Not many of you know about my non-genre work. That's OK. I'm not Thad Beaumont or anything. While I love everything I write, even the clunkers, I'm not going to turn into a dick-stroking pretentious fuck. My fucked up horror and bizarro are obvious favorites of mine, but I DO write other things.
Namely "The Hand that Shook the World," which appeared in a literary magazine called THE BRACELET CHARM. (I'd post a link here, but it would seem that they're so old school that they don't have an internet presence, which is cool in its own way.) This story is narrated by a WWII soldier who just came home after the a-bombs were dropped on Japan, and he runs into an old man who tells him a story about how he was a drummer boy at Gettysburg in the Civil War.
When you think about it, history isn't just a string of events that happened. It's a collection of memories. The winners get to write history, of course. We all know that. But . . . that's not the whole truth, because sometimes the losers survive to throw their two-cents in. It's not much, but it's enough to make people doubt, which I greatly appreciate.
Today, in 2014, we look back and we recognize three generations who can tell us history: our own, our parents and our grandparents. Very few of us have great-grandparents who can do this. Yet, in an odd way, we do because our grandparents REMEMBER at least three generations before them.
I'm lucky enough to still have both of my grandparents on my mother's side still here. John and Shirley Kopoulos. They are full of stories. Gramps was born in 1927, and Grandma was born in 1930. They were alive to experience Prohibition. My grandfather tried to lie about his age to get into WWII (and failed). It's great to get those first-person accounts from them. All you have to do is listen and absorb.
But there's one extra step you can take. Both of my grandparents remember their grandparents, who were alive up to 100 years before their prime. Those are the stories that get REALLY interesting. For example, my great-grandfather used to run a shoe repair store. At one point, the place caught fire, and he was severely burned in it. So badly that all the skin on one of his hands was burned to the bone. How did the doctors fix it? BY SEWING HIS HAND INTO HIS STOMACH SO THE SKIN COULD GROW BACK. Can you imagine having something like that done to you? Of course I put that in a book once. It never got published, but it still had a profound effect on me.
But that's just a personal touch. If you still have your grandparents with you, and you're roughly the same age as me (thirty-six), then you have access to people who remember people who were born during the Civil War, maybe even earlier. Why are you not talking to them and asking for their knowledge?
Those who have actually read "The Hand that Shook the World" will have an objection: the old man in the wheelchair had lied about his involvement with Gettysburg. Yes, that is a real problem with history, but to be honest with you, I'm not too concerned with that. Remember, ALL of history is a recollection of individuals. How can you know for sure what really happened?
You can only be sure of the quality of the story you just heard. There are a lot of old people still around. Ask them questions. Learn a thing or two. You never know: your grandfather's dad might have met someone like Teddy Roosevelt, and how awesome would that be?
My grandmother isn't very vocal about the past, but my grandfather has great stories. I think I'll tell a few of them in the near future. Because let's face it, famous people from the past are ONLY famous because enough people thought it was important to tell stories about them.
Still with me? OK, if I've peaked your interest in "The Hand that Shook the World," it can be found in THE BRACELET CHARM Quarterly Winter Edition 2012. I've marketed this story longer than ANY other story I've written. Seriously, it took me fifteen years to find a home for it, and I'm glad I did. It's possible to find it online, but it's not likely. I wish you the best of luck. And thank you, as always, for reading.