Monday, April 9, 2007

Ruthless and Defiled

I'm starting to post stories on the old website, and I'm starting with Ruthless and Defiled.

Ruthless and Defiled is a fifteen thousand word short story that was, basically, proof of concept for Condotierri. Ruthless and Defiled has a lot of the same themes – anarcho-capitalism, corrupt security corporations and class struggles play crucial roles in both stories. Ruthless, though, also contains a heavy element of racism which isn't present in Condotierri because Condotierri is more science-fiction than Ruthless. People in Condotierri can, functionally, change their appearance at will, so attributes of race are hidden and not considered as important – thus, there is less overt racism. I wrote it, however, to see if I could, as an author, write something so sustainedly grim and uncompromising. Dante Wakefield, the protagonist of Ruthless, is the moral opposite of an action hero. He does everything that an action hero does – he's a go-it-alone maverick that uses violence to get what he wants ostensibly in the Dirty Harry mold – but while most of those rogue cop stories justify the cop's brutality and criminality by saying that it was somehow necessary, that you have to break the law to save it nonsense, Ruthless presents the corruption and violence as ugly and unnecessary, putting a lie to the notion that a go-it-alone superman does any good in this world at all. Or, at least, that's some of the backstory, here. That, more than anything, that corruption and violence amongst police is always detestable, that it isn't justified and doesn't make the world a better place, is shared with Condotierri.

Ruthless is also a more graphic story. Or, perhaps, it is better to say that Ruthless has a greater density of truly horrible things happening to people. I needed to pull out the stops because I had to know if I could write in this way, to write about horrible people doing terrible things to each other. I didn't necessarily write any of it to shock people, except to the extent that I felt it necessary to convey the significance of the violence being done. Violence in stories is exciting, yes, but at the same time a great many stories lessen the impact of the violence – all the deaths are clean and swift. There is also a literary whitewash that goes on with the characters, too – the idea that a character can kill and torture and, in some capacity, remain a moral person (indeed, in many stories, the protagonists kill and torture in a way not too different than the bad guys, but are held up as moral exemplars – the best people kill and torture, but they have a reason and that makes it alright, which is an attitude I find contemptible).

On the whole, though, I like the story. It contains some good imagery, has a solid plot and good characterization. I wouldn't say that Dante Wakefield grows during the story, but he certainly changes, and I think in ways that are interesting and contain verisimilitude.

Comments are very welcome. Plus, spread it around! The more who read it the better.

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Brian Dunbar said...

The link to the story is 404.

April 9, 2007 10:32 AM  
Chris Bradley said...


Thanks! I fixed the links. The file I had been storying this post in for a couple of weeks, now, got corrupt, so when I C&P'd it to the blog it carried some corruption with it. So, thanks for the help! It should work fine, now.

April 9, 2007 10:45 AM  
Brian Dunbar said...

That is a good bit of writing. Grim and bleak and it's not a place I want to live but as a story it works well.

April 9, 2007 6:06 PM  
Chris Bradley said...


Uh, I don't want to live there, either. Very profoundly I don't want to live there. ;)

But, thanks! I'm glad you liked it.

April 9, 2007 9:22 PM  
L>T said...

I read the story. It wasn't boring that's for sure.

I really like your twist on the theme The idea that a character can kill and torture and, in some capacity, remain a moral person Yes, that seems to be a popular theme.
Do you think that how we humans can justify going to war against other humans so easily, & turn a blind eye to all the death & suffering that results from war... Do you think it stems from this idea?
& the best people kill and torture, but they have a reason and that makes it alright, what some people consider as justifiable actions by the Police & Justice system(talk about putting peoples head in a vice & pulling out their teeth. The 'Justice system' can really screw a person up good) that also stems from this idea? interesting to think about.

About the story... good imagery, yes. Considering the length of the story, you worked in a pretty good plot. The ending wasn't as satisfying as I'd like. With a story like this the ending should have a gut twist. But, it's a guy kinda story, so maybe I missed it. :)

April 10, 2007 8:53 PM  
Chris Bradley said...


You're the second person to say the ending was too abrupt for their purposes. It has been a couple of years since I wrote it, but I think what happened is I realized it was spiraling beyond it's mandate -- to adequately "resolve" the plot would require me to go on for another 15,000 words. Maybe when I'm done with Simon Peter I'll go back and fix that. ;)

Do you think that how we humans can justify going to war against other humans so easily, & turn a blind eye to all the death & suffering that results from war... Do you think it stems from this idea?

I write stories, so this comes from a literary background, but my feeling is that part of our indifference to suffering does come from the glorification of war.

So, in history, we'll revere generals more than physicians. Who was the greatest physician alive during the time of Julius Caesar? Few people know.

Or in science, people will tell me that "war causes technology to advance". Which is untrue -- but war develops certain *forms* of technology that are considered more important than all the rest. So, we talk more about the jet engine than the development of the TV (as one can discover by watching the History Channel -- all they ever talk about is war, war, war). But all the best technologies -- airplanes, radio, TVs, the Internet, polio vaccine, the discovery of DNA, computers, on and on, are non-warfare technologies, but we give more honor to the ones for war.

So, yes, I think that war has a place of precedence in our thinking that justifies the damage it does.

And to address -- to the extent I can, here -- yeah, since government is an invention of the military (or, rather, the two developed together, along with religion), it does explain the brutality of the "justice". I could go on a long time in that vein, too, about the inherent classism in justice, that has always been present, and still is, but I'm not sure you want to be bored with a post about that. ;)

April 10, 2007 9:03 PM  
L>T said...

I have written a couple of posts about the justice system on my old blog, out of frustration because of my own envolvment in it.

I live in a small rural town with too many police that have nothing to do but fleece the citizens.

Our police chief hires young guys mostly. They seem so zealous. Mostly what they do is hassle the kids. Because there isn't much "real" crime here. So this has created a situation between the kids & the cops. My son who is pretty astute(he's 21) says, they have chips on their shoulders. They are the guys that no body got along with in High School that use being a policeman to throw their weight around.

Most of us parents with young adult children & teenagers don't like the situation at all. Almost all the kids I know have had run ins with the law. Including mine. We've been lucky. But, I've seen kids get trapped so deep in the system, because of stupid kid shit. It makes me angry. Some kids just seem to give up after a point. Esp. if their parents can't buy them out of it. I see the Justice system like a band that keeps getting tighter & tighter. I think it's more about money & vindictiveness then justice.

So if you want to blog about your veiws on it. I'll listen.

About the story, I see where the length is a problem, it has the makings of becoming more developed.

Acually, short stories are my favorite venue. for a couple of reasons. #1 I like the condensed pace. & I like to follow the main point fairly quickly (short attention span) #2 If I want get a sense of the style of a writer, I'll read a collection of their short stories. I think it's a good way to study a writers narrative style.

April 11, 2007 8:29 AM  
Chris Bradley said...

In the next week or so you'll probably hear me go on about law enforcement a bit, then. The development of law and religion (and thus, through a couple of removes, philosophy and science) are tightly bound together in ways I find fascinating.

For what it's worth, my involvement with the system, on all levels, tends to drive me bananas. ;)

About short stories, I understand your point. Ambrose Bierce preferred short stories because a reader could digest them at one go, and thought that a novel's length demanded that it become narratively confused. I'm not sure I agree, but you're in good company.

For my own part, I grew up reading novels and wanting to be a novelist. For me, short stories are a way to develop certain characteristics I want to see in my writing -- how to develop plot, character, action, dialog, style, etc., and are valuable to me on those grounds. Which does mean I occasionally slight the form, itself, because I am looking to use the story to improve for a different medium.

Plus, if a person really wants to make money off of writing, they must write novels (or screenplays). I think this is unfortunate, because while short stories aren't the form I prefer, I recognize the legitimacy of the form. And since I think it'd be sorta nice to get published, that means I've gotta write in the novel form.

I do, however, have a lot of short stories lying around, and for Simon Peter I fully intend to write a few teaser short stories -- so people can get a taste of the style I have in that novel. So if you hang around you'll get plenty of insight into how I write. ;)

And spread the word to your friends who like to read. :)

April 11, 2007 9:49 AM  

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