Wednesday, January 08, 2014


"He is unworthy of life who gives no life to another."
-Latin Proverb

Swastika MoonLong-time readers of Word Around the Net will have seen glimpses of my next book Life Unworthy as I posted quite a bit of the first few chapters while experimenting with the National Novel Writing Month way back in November of 2008.
I've finished the first draft of the book, and aside from editing, rewrites, and tinkering, its finally finished.  This sucker took a long time for me to write, especially considering I knocked off Old Habits and Snowberry's Veil in about six weeks each.
The difference between Life Unworthy and those two books is that they were fantasies set in my Fantasy Hero gaming world and required no research at all.  They were simple fun stories and I could just let my imagination run free.  Old Habits turned out to have some deeper issues and themes woven through it that I hadn't intended from the beginning, but they were just fun adventures.
Life Unworthy was different.  I had to research continuously, and it seemed as if for every hour of writing I put into it, I did two hours of research.  I thank God for the internet, which while disguised as entertainment, porn, and places to argue is actually the world's biggest research library.  I was able to dig up Polish legends, Romanian names, gypsy mythology, maps of Krakow from 1940, and more.
And further, from the very beginning, I wanted to explore something in Life Unworthy beyond an adventure.  It was always going to be an examination of the nature of evil by contrasting two different kinds: the demon-possessed lycanthrope and the horrors of the Nazi regime.
It was not easy to write for another reason: it was often dark and I tried to make it suspenseful and even frightening.  I wanted the setting to be as grimly real as I could without making it depressing and hard to read.  There's humor and romance and light parts in the book but I did not shy away from the heart of darkness within the Nazis.
I tried to write these men as real as I could, which meant delving into each one's personality and thoughts as to why they were doing what they did.  Each one has his own reasons for why he's in the party and wants to be a Nazi.  Each one has his own excuses and self justification for the evil they do and are.
Another difficulty was that I used what is sometimes called a "braided plot" in which multiple strands of the story move independently, and I move between them moving toward a collision of storylines.  The one element that brings them together is the closest thing to a main character, but there really isn't one.  Its an ensemble piece, with characters moving in and out.
And a lot of people die.  A lot of people die.  This is a war, and the werewolf is very, very bloody and deadly.  He's not a hunky hero with clear skin and big pecs, he's a scary guy who turns into a terrifying monster.
I had the advantage of all the documentation of the war.  Diaries, letters, testimony, personal testifying at trials, and so on all gave direct quotes I could stick into the story (often out of context and in the wrong place and time, but always from the right person).  I learned a lot in the writing of this book, and I hope I was able to do it justice.  It was very, very hard.  I could only write a bit of a chapter a day and then had to take a break.
So its in the hopper now and ready to shape into something professional.  As I've written each book I've gotten a lot better at the skill of writing, polishing trouble areas and noticing things I did wrong before to avoid.  Some grammatical and sentence structure stuff plagued me in the past and I've gotten more polished, but I'll see when editors get through with this how well I did.
The book ended up being just under 100,000 words in 30 chapters, a bit longer than my previous two books.  I hope to see it in print by winter of 2014, God willing.
Here's a section of the book for a peek into it.  Its a dinner part between the governor of eastern Poland under Nazi rule (the evil and should-be infamous Hans Frank), a scientist seeking to capture the werewolf, and an SS officer.  There's a surprise guest as well.  Life Unworthy:
Wawel Castle stood on a limestone outcrop overlooking the Vistula river.  Like most of Krakow, it was reddish in color, but parts of the building were first constructed in the ninth century.  Although the centuries of construction and rebuilding had left the castle with several different architectural styles, it had retained its squat wide towers and outer wall long past the era of siege warfare.  On the drive up, Major Ritter thought about how useless the walls were in a time of air combat, and was reminded of the Manginot line the French had built to stop invasion.
Inside, the castle was not as lush and gilded as some Ritter had seen, but it clearly was a wealthy center of government.  Nazi flags hung from the walls like medieval tapestries but they did nothing to reduce the chill in the stone building.  The roof of the dining room was made of smaller squares, each gilded at the edges and painted with various religious images.  The huge dark wooden table was piled with fineries and wines, and Hans Frank was a talkative and cheerful host.
