I have my reservations about commenting like this. It’s difficult for me to do since most things I’ve learned in the past few years have taught me that commenting on what I’ve written usually doesn’t have the intended effect. I’ve seen too many interesting conversations dry up and too many interesting theories fade once I make an entrance to actually think that this is a good idea. The fact is, I think, that once the author chimes in people stop thinking whatever they were thinking and just go along with what the author says. Which is annoying. I have some inside information, obviously, but that doesn’t mean I know what you see when you read what I’ve written. In other words, I like it when new ideas are brought to my attention, I like seeing what other people make out of my details, I like hearing new theories about what I’ve written. I find it interesting. I believe strongly that the conversation that comes after reading a story is as much the point as anything. Unfortunately, I’ve seen nothing more effective at shutting down those conversations than me saying, “Here’s what I think.” Basically it seems as if I’m not allowed to play.
That being said, I’m going to comment on this story anyway, mainly because I had a lot of fun with some of the choices I made and I’d like to try and share that fun. If this goes horribly wrong I’d like that to be noted, I was doing this to share joy. If you don’t like the sound of this, feel free to stop reading.
Also if you haven’t read the story yet I’d stop here. You don’t want me messing everything up for you before you’ve even had a chance to read it.
So…three years ago I was visiting my sister in Atlanta and she was having her house child-proofed. The man she hired to do this was a bit of a kook and, among other things, he went into the conspiracy theory that is embedded in this story. How fluoride was a byproduct of aluminum and how water fluoridation had been pushed into effect and how it slowly caused Alzheimer’s. Do five minutes of research on this and absolutely none of it holds water but conspiracy theories are great fun for use in writing, not because of the theory itself, but because they always need a huge cover up and that means secrets and gunplay and all sorts of fun stuff. Okay, so I’ve gotten this far and I’m wondering who’s going to be hiding from who and what sorts of characters might know this big secret and it’s not really clicking until I start to think about when this cover up would have been put into place. Fluoridation came into effect in various cities in the late fifties early sixties, so who might have wanted to do something nefarious at that point in time? And, presto, into my head pops the idea of a hit-man heldover from the Cold War who is approaching his seventies. And that was it. Everything up until then was just kind of tinkering, at the idea of a seventy year old Russian hit-man who had watched his country collapse from afar I knew I would (eventually) be writing this story. Please note, I’m not saying I went into any of this or that every part of my initial concept made it into the story. You make choices as you actually start typing and those choices effect other choices and sometimes what appears on the page winds up very far from the idea you started with. Right now I’m just trying to show how the idea for this story came to be.
So that idea is in place and I sit down to write and I find this to be just an utterly stupid notion for a story. I knew, though, that the story would be taking itself seriously. I would play it straight. As an example of this, I’ll go briefly into the ending scene. Originally (before I started writing) I thought I’d bring in Smith and he’d create the sort of “nobody’s going anywhere” scenario that closes things out and then he’d rant and rave and my hit-man would fill him in on the diabolical plan and that would be that. Only, that isn’t what happened. Smith turned out to have quite a bit of guts. And, the more I got into the scene, the more I knew why I had to give Smith that edge of stubbornness. Mainly because Morzeny wasn’t about to start talking to anyone who blubbered and ranted and raved. Had Smith acted like that Morzeny would have just kept his mouth shut and waited for the whiny baby to die in silence. That’s what I mean by playing the story straight even though I thought it was silly. Everything within the framework of the story had to play sensibly, and the way I had drawn Morzeny it wouldn’t have made any sense for him to suddenly start talking about every detail of this plan which, I sort of got the feeling, he didn’t even care that much about. But when (again, just my reading of things) he began to respect Smith a bit, then it was okay for him to talk a little. But only a little. I did intend to explain in more detail what this whole conspiracy was about, but Morzeny wasn’t talking. What can I say? I kind of wrote myself into a corner there. In the end it doesn’t make a lot of sense anyway because it’s a conspiracy theory.
So, okay, the story takes itself seriously, but I was having all kinds of fun with my choices, partly because I thought it was silly and partly because I was basically messing with you for the entire first half.
What sort of fun? We’ll start with Morzeny.
Morzeny’s name was the very first choice I had to make. Morzeny is the name of the man who runs the assassins’ school in the James Bond move From Russia With Love. That was the first choice I made. The rest come in no particular order.
Red is the name of the assassin who is sent in to kill James Bond in the movie From Russia With Love. I know, it would have made a tighter fit if I had named my hit-man Red and his handler Morzeny, but that’s sort of my point. These weren’t choices made to carry significant weighty thoughts, they were choices made to add a sense of fun. I didn’t want to be too on the nose here, they also had to play as just regular names. Thus, naming my communist hit-man Red seemed a bit much.
The title: Liquid Calling. Those are the words I got when I went to my Thesaurus and looked up synonyms for “wet” and “work (as in occupation).” Wet Work is a slang term used to describe murders or assassinations by government agencies that stems from the Cold War era. Wet – liquid. Work – calling. Again, just using Wet Work as the title seemed too dead on, but when I dug up Liquid Calling, not only does it play off the tongue nicely (whenever you achieve alliteration with a “qu” and a hard “c” you take that and run with it) but it has so very many possible meanings, all of which seem to work oddly well.
When Red gets drunk he points out newspaper headlines that are getting close to the truth or he tries to break the game Monopoly (Monopoly was banned for a long time in Soviet Russia and is still banned in North Korea and Cuba).
David Hume was a philosopher who’s work greatly influenced the writing of economist Adam Smith who provided some of the earliest arguments for capitalism. Hume leads to Smith.
It should come as no surprise that Morzeny and Red both drink bottled water.
Rabies was chosen as the injection because of the numerous connections with rabies and the inability to drink water. This was a bit of a mistake on my part, some Internet digging showed that the fear of water that comes with rabies is actually in the patient’s head. As I understand it, difficulty in swallowing combined with (I’m guessing) the panic of dying from rabies makes many sufferers become hydrophobic, but it isn’t a direct result of the rabies virus. I thought it fit enough so I ran with it. Again, these aren’t cut and dry choices. Just me playing. You know? Yes, it’s interesting to note that I named my hit-man Morzeny and his victim Smith. On the other hand it’s not like I named my hit-man Ivan Redbear and his victim Capitalist McMoneypants.
When I went to check the post with this story in it the google ads consisted of two back specialists, a water purifier and a philosophy seminar. I’m very much looking forward to future google ads.
When it came time for Morzeny to talk Russian I tried Babel Fish but that gave me a translation into the Cyrillic alphabet and my keyboard don’t do that, so I just found a page with some Russian phrases. There were common ones like “Where is the bathroom?” and then there was a list of uncommon phrases which happened to have “Today is a good day to die.” That’s the one I used. I was highly tempted to use the next one down on the list of uncommon phrases which was “I have three naked clowns.” So tempted.
Well, there’s probably some more things I could point out to you, but I’m not sure I like this concept. I don’t think I’m doing my job very well if I have to sit and stare over your shoulder while you read. For something like this, okay, this is more like letting you in on some inside jokes, but I haven’t touched on the large amount of water imagery that found its way into the story, the weird way Morzeny sees the world, or what (for me anyway) this story is truly about.
Find your own meaning, people.