Tagfiction

Writing is How You Hack the Imagination

As both a writer and a programmer, I’ve noticed dozens of similarities between the two, though many who do one or the other might insist that writing code and writing text are two different and incompatible processes. I don’t buy it. I think fiction writers are programmers of a sort for the following reasons:

  1. Contradictions are deadly to both fiction and software. What a programmer calls a crash, a writer calls breaking the suspension of disbelief.
  2. Prose directs imagination, as code directs computer hardware. Without a program, a computer is just an elaborate machine for warming cats. Without stories, what is your imagination?
  3. Both require abstract thought. When designing a software object, one must build a mental model of what data the object handles, and what operations the object performs on its data before you can code. Likewise with characters. You need to understand how your characters perceive the world around them, think, and act before you can write.
  4. Perfection is impossible. No matter how accurate your mental model of an object, there will always be something missing. No matter how detailed your characterization, your characters aren’t wholly real.
  5. Don’t worry about perfection. No matter how hard you work on your code or your prose, you’ll find opportunities for improvement because your skills improved through use. These opportunities present you with a choice: keep working on the same thing, or move on to something new. I find the latter preferable, but I struggle to let go.
  6. You won’t please everybody. Regardless of your effort, somebody will find a defect. There are two kinds of defects in code and prose: those preventing your work from accomplishing its purpose, and the rest. Only the former matter.
  7. You will embarrass yourself. Take a look at the first piece of prose or code you ever wrote. If you aren’t shocked by how bad it is, you haven’t improved much. If you are embarrassed by the comparatively poor quality of your earliest work, instead be proud of how you improved.
  8. Other people will offer unsolicited advice. If I or somebody else mentions that I’m a writer or a programmer, other people tend to offer advice. This advice varies in quality depending on the ability of the person offering it. Regardless of the other person’s skill, it’s best to thank them immediately, and check the merits of their advice in private.
  9. You have to concentrate. The ability to write or code with any skill depends on whether you can get into the zone.
  10. Concentration is hard. Recent research suggests that simply making decisions can wear people out. When you write fiction, or software, you make decision upon decision, sometimes for hours on end.

Despite the difficulties and occasional frustration I meet as a writer and a programmer, I wouldn’t give up writing except under extreme duress. I’d give up programming if I could make a living writing, but I’d still be programming. Instead of hacking your computer, I’ll hack your imagination.

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The Problem With Pickup Lines | little gentian

I wasn’t sure this was fiction at first, because I’ve seen guys use equally lame tactics to get attention from women in real life.

The Problem With Pickup Lines | little gentian.

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Tattoo Vampire – Part 5 (Final)

Christabel settled onto the bed behind Morgan, who sat on the edge with his back to her. Reaching out, she brushed her fingertips against his skin. “Where is it?”

“Gone.” Morgan glanced over his shoulder.

“Are you still angry with me?”

Morgan shook his head. “You apologized. I forgave you. Isn’t that enough?”

“Something’s still bothering you.” Adjusting her nightgown, Christabel slid closer to Morgan. She brushed aside his hair and began to kiss his shoulder. “And I’ve been neglecting you lately.”

With a shudder, Morgan pulled away and rose from the bed. “It’s not your fault, Christabel. It’s just emotional fallout from the mission, but please don’t kiss me like that for now.”

Fixing a concerned expression to her face, she shifted and patted the bed. He might tell me something I can give Isaac, even if I can’t use it against him myself later on. “Want to sit down and tell me about it?”

Instead of sitting, Morgan rubbed at the spot where she kissed him, the juncture of neck and shoulder that normally made him sigh and melt for her. “I had to gather evidence that Quincy Westenra was drugging and molesting his victims, as well as drinking their blood. I had to make Westenra think that I was drugged, and unable to stop him from doing what he wanted.”

“That’s disgusting. You let him do that to you?” Christabel had no need to pretend to be aghast at Morgan’s words. “Don’t tell me you enjoyed it.”

“I hated it.” Morgan shook his head. He knelt before Christabel and took her hands in his. “It was a violation, plain and simple, and I wanted to kill him. However, I had to give him a chance to surrender.”

Christabel nodded. Morgan isn’t telling me everything. I think he liked it, the slut. “Did you?”

“Yes. I gave him his chance. He threw it away, and his life in the bargain.”

Recoiling from him, Christabel slid over the bed and placed it between them. “You just killed somebody on the job, but you care more about where I kiss you. Are you even human?”

“I’m human enough, Christabel. The fact you thought so little of me and our relationship that you thought you could throw an ultimatum at me still aches.”

