Pulling The Sword From The Stone: Writing And Power

Let me take you back to another time; a world where the police, the military, the schools, the libraries, the hospitals, the stores, all of this infrastructure we enjoy today — is gone. No government, no television. Most of all, no cars. No cell phones. No oil. A world without guns and swords. This isn’t post apocalyptic fiction. This isn’t dystopia. Once upon a time, this was the real world. Once upon a time, this was the Dark Age.

You might wonder why we should bother going back this far — what it has to do with writing. But it has everything to do with how you pull a sword from the stone.

It’s a familiar story that came out of that age. The knights, King Arthur, Merlin. The boy who would be king, rising up to the challenge of pulling an enchanted sword from an immovable stone, a feat of strength that would cement his divine right to rule.

It’s a strange story, with numerous variations. Monty Python put it best when they said “Listen, strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.” And while they were discussing the Lady of the Lake determining Arthur’s divine right to rule, the point is the same — random allotment of swords don’t exactly prove you’re capable of leading nations.

Or do they.

It was never about a literal sword in the stone. It was about technology and wisdom and warfare. A soldier carrying a gun can take over any town, a show of brute strength is no mean feat. It’s common. It’s unsophisticated, and it only lasts for so long.

It’s the person who knows how to build a gun from scratch — that’s true power, power intrinsic to creation, not destruction. The technology, the alchemy, and the application of skill — these are things that make Queens of mere women, Kings of mere men, and Gods of mere mortals. This — this is what we’re talking about, when we talk about pulling the sword from the stone.

You need stone, to smelt iron. You need iron, to make steel. You need steel, to make swords.

When they say Arthur pulled a sword from the stone, what lies behind the phrase is a more arduous task than we are led to believe: he took raw earth, and made the fire, and spent days baking it in an earth oven so the rock would crack, release the metal and melt it down. Separate the impurities. Take what remained and begin to shape and hammer it out. Heat and cool it endlessly. It took wisdom lost in the fall of Rome. It took knowledge lost with the death of millions in that fall; it took skills lost in the burning of Alexandria.  Over time, the story twists. It’s lost in translation. Between the words of ancient texts, we trade in a hard and gritty reality for a convenient fantasy, in which one man’s hard labor that cost him weeks and months if not years of his life, is casually discarded for a fast-food version of the myth. To say the words “pull the sword from the stone” takes five seconds. It gives no respect for the time it took to make a sword from scratch.

By now, the writers reading this will have already figured it out; they think I’m talking about the creative process. And you can draw all the suitable parallels you please. But that’s only half the truth.

We live in a publishing, writing system that doesn’t allow you to pull swords from stones. The writing process alone is but the first part; before our typewriters and keyboards, we’re busy smelting. We aren’t even close to swords yet, not even close to turning our raw materials into a real weapon. Down the line, we’ll shape and hammer with agents, editors, publishers. The sword is what they sell in the storefronts.

Writers. You have no power. Anyone can smelt. It’s not easy; but it can be done. This is the first of many tests that await you, and the vast majority will not pass this.

Not every writer will, like Arthur, smelt and shape and hammer and sell the sword alone. Not every writer will demonstrate the application and holistic understanding of all the technology and discipline involved in the production and process of this singular, and indispensable weapon.

The one who does, will earn their sovereignty over the rest.

You will be more than a writer. You will be an alchemist, a metalsmith, a sword maker. You will know fire and metal, earth and water. You will know the wisdom that has been forgotten. Are you ready, writers?

The stuff of legends await you. You need only pull your sword from the stone.

It is as simple, and insurmountable as that.

For my mother, a metalsmith herself, and a firebrand.

Pulling The Sword From The Stone: Writing And Power

Updates, Change in Release Date

Copies fresh from the press. Pic Credit: Nicole Frail
Copies fresh from the press. Pic Credit: Nicole Frail

The release date for Bring Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell has been pushed back to October 28th and the book has landed at Skyhorse offices, as you can tell from the above pic. The book will be available at Barnes & Noble and other retailers.

