I don’t remember what inspired this story, though I could guess. I was probably thinking about some of the people I knew in Georgia and how they had such perfectly formed opinions about anybody who was not from Georgia. I know that I had tried to write western stories in the past — I grew up reading Louis L’amour what else would I try to write — but none of them had come out right.
I think the eureka moment came when I realized my problem. My western didn’t have any magic in it. You see, I have a really hard time portraying the real world in writing. I have to add fantastical elements to it. My mind just works that way. With that discovery in mind I say down with a pen and a spiral notebook and wrote this out. It’s a great deal more depressing than I remembered it but I think it works.
Another thing I noticed. I’ve been thinking about ‘magic’ and how it’s used in fiction lately. Call it what you will, The One Power, the Will and the Word, Allomancy, it’s all just magic and there is a definite trend in fiction lately to scientize (I know that’s not a word but it says what I need it to) magic. There are long swathes of text devoted to telling the reader, and, usually some new learner of said magic, how it works and what rules it must follow.
I find these types of ‘magic’ intriguing and some of them are quite imaginative. However I also think it strange that such a trend has started when Tolkien found magic to be almost secondary to his world. Sure it was there. Gandalf was a very powerful wizard — he killed the Balrog didn’t he? But it happened off screen. Because it wasn’t important to the story. Tolkien keeps the magic nebulous and in so doing makes it not only more mysterious but builds in Gandalf a character that we are forced to trust implicitly. If Gandalf says he cannot do something then he cannot. But, more importantly, he tells us that the Lord of the Rings is about the ending of the world and about destroying the ring and mostly about people — whether Hobbits, elves, dwarves or men — in the midst of terrible circumstance. It’s not about magic or fantasy.
I didn’t intend for this to devolve into a treatise about Tolkien’s work and you have no idea how much more I could say about this. The reason for all of that was to mention the ‘magic’ in this story is of the same kind Tolkien used. It’s there, but I don’t explain because this isn’t that kind of story.