"I see you have closed cultural institutions in the city; museums and such." said Dr Stoffel while they waited for the next course to arrive at the table.
"Naturally.  This not only will serve to reduce national fervor and resistance in the future, but it is part of the elimination of lesser cultures.  For the New Man to arise, the debris of the past and of failed, corrupt nations must be swept aside.
“I have spoken to the Fuhrer about this on several occasions.  The Polish culture and people have no place in the future we are building for humanity.  I estimate that we should have all remnant of Polish culture and history eliminated by… 1975.  I have already issued orders to all schools to begin this process.  The sole goal of this schooling is to teach them simple arithmetic, nothing above the number 500; writing one's name; and the doctrine, that it is divine law to obey the Germans. I do not think that reading among Poles is desirable.”
"And yet, I note that you have permitted the tradition of that trumpet song played from the basilica." said Ritter.
"Yes, I had a Gestapo officer just today in the church researching the tradition for me.  It is my belief that this tradition dates from a pre-Polish era, to the Teutonic period of proto-German aryans, and as such is not a part of Polish ethnic identity.  In time, with the proper education, later generations will see it as such."
Konrad Stoffel stared at his food as he ate.  Like many Germans, he admired the Polish culture and its people.  Had they not been part of the Teutonic Knights in medieval history?  Germans and Poles shared much of the same culture and heritage as well as a border.   Governor Frank paused as the servants placed roast pheasant and truffles on the table.  When they left, he continued.
“I see the Poles as useful workers for the Germans who settle the Wartheland, and here in the General Government.”
“I understand Herr Himmler is relocating select Polish children in good German families, though.” Stoffel finally said.
“Yes, perhaps.  A few sufficiently Aryan children could be found in the population from the Danzig territory.  But they will be raised as proper Germans.”  Frank shrugged.  “In any case, to have a truly clean German empire, the Poles must be a people without a national identity, culture, religion, leadership, or education.”
“This walled ghetto to the south, is this part of the plan?”  Asked Ritter.
Frank frowned slightly, setting his wine down.  “That is a different issue.  The Jewish population of Krakow and the surrounding area is held in the ghetto.  It was simply most efficient to gather them all in one place in the city, for later disposal.
“As we all know, a great Jewish migration was due to take place in the German empire.  What should the Reich do with the Jews?  They are a genetic blight and a cultural rot.  Do you think they could be settled in Russia, in villages?  I was told in Berlin, 'Why all this bother? We can do nothing with them either in Ostland or in the Reichskommissariat. So liquidate them yourselves.'  And since the drive into Russia has slowed, I have gathered and segregated Jews into the ghetto.  Once they have all been isolated, well… gentlemen, I must ask you to rid yourself of all feelings of pity. We must annihilate the Jews wherever we find them and whenever it is possible."
Stoffel moved the food around on his plate.  He didn’t feel much like eating.
“I have heard rumors that the locals are hiding out Jews still,” offered Ritter, pouring himself another glass of wine.
“Unfortunately they seem to hold foolish sympathies for a dead race.  We will find them all soon.  With the new commander of the Order Police I expect the process to move more swiftly.  I was never fond of Sturmburg but he had powerful allies.”
“Politics.  It continually gets in the way of carrying out the Fuhrer’s wishes.  I could tell you tales of delays and excuses you would scarcely credit.”  Ritter said with a scowl.  The invasion of France had taken over a year to start, with continuous resistance from Generals.  It was true that ammunition was low and repairs were needed after defeating the Poles but France was unready and fearful.  Thankfully even after the delays it had only taken two weeks to roll over France like a thunderstorm.  Poland had put up almost a month’s fight.
“It’s not only politics,” Frank said, rubbing his mouth with a napkin.  “The clergy oppose me continuously.  I have long despised the church and seen it as a hindrance to progress.  Once the Jews are out of the way, perhaps I will have more time to deal with the Catholics here.  I have already managed to send most of the troublesome and vocal members to Dachau.”
“Religion is a corrosion of the third way,” Stoffel agreed.  Here he was on more comfortable ground.  “Science has replaced god.  We need no myths of Genesis, we have evolution.  We need no sin, we have Freud.  We need no savior; we have humanity’s potential which the Fuhrer is unlocking.  I understand the need to use religion to sway the masses but we have evolved past the need of deities.”
"Have you read the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche?" Frank asked.
