Tuesday, January 08, 2019

New story! "The Scapegoat Village" in Kaleidotrope

Starting off the year* with a new short story published in Kaleidotrope, my 5th story in that magazine (two back when it was a print zine and now three in the online version). "The Scapegoat Village" is a lyrical, stylish sort of fantasy—I was playing around with a particular narrative distance when I wrote it.

What else to say as background to the story? It was inspired in part by the origin of the word scapegoat, where a goat would be sent out from the village, symbolically carrying the villagers' sins/faults/failures, into the desert to be punished where that punishment wouldn't harm the people. What an awful thing for the poor goat, right? There's something evocative yet terrible about that image that always caught my attention.

I should also mention the Spanish headings to the story. They mean "The Disillusionment," "The Reaction," "The Idealism," and "The Wisdom." But there's more than just their English meanings to including them. The Spanish for disillusionment is one of those words I can remember precisely when and where I learned it—it was in discussing the decadence of what's called the Golden Age of Spanish literature and art (16th-17th century or so). One of the characteristics of the age was recognizing the falseness of their empire's glory, becoming disillusioned with it.

If you think about the word "disillusion," you can see it's basically "no longer believing the illusion," but I don't think most of us think it through that way entirely, in English at least. We just hear the word. For me, as a Spanish student, the connection to "engaƱo"—which I'd learned as deception, hoax, scam—made that meaning much clearer. Disillusionment isn't merely seeing the truth after not being aware of it, it's seeing the truth after being deliberately fooled by some outside force. It's The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" (which I'm not too proud to admit I first learned from the Van Halen version back in high school...).

So I always liked the Spanish word and felt it captured something that's missing or overlooked in the English word. The other headings were simply chosen to follow through on that, creating a progression from that moment of disillusionment, of un-hoaxing.

*(And yes, the way these first days of the year have gone with a new puppy in the house, this is still very much the start of the year...)

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