The audio version from Audible, narrated by Christian Rummel, and the book itself will be available for pre-order, at all the usual suspects. Anyone who has ordered it already should be aware they won’t get it on October 7, since the date has changed.

Updates, Change in Release Date

Quote, Christmas Season

“He would never forget this particular twilight. Years later, looking back across all their voyages together, this walk along Penn Boulevard would become his fondest memory. He would wake from a deep sleep in the dead of night and remember Philadelphia, Christmas, and the snow. He would hear the far-off carols playing their evensong and taste the winter air they breathed and feel the frozen grief of the solitude that divided them. That was the year I gave her a pear, he would tell the darkness.”

-Marc Behm, The Eye of the Beholder

Aside

And You, Dear Reader, Are The Time Traveler

One’s understanding of time is crucial.

Time is not created equal. Time is not the same for you as it is for me. Time is the not the same for the black rat who breathes at 85 breaths per minute as it is for the adult who breaths 15 breaths per minute.

We measure time in money and then buy things with that money; but the reality is, skip the dollar bill, and you’re buying things with time. Your time. Time that is limited and always running out. We barter and trade in time every day, whether by the alarm clock or the stock exchange.

When you write, you’re bending time. You’ve distilled a time, or an experience, into a volume others can open up and read. And when you finish, you can begin all over again. The book is the time machine itself and you, dear reader, are the time traveler. 

“Summerville’s Timeline Theory

This theory states that there is only one universe that would bend like a straightened paper clip by the events of time travel. When time travel occurs a chemical change occurs in the universe allowing the law of conservation of mass to be followed—e.g., a time traveler materializes in the intended time out of the elements currently present in that time, or if a current version of him/herself exists they will transfer to the future consciousness—and the universe is forever changed. Any change or deviation from the original flow of events would not negate the existence of the traveler. The time traveler is real to that time and place as reinforced by the chemical change to the universe[clarification needed] that landed him at that point in the time line. Therefore if by time traveling into the past “the past self” is killed, “the future self” would live on because the past self is not him or her. It is another person from the point they entered that time. If the past self goes on to time travel, they create a cascade of time travel at the point they entered the past. Each journey into the past, no matter how similar, creates a different flow of events. Though it may mirror the events each time, this will continue until the flow of events affects the past self to the point they are no longer capable of or desire to follow that flow of events.”

From time to time you read a book that leaves you shaking and breathless. You close the pages and sit back and reality is bendable and flexible. You could start the story over again, but you choose not to because you’re exhausted and that exhaustion is difficult to express. Minute changes map out the landscape of your brain as seratonin, adrenaline and hormonal levels shift and change. A chemical change in your private universe.

All over the world, long gone authors turning to bones and dust in the ground are reborn into the universe as binder’s glue and onion skin pages and ink or a flat screen electronic device, and you hold them in the intimate space between your hands. Returning to a point in time, an experience long gone, to a memory lost, opportunities missed, to pluck lovers and heroes out of the maelstrom and take them back to their second chances — resurrecting ourselves alongside them.

When we tire, we close the book, grant ourselves rest before we open the cover, and we do it — all over again. Until we are no longer capable of or desire to follow that flow of events.

The existence of my work alone is damning proof of my failure to halt time and change the course of events, over and over again. You see, I can only write about it. I can never go there, the same way the reader can. One can never return to the past.

And You, Dear Reader, Are The Time Traveler

Writing, As Seduction

“To compensate for the difficulties in their lives, people spend a lot of their time daydreaming, imagining a future full of adventure, success, and romance. If you can create the illusion that through you they can live out their dreams, you will have them at your mercy. Aim at secret wishes that have been thwarted or repressed, stirring up uncontrollable emotions, clouding their powers of reason. Lead the seduced to a point of confusion in which they can no longer tell the difference between illusion and reality.”

The Art of Seduction, Robert Greene

Writing, As Seduction