Stoffel nodded, his mouth full of buttered roll.  He chewed quickly, trying to respond, but Frank went on.  "By disposong of these myths and weak nonsense, the Fuhrer has become Nietzsche's super-man.  He sees that life only has the meaning we impose upon it, that there is no right and wrong, no truth or falsehood, only strength and will.  The days of calling all to follow some bearded Hebrew in the sky and his alleged commandments are over.
"We now know as a modern, scientific people that right and wrong is what we choose, not what we are ordered to follow.  And we know that as some are less evolved than the aryan race, then the path to the future is brought about by the cleansing of these corrupt and lesser races from the gene pool."
Ritter ate quietly.  He had tried to keep up on the conversation but it had gone into uncomfortably vague and philosophical areas.  He preferred hard reality and warfare, the rifle and the certainty of an enemy, not dreams and ideas.
Frank tapped the table with his knife.  “I will have the cleanest area in Germany once my work here is done.  Nothing to impede the progress of true humanity.”
Stoffel tapped the table with his fork in agitation.  Hitler’s Mein Kampf had not so much been a revelation for him as the condensation of many of his thoughts into a coherent system.  The true genius of fascism, as he saw it, was the blending of the best ideas from the communist left and the conservative right into a third way.  Taking the respect for tradition and the heritage of Germany along with a love of military from the old and the economic systems of the new and tying them together into a bundle would create a new path for humanity.
Providing government schools for youths to replace the superstition and religious nonsense of their parents would forge a new generation to lead the future.  Controlling the production and regulating business to shut out wasted foolish old ideas was only proper.  Good, scientific, proven methods could be imposed on businesses who did not care to wake up to the future, while stronger, more Germanic businesses such as I.G. Farben were encouraged to lead the way.
To make this all work, a strong central leader with a will of iron had to be given absolute power.  The clear results would be order and a prosperous, strong future for humanity, guided by proper principles and scientific clarity, Konrad Stoffel was sure of all this.
But this business of racial cleansing, this Stoffel was deeply uncomfortable with.  It was true he believed that the Fuhrer made good arguments for the weakness of the Jewish culture but Stoffel was unconvinced this was some innate genetic flaw of their ethnic stock.  Under the skin, under the microscope, humanity was remarkably identical.  What drove this hatred of races?  He knew an undercurrent of resentment and dislike of Jews had always been in Germany, but to see it explode to these levels confused Stoffel.  Where had it come from?  Had such men always been among them, and given power had emphasized such hate?
 “So Governor, do you miss your work as a lawyer?”  Ritter asked in the lull, hoping to steer the conversation into less airy territory.
Frank shook his head, chewing a slice of duck.  Swallowing hard he said “I did enjoy the courtroom work, especially when I defended Richard Scheringer, Hans Friedrich Wendt and Hanns Ludin in 1930; we made history.  But now I am in a greater legal position, a sort of judge for the whole region, without any lawyers to make appeals or slow the process.
“The way I see it, a judge's role is to safeguard the concrete order of the racial community, to eliminate dangerous elements, to prosecute all acts harmful to the community, and to arbitrate in disagreements between members of the community. The National Socialist ideology, especially as expressed in the Party program and in the speeches of our Fuhrer, is the basis for interpreting legal sources.  And as the governor-general of this region, I can do just that… but without the restrictions a judge ordinarily faces.”
A young, pretty girl entered the dining area, dressed in a short skirt and blouse that emphasized her generous breasts.  She flashed Major Ritter a bold glance with her large blue eyes and then leaned to whisper something to Hans Frank.  With another glance at Ritter, she turned and left, emphasizing her hips with a walk that swished her skirt back and forth.
“And I have been awaiting this all evening.  Gentlemen, I asked you here not only for a fine meal and pleasant discussion, but I have the honor to welcome Reichsführer-SS, Chief of the German police, Reich Commissar for the Consolidation of the Ethnic German Nation, Reich Minister of the Interior and Commander of the Reserve Army… Heinrich Himmler.”
And with that, Himmler entered the room, wearing the black uniform of the SS.  All three men stood and saluted Hitler, as Himmler saluted back.  When all had seated again, Frank spoke again.
“I was not sure when you would be able to arrive, but I had hoped it would be in time for dinner.  Please, Reichsfürher, have something to eat, I am sure your trip has left you famished.”