“What do you want from me?” Christabel forced herself to approach, fully conscious of the jeopardy in which she placed her mission again. “What do I have to do to make this work?”

“If you can’t accept all of me, then ignore what makes you uncomfortable. Let Morgan Stormrider, the Adversary, be somebody you don’t know. I won’t bother you when I’m on the job, no matter how bad it gets. But when I’m not on a mission, let me be your man, and let me play with your band.” He turned from her, gathered his clothes, and began to dress. When he finished, he lingered in the doorway and looked over his shoulder. “I have a briefing tomorrow for another mission. You can give me your answer when I get back.”

If I can seduce him now, he’ll never leave me again. The notion spurred Christabel, and she sped across the room to grasp Morgan’s collar. Pulling him down, she kissed him with every scrap of art she learned in Isaac Magnin’s bed before leading Morgan back to her own. Pushing him down, she draped her body over his and began opening his shirt. “Is this answer enough?”

His answer did not come in words.

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Tattoo Vampire – Part 4

Recalling his briefing and Christabel’s reaction to news of the mission allowed Morgan to pass the time as he pretended to be unconscious in the back room of Dusk Patrol Tattoo. He sat on a chair with a narrow back as Westenra worked on him. Peering through his eyelashes at the mirrors lining the wall allowed him to see almost everything.

A line led from the needle in his left arm to an old machine that Morgan’s basic medical training allowed him to identify as a target-controlled infusion system. The nanotech with which he was injected prior to the mission talked to his implant, sending real-time reports every time the TCI system dosed him with propofol or remifentanil. Before each dose, Westenra put aside the tattooing gun, sliced Morgan’s bicep with a scalpel, and lapped at the wound. “What are you, pretty boy, that you heal so quick and clean? Too bad I can’t keep you. I might feed on you for ten thousand years.”

Just finish the fucking tattoo so I can arrest you. Please. The tattooing gun buzzed while biting into his skin, and Morgan’s jaw ached from gritting his teeth. Eddie would probably call me a pussy if I told him that the nanotech he gave me worked too damned well.

“There you go, pretty boy.” Westenra whispered as the tattoo gun ceased its buzz. Something cool and wet pressed against Morgan’s arm, gently caressing his abused skin for a moment. It was soon replaced with something dry and gauzy. He’s applying the dressing. Taking a little taste every few minutes won’t be enough any longer.

Westenra’s tongue darted out to moisten thin lips as he brushed Morgan’s hair aside to better expose his neck and shoulder. “Such a lovely youth, with such soft skin. Am I the first to taste you?”

A sigh barely escaped Morgan’s lips as Westenra’s brushed the juncture of his neck and shoulder. Despite his revulsion at being touched in so intimate a manner by somebody who believed him unconscious and unable to object, his mind called up a fresh memory of Christabel doing the same. Next came a firmer kiss, and the sort of suction Morgan knew would leave bruises. They began to fade as soon as Westenra lifted his lips from Morgan’s shoulder, just as they did with Christabel. At least Christabel won’t see them and think I’m cheating on her.

“You seem to like that.” Westenra’s lips brushed Morgan’s ear as he whispered, and sudden pain radiated from Morgan’s chest as his quarry found one of his nipples. He’s doing to me everything his victims alleged, and it’s all on record through Witness Protocol. “I was just going to taste you, but you seem to want more of me. First, however, I need to feed on you. It won’t hurt at all. I promise.”

The need to turn the tables on Westenra mingled with his own fury; despite not being attracted to men in general, Morgan could not keep his body from responding to Westenra’s rough fondling – or to the sharp burn of fangs slipping into his flesh to draw his blood.

Westenra’s bite was not the paired punctures Morgan expected from the few vampire films he watched. Instead, they tore into him as if Westenra were a vampire bat, dragging deep furrows into his flesh. They welled with his blood and overflowed, allowing Westenra to lap at the wound.

Once Westenra was satisfied, he drew back and rubbed himself through his trousers. Still watching through his eyelashes, Morgan allowed himself a slight smile as Westenra licked his lips and reached for the buckle of Morgan’s belt. Enough.

Morgan sprang to his feet, ignoring the flare of pain in his left arm as he tore free of the TCI system, and grabbed Westenra by the throat. He threw him backward, shattering the mirrors behind Westenra from the impact. “Quincy Westenra, by virtue of my authority as an Adversary sworn to the Phoenix Society, I place you under arrest. You have the right to–”

“I have the right to what, Adversary?” Westenra laughed, and retrieved a lever action carbine from behind a cabinet. He snapped off a shot, which punched through Morgan’s chest.

