Blackguards_ Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues - J. M. Martin



Glen Cook

Wow! So there I was, all excited because Joe Martin asked me to do the introduction to an anthology of stories about lovable rascal anti-heroes. Or maybe lovable not so much. But…I'd never done anything like that before. People do not ask me to because folks who do know me believe that I don't take this writing business nearly serious enough, for their taste. Folks who don't know me but have heard a thing here and there generally own the notion that I am some kind of grumbling apostate who will not take literary posturing seriously.

Well, yeah, that's me. They're right. None of it will make a lick of difference a thousand years from now. Or even a hundred.

Oh. The black collywobbles almost got me there.

But, dude! Here came a grand new adventure!

Then, after several sweaty hours of stewing with no production, I began to sag and drift off toward the blue deeps.

Point the First: My beloved mother-in-law passed, leaving ten thousand real world details to be handled, hammered, served, saved, disposed, all stuff that takes precedence over writing.

Then the more critical Point the Second: What could I actually say, the quotidian demons conquered? I had no clue. Intros I recalled kind of stroked the reader (cynical Cook suspecting that he was the only reader on the planet who actually dipped into forewords, anyway, they not being the red meat a reader wanted to gnaw) but tended not to say anything useful.

Too, I came to the task proudly wearing a major lower working class anti-intellectual, anti-academic bias. I loved a rousing good story but those guys (the gender neutral third person collective that my wife so loathes from the wait staff at any restaurant where said staff does not pretend to be French), the ones who talked about writing, were just older versions of the kids in high school who inflated the curve and were too athletically challenged to walk and chew gum. Not that they would be caught with a stick anywhere but up their butts.

Even today my cape is a conviction that most people who find a place in literary academia do so in order to get out of having to go to work for a living.

(You chance on me in person sometime, and care, ask how my best friend from college and I brewed up a huge ration of bullshit to wow his thesis committee by proposing that Don Quixote's horse, Rosinante, gained the name because Cervantes may have shared his cell with a Catalonian for a while.)

I wander. I ramble. I become self-indulgent and do not address the topic at hand. I am near mad in my lack of focus because while I was traveling I reread two R. A. Lafferty books, neither of which honored in the least the conventions of plot that constrain the rest of us. I need to get a hand on the tiller and steer a straighter course.

So after one try at begging off the job I promised I would take an honest shot at introducing this collection, which looks like is going to be kick-ass, just based on the track records of those guilty of contributing to it.

During my beg off phase I proposed that maybe Cook wasn't the guy with the chops to engage the intellect of that unusual reader who does take a moment to peruse the foreword. I protested that I am not clear on what an anti-hero is, outside what the dictionary says. My own world view divides people into us guys and them guys, with most everyone steadfastly occupying the moral low ground. Them guys are bad guys because they won't do what us guys want them to do. Which means that, for me, good and bad are extremely dependent upon where I am standing. I am always the good guy and hero in my own saga. Every anti-hero is exactly that in his.

Joe begged me to give it a real try. You might surprise yourself, he said.

That has proven to be true, but perhaps not with a positive spin.

I began by brooding (an excellent, if brief, means of escaping the uncomfortable real world consequences of the passing of my mother-in-law: hope you and Romy are enjoying that better place, Peg) not so much on anti-heroes and anti-heroism but on what makes for interesting characters in shorter fictions. What made a memorable person who never existed outside the imagination of a pervert like me?

And it did seem that the most memorable creatures were