James R. Tuck is my brother from another mother, one of my favorite people, one of my favorite writers, and one of the best friends I’ve got in this business. I love everything he writes, from Deacon Chalk to the Big Bad, and it’s always an honor to have him share his words with me in these anthologies. Here’s his story about his story.
It’s Neil Gaiman’s fault.
Well, he’s good enough to blame anyways.
My story in the last one had a supervillian, and he was evil, but for Big Bad 2 I wanted to go really evil. Old school evil. Hardcore evil.
I put on my thinking cap and came up with the concept of the Devil in a concentration camp.
Can’t really get more evil than that now can you?
I needed a reason for him to be there and so I ripped off Gaimen. In my story, we have a Devil who, as part of his curse, is forced to live a human life every year. (If perchance you do not know how this is ripping off Neil Gaimen then stop and immediately order DEATH: THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE by him. Hell, just go ahead and pick up the Sandman Omnibus vol 1 & 2. You’ll thank me for it.) This fits with the narrative of the Bible as we have a few occurances of Old Slewfoot showing up and actually being a real presence.
The Devil HATES these days and he doesn’t ever want to do them. He’s been able to push off these mandatory human life days longer and longer as his power grows. This is the reason he believes he will one day be able to win his struggle against God.
However, the day has come upon him in the middle of World War 2, and he decides to take over the life of a concentration camp guard.
My plan when picking this was to go full-bore evil. I had the Devil’s number, got him in one fell swoop as a right bastard, just the kind of prick you’d think the Prince Of Darkness would be.
Oh, this story was going to be some truly twisted, therapy-inducing horror.
Then Hadassah showed up.
Simple Hadassah. Straightforward Hadassah. Courageous Hadassah.
She ruined my plans and made this story about something else, something more. There is evil here, it’s on the page and in the subtext, but with Hadassah the story became about humanity. The ability we have to hold to our own faith and dignity even in the very mouth of the devourer. I’ve written many tales in my time. Some of them have been damn good.
This story is one of them I am most proud of.
It’s outside my wheelhouse, far outside my voice, and it’s about something.
No, it’s about somethings. There’s a texture to it that I’m pleased with. Normally I write very surface, guns and monsters and things that go boom, but not in this time.
This is a quiet story.