Himmler nodded.  “I am quite hungry yes.  And thank you for your hospitality.  So.  You have met, Herr Doktor and Sturmbannführer, hm?”
Stoffel and Ritter looked at each other across the table.  Stoffel nodded slightly.
“Yes, Reichsfürher, yesterday evening Professor Stoffel introduced himself to me.”
“Did he?  Hm.” Himmler stared at Stoffel a moment with his cold blue eyes.  Then he nodded. “Please call me Heinrich, over dinner at least.  Good, good.  It was inevitable that you two should meet.”
Hans Frank looked back and forth across the table.  Stoffel sat on his left and Himmler on his right beside Ritter.  He was confused and uncertain, there seemed to be a sort of tension.  “Of course I was unaware of all this, ah, Heinrich.  I do hope there is no trouble for my guests?”
Himmler looked up.  He shook his head, chewing on roast beef.
“We discussed the situation over dinner two days ago, in fact.”  Ritter said.
“Well then we can discuss it further over dinner,” replied Himmler.
“I am… not sure what you are referring to, should I be aware of anything happening in my city?”  Frank asked.
“It is a strange matter, one which has caught the attention of high command in Berlin,” said Himmler.  “This is quite excellent, I’m surprised you can find such quality food here.”
“I have my contacts,” said Frank with a grin.  “It would not do to offer such an important guest anything but the best.”
Himmler suspected that Frank always had the best; his rapacious greed was known all the way in the heart of Germany.  But he was not inclined to criticize the friend and personal legal advisor of Adolph Hitler.  He turned to Ritter.  “Have you had any success finding this… fugitive?”
“We tracked him from the camp to this city.  He is somewhere inside, and I have squads searching for him.  Herr Hess assigned a strange little Romanian to my task and he has proved useful, if unorthodox.”
Stoffel contemplated taking this opportunity to criticize the Romanian and his bizarre methods but he could sense a kinship between Ritter and the smaller, slender Himmler.  And it would not do to go against Hess, right hand man as presumed successor to the Fuhrer.
“And you, Professor Doktor, what have you been able to accomplish?”  Himmler asked.
“At a visit to the camp I was able to collect samples of the… fugitive… and have analyzed them.  I have sent my results to your office but if you wish a summary?”
Himmler shook his head again.  It would make little sense to him anyway, he guessed.  “No, I shall read them later.  What do you plan to do should you capture this creature?”
Hans Frank felt increasingly uncomfortable and excluded.  His dinner party was less a celebration of his power and wealth and more a meeting of people who knew and discussed things he had no understanding of.  What creature?  He wondered.  What is going on in my city?
“I am developing an idea,” said Stoffel quietly, “but it is contingent on the nature of the, ah, fugitive, and what the soldiers are able to do.”
“I assure you we will be able to deal with whatever this gypsy thing is, professor,” said Ritter.
“Gentlemen please; I must know what you are referring to, what has been let loose in the heart of my city?”
Himmler leaned back from his plate.  The chair was more comfortable than it had looked at first, despite being carved wood with a simple cloth-covered seat.  “It is difficult to explain, Governor.  It seems that one of the gypsies sent to the Birkenau work camp was unusual in his nature and managed to escape.  I have tasked the doctor to capture this fellow and analyze his nature.  This is, of course, all very classified, you understand.  I would have informed you more but even I am limited by the needs of the Reich.”
“Of course, of course.”  Assured Frank, angry that Himmler had told him almost nothing, but he was unwilling to demand more.
“And yet you have been ordered to find and destroy this creature?”  Himmler asked.
“Herr Hess wanted it hunted down and killed, yes.”  Ritter replied.
“But he did not put a time limit on that, did he?”  Stoffel offered.  “Certainly he will die if that is the order but… some time to study and examine him first would be very useful to the future of the Reich.”
Himmler and Ritter looked at each other.  It couldn’t be too obvious they were delaying orders but it took time for information to travel to Berlin.  “A few days, I should think would be sufficient, yes?”  asked Ritter.
Stoffel sighed.  No, it would not be sufficient, but it would be the best he was likely to get.  Although perhaps he could claim it had been destroyed and keep it sedated in the lab for more study.  “As you wish.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to this book.
Noticed your comments at Americandigest