State Line” was a stroke of genius. They’d have been irrelevant or, at the very least, a case of misplaced emphasis. And I hope I’d have thought to tell you that anyone standing in the gate could not see what was inscribed above it! You’d have to include such an inscription as part of the narrative.
“The Keeper of the San Lo Gate” is not about war and politics; they are incidental. The story is about the relationship between a teacher and student, namely the old gatekeeper and his apprentice, Neshak. The setting is outside of time and history, a fairytale. And that is the perfect place for it.
You’ve provided a useful object lesson concerning the process of composition: you may have good ideas, but they may belong in some other story. Meanwhile, stay focused.
As we like to say, keep up the good work!
Copyright © 2014 by Gary Clifton
and Bewildering Stories