Since retiring in August I have finished some short articles and published them on the web. I hope you will enjoy them.
A Fleeting Moment of Tranquility is about a memory from my childhood.
Five Differences between Canadian and American Health Care Systems was inspired by the current health care debate in the United States.
This story idea came to me years ago during another economic downturn. Some superhero movie was out and gaining attention. I thought, “There are all kinds of super heroes who fight crime and evil, but there is no super hero to fight unemployment and poverty.”
I created a super hero called “Bleeding Heart”. That was to symbolize his “super empathy”. My first snag was “What kind of super powers could he have that would help people find jobs, escape their addictions, find happiness?”
Some people suggested that this story would work better as a “campy” comic book. However, my vision was of a darker story.
The story begins with a ruthless business leader hectoring his underlings. Later when he leaves to go home a street person accosts him asking for money. He rejects this harshly and tells him to get a job.
That night, while out for a walk, a bolt of lightning strikes him. After he is unconscious for a long time he makes is back home with out any trouble. Undressing, he finds that his blood has soaked into his undershirt. The image it creates is of a heart with blood dripping from it.
He is distracted the next day at work. Looking out of the office window, he sees street people and others walking the streets below. He does not fully understand his power of empathy yet, but he realises that the he can feel their pain, their despair, their anger. He decides to dedicate himself to helping those in need.
Meanwhile, trouble is brewing. In a small room, a man is strapped to a table while another “figure” “works” on him. Bit by bit the figure wears away the man’s drive and sense of self worth. At the end, the figure asks the man on the table to look at his face in a mirror. The man on the table says, “I can’t, I have no face”. The villain has created many faceless men.
Bleeding Heart starts to come across these faceless men. They no longer have an identity and to those around them they don’t exist. He realizes that someone is robbing these men of their ability to cope in the world.
Bleeding Heart searches for the villain to find a way to save the faceless men from their fate. Finally, he corners the villain on a rooftop.
Bleeding Heart asks the villain “Who are you and why would you do such evil to the faceless men”. The villain responds, “I am not a man, but the personification of despair.” He goes on, “I live in the dark recesses of all men’s minds. You can never stop me.”
Bleeding Heart tries to catch the man, but grabs only thin air. There is no trace of the man called despair. A profound sense of hopelessness comes over Bleeding Heart as he wonders how he can save the men with no faces.
There is an idea for a story I came up with several years ago that I haven’t followed up on.
I had been reading one of the Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell. He always includes a short commentary on the actual historical events. In one he noted that he has Sharpe fighting in two different battles that occurred far apart and he would not have had time to travel from one to the other. His comment is that it is the fate of fictional heroes to always be at the worse places. That made me want to develop a writing project like the Sharpe books.
A short time later I was reading about Christopher Columbus. The article I was reading talked about entries that Columbus had in his notebooks about “Chinese” people drifting in from the Ocean to parts of Europe. In none of these cases did the people survive the crossing. The article notes that later there were confirmed cases of Inuit hunters who crossed the Atlantic in Kayaks and survived the trip.
This inspired the idea for a series of novels about a person who crossed the Atlantic before Columbus. I planned to have a young native North American be blown out to sea and land in Britain in around 1460 to 1470. This person would want to return home. He would get into all kinds of interesting adventures in his attempts to get back.
He would travel over Europe and Asia meeting all the great luminaries of the period. For example he would meet a young Leonardo da Vinci and teach him how to paint. This is fiction; you can bend the truth a little.
At various times in the story he would meet Christopher Columbus and spark his interest in travelling west across the seas. In the final book he would travel with Columbus to America. He takes his leave of Columbus and finally reaches home.
I got stalled on this project because I didn’t feel up to doing all the research that would be needed. It was, and still is, a much bigger project than I want to take on.