Clarion West Week 2

It was an excellent, amazing week. Maureen McHugh is rock’n’roll.

She said a lot of very great, very simple but not necessarily straightforward things… or rather, straightforward things I’ve never heard before, and somehow already heard before at the same time. She is bristlingly intelligent, wonderfully friendly. I some really good advice one-on-one, and lots of great thoughts in critique sessions.

Maureen did some wonderful exercises with us, including one which was directly useful to me in writing the story I handed in on Wednesday night. It was due tonight (Sunday, a long time later) but I drafted it — 100,000 10,000 words of it — in a couple of days and had it pretty much done. I’ve since discovered that the chirality of molecules isn’t the only thing that would have to be modified for the story to work, but I’ve got a pretty good explanation of why the modification that would make my story work would be necessary. If nobody in the class picks up on my MAJOR science blunder, then I’ll bring it up myself and see what the reaction to my fix is. It’s one of those stories I REALLY want to work, because the rest of the thing makes the science something I want to tweak so I don’t have to abandon it.

Anyway, I’m going to go try to call Lime, and then go to bed. Tomorrow will be a long day: I’ll have to try draft some of my next story then. I have a vague idea about a first line:

He always talks about his days in the House of Lords, but the first time I saw him, he was chained to the floor in the hold of the slave ship that brought us to Peking…

We’ll see what happens… and whether my research will actually pay off.

A couple of themes have emerged, and one of the ones that keeps coming up is the idea of a “Needs Killin'” story. It’s a Texan thing. I’m sure I’ll mention it again. I’m thinking the world needs a Needs Killin’ anthology.

12 thoughts on “Clarion West Week 2

  1. Does “needs killin'” refer to the sentiment that some men are just better off dead? (I wanna make sure I’ve got the right Texan thang in mind….) ;-)

    If so, then the world definitely needs a Needs Killin’ anthology!

  2. Nope, according to the Texan in the group, it’s a reference to an old Texan law from way back when all you needed to do to get someone killed legally was to get a group of five or more upstanding locals to sign a petition that this person “needs killin'” and bring it to the sherriff, and then your posse could do whatever it liked to the poor bastard.

    Apparently this was on the books for a long time.

  3. Hmmmm, I think that’s called a “lynch mob” and while they’ve certainly existed in Texas and all over the South, often with the blessing of the local constabulary, I’m not sure there’s ever been a law on the book specifically to cover such cases where, say, if four guys came to the sherriff you can’t have a lynch mob, but if five guys come you can.

    (But then again, I’ve never studied law.)

    Speaking as a semi-evolved modern Texan myself, I would say that “He needed killin’, yer honor” refers to a category of justifications for using lethal force, a category which is arguably rather more liberally construed in Texas than elsewhere. :)

  4. Actually, Keisha — the more evolved Texan in the family — thinks I’m premature and says she wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if exactly such a law had been on the books. I still think that “he needs killin'” refers to a category of killable offenses, though, and not the offense in itself….

  5. Well, the guy here said that this was actually on the books at some point way back. It wouldn’t refer to a specific offense, but to the justification for a certain kind of management of immigration into a local area or town, as it were.

  6. “a certain kind of management” :D

    I’m very curious but remain a bit skeptical. It’s just that so much of what gets set about Texas is apocryphal or exaggerated… I’ve been searching the interwebs for such a historical statute, and although I’ve found lots of documents authorizing mayors and sheriffs to call out a posse, I haven’t found one authorizing a ready-made posse to “call out” the sheriff, so to speak. It’s possible such a law wasn’t statewide but was a feature of particular colonial corporations; it’s also possible that such a law would have been common all over the frontier, and not just in Texas.

    On the other hand, it’s very popular today to say that “he needed killin'” sums up the rationale for many uses of deadly force in self defense, including the kind of defense that involves chasing a robber down the street and shooting him in the back….

  7. Explaining the law to Nalo Hopkinson tonight, he very briefly noted that it was on the books for a little while before it was struck. He implied that it was kind of a power-grabbing thing used mainly between landowners, though in a previous discussion he mentioned it was also “useful” in dealing with strangers who had come to a town.

    And yeah, he said it was for calling out a sherriff. I’ll ask him if it was state law. I have a feeling once he gets back to Texas, I’ll be asking him to look up the specifics. I’d love a copy of the text of this law. :)

  8. > I’m thinking the world needs a Needs Killin’ anthology.

    I am intrigued by your ideas, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

    Very glad, BTW, to hear you’re getting a lot out of Clarion.

  9. Forward the text to me if you get a copy, will you? I’d love to see it too. It sounds exactly like the kind of thing a wealthy colonial landowner would get passed so that he can win a feud with his neighbor. “I’ll make it legal,” so to speak. ;)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *