Inspired

Last year on the anniversary of 9/11 I was listening to NPR’s Morning Edition and their coverage of the memorial stuff going on at the WTC site.  I was struck by the structure of the ceremony — there wasn’t just the reading of the names, but also a bell rung at the moments when the planes struck and the buildings collapsed and some other moments marked.  It occurred to me that the mourners and officials were trying to, in essence, recreate that day, which seemed really painful and non-productive to me.  But I’m also aware that grief, particularly public grief, takes on many forms and no one can say “this is the wrong way.”  There are no right or wrong ways.

Still, that feeling stuck with me and started to take shape as a story.  Now a little over a year later, that story has been published.  If you’re interested, you can read it at Strange Horizons.

13 Responses

  1. ABW,

    It would seem that there almost as many uses for the bell (celebration, alarm, call to worship, solemn reflection) as there are ways of mourning.

    While I am no historian, I do know that older religious traditions such Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism would use the bell to provoke attentiveness and introspection. It seems many civil ceremonies tend to draw from those faith traditions.

  2. The ringing bell is a mediator between worlds.

    One of the reasons it, as the campana set, works so well at holding the cells of the polyrhythms together in so much African and Afro Latin music.

    Love, C.

  3. I don’t have anything very profound to say, just that it’s a really good story.

  4. Wow.
    Bit too stunned by the force of that, and by the world it implies, to come up with anything more coherent. Just, wow.

  5. ABW, that is a terrific story. You address some of what I felt this year. The use of ghost images is really good. I wonder if you have read Modesitt’s two books, “Of Tangible Ghosts” and “The Ghost of the Revelator,” because you seemed to use similar elements in your story. I also love the end where the widow of one of the bombers comes to the ceremony every year.

  6. Original Lee,

    I’ve not read those books, but I’ll definitely put them on my list. Thanks :)

  7. And also thank you Dianne and Shweta :) I’m glad you liked it.

  8. Hey there: I liked the story a lot. Thank you. I agree that grief is a complicated, non-linear thing; something that doesn’t fit in any easy cultural narrative.

    Anyway, keep up the good work.

  9. ABW, you could probably skip “Ghost of the Revelator,” as it is mostly a screed against Mormons, but the main plot involves creating an artificial ghost, so you might find it interesting. “Of Tangible Ghosts” comes closest to your story in terms of how it handles ghosts. I’m not happy with how Modesitt handles his female characters, because he’s obviously trying very hard to write strong women, so for me, reading his stuff always involves a certain distancing so that I can intellectually enjoy the concepts he’s playing with while not getting so irritated with his characters that I give up.

  10. that’s quite good, thank you.

  11. Just wanted to say that was a truly awesome story, but very hard to read in its own way. Not because it was not good, but for the opposite reason. You did such an excellent job invoking the emotions of the characters. For that reason, I found it hard to read through and will find it harder still to re-read. I can’t imagine how much it must have hurt for you to write that because I don’t think I could have written something like that without feeling a lot of pain. It’s particularly poignant too, given the current situation in Mumbai.

    Anyway, it’s a great story and one of the best I’ve read in a long time. Thank you for sharing that with us and I hope to see more from you.

  12. Repat, sean and Dawn,

    Thanks so much for your kind words! I’m glad you liked the story. And Dawn, that story actually poured out of me quite fast compared to some other things I’ve worked on. I think because I was so passionate and so clear about what I wanted to say and how important I felt it was to say it.

  13. I read your story over Thanksgiving. It brought back memories of 9/11 for me. Made it a little hard to read. I guess I’m too sensitive. Good story though. Thanks for sharing.

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