A couple of years ago, I occasionally took part in writing for a project an online acquaintance of mine created called the Scheherazade Project. Scheherazade was the famous storyteller of The Arabian Nights (also known as the Thousand and One Nights) who married the ruler Shahryar, a man who was deeply embittered against women & made it his policy to each day marry a young woman, have his way with her that night, & the following day have her executed. Scheherazade, who as the daughter of the king’s vizier was immune from having to marry the king, nevertheless volunteered herself. She saved her life & those of countless other young women by each night telling the king a tale so compelling that he would spare her life for another day in order to hear the end of the tale the next night. The next night, of course, she’d not only give him the end of the story, bu would also start a new one. In the end, he finally gave up on killing because he liked good stories.
Normally, the Scheherazade Project didn’t involve killing. It involved the moderator — my online acquaintance to begin with, then other people — tossing out a theme, & participants writing short stories or vignettes or whatever to satisfy that theme. We’d post them to our blogs, then let the moderator know where our story could be found, & she’d compile a link list.
Life being what it was, I think I only wrote two pieces for the Scheherazade Project — in May 2006, on the theme of fear, I wrote “Hiisi”, & in October 2007 — well. Here’s the only time I know of that the Scheherazade Project did involve killing. Its theme was you, the killer. As the moderator put it, the theme called for “(hopefully) fictional stories about you killing somebody else. It could be accidental. It could be deliberate. It could be a complete stranger. Or it could be someone that you’re intimately familiar with.”
Mercy (click through)
I wrote a piece called “Mercy.” The point-of-view character is a fictional character I created some time ago for a collaborative work between a friend and me, which I hope one day we’ll take up again. While fictional, Kadu, who later becomes Yksin, holds a lot of me in her, or I hold a lot of her, or both — enough that for years I’ve used Yksin as a username in various venues, & enough that I can call this a “fictional story about me,” of sorts. (Note to world: the murder in the piece is all the way fictional. Thanks.)
I wrote a narrative account of the events described in this piece in 2004, but in third person, & in a pretty direct storytelling style. “Mercy” describes the same events, but from Kadu’s (“my”) own perspective.
This was, in fact, the only time I ever wrote that character in first person. Adrienne Rich once said that the formalism of her early poetry was like “asbestos gloves” that “allowed me to handle materials I couldn’t pick up bare-handed.” Fiction has a similar shielding effect. Especially, for me, when written in the third person. But the gloves of a first person POV are a lot less impervious to heat. So “Mercy” hit it me a lot harder in the writing than I thought it would.
It’s two years later, & it’s still kind of a scary piece. But I feel a lot better for having written it, than I think I would have felt for actually killing someone. There’s something to be said for imagining, instead of doing. You can read it here (original blog post) or here (HTML version on my website).