Morgan staggered several steps backward, and dropped into a crouch. He bowed his head, ducking the second shot as his hands made contact with the floor. As Westenra worked the lever to load a third shot, Morgan sprang at him, driving his shoulder into the suspect’s midsection and knocking him to the floor.

Morgan’s momentum left him straddling Westenra. He ripped the carbine from Westenra’s hands, and threw it aside before slamming his head into the floor beneath him with a palm strike to the face. Drawing his knife from his boot, he held it against Westenra’s throat. As the edge drew blood, Morgan’s pulse quickened. He pressed harder, rapt as the steel slipped into his prey’s flesh, and stopped. My prey? No. I’m an Adversary, not some feral beast. I have a mission.

Morgan withdrew the knife, holding his other hand against Westenra’s wound to slow his bleeding. “You have the right to remain silent, pusbag. You have the right to legal representation. You have the right to communications for the purpose of preparing your defense. You have the right to humane treatment while in custody. Do you understand your rights?”

The answer burned as it slid between his ribs. Morgan rolled off Westenra while pulling the knife from his side. He dropped it and took up his enemy’s carbine. The first shot rent Westenra’s heart asunder. The second spread his brains across the floor. Morgan dropped the carbine on the carcass of his first kill as an Adversary, and waited to tend his wounds until he was well away from Dusk Patrol Tattoo.

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Tattoo Vampire – Part 3

Christabel lowered the violin in the middle of tuning it, and stared at Morgan, unable to believe his words. Damn it, Isaac, why must you pay me to cheat on you with somebody like Morgan? Why couldn’t you ask me to play Mata Hari with some short, fat, balding two pump chump of a businessman with back hair and a tiny dick? This is the sort of man I’d love to seduce, if I didn’t already have you. “Morgan, did you just say you’re going to blow off rehearsal tomorrow?”

Morgan shook his head. “If I wanted to blow you off, I wouldn’t show up. I’d explain after the fact, if at all. Instead, I’m telling you as close to right away as humanly possible. I came here directly from the briefing.”

“What sort of mission is it?” Naomi, the pale bitch Isaac Magnin insisted she bring into the band for keyboards and vocals, always seemed too curious about Morgan’s day job. “It must be urgent if they won’t let you put it off a day.”

“I have to get a tattoo at what must be the sleaziest tattoo parlor in the city. Several customers reported being violated on the premises, and the Adversary sent to investigate was killed.” Morgan withdrew a folded paper from his pocket and smoothed it on the table after unfolding it. “Here’s the design I’m supposed to get.”

“It’s gorge–”

“It’s horrible.” Christabel cut Naomi off, glaring at Morgan as she did so. “You get that, or anything else, inked into your skin and we’re bloody well through.”

Instead of contrition, or any other reaction that suggested Morgan cared about their relationship and was willing to preserve it at any cost, his only response to the ultimatum Christabel issued was to shrug. He adjusted the strap of his guitar case on his shoulder, and turned to Naomi. “I won’t be so uncouth as to ask you out so soon after being dumped by Christabel, but I’d love to meet you if you decide not to stick with Crowley’s Thoth. I enjoyed working with you, Ms. Bradleigh.”

He walked out, oblivious to Christabel as her fury mounted. She hurled a set of headphones at his head, only to see it bounce off the studio door as it closed behind him. “Asshole!”

She turned her gaze on Naomi, her hands curling into fists as a longing to wipe the small, satisfied smile from her rival’s face gripped her. “You seem pleased with yourself, Nims. Was this what you wanted?”

“I’d tell you not to be an idiot, but you’ve already done a thorough job of making a fool of yourself.” Naomi conveyed her contempt through words alone; her tone remained conversational. “Since Morgan is probably your first boyfriend, and –”

“And you’re a bloody serial monogamist.”

“–and I’m older and a bit more experienced, would you like me to explain what went wrong? Or shall I pack up and accept Morgan’s offer? After you sang his praises with such enthusiasm only yesterday, I’m tempted to find out for myself.”

Don’t you fucking dare. Christabel kept her first response to herself, realizing despite her anger the extent of her failure. Damn it. I was just bluffing, but he called me on it and walked out. Isaac will be furious with me if he finds out. I’m supposed to keep Morgan on a string, even though Isaac won’t tell me why. She calmed herself, and took a more respectful tone. “I’m sorry, Naomi. That crack about your own love life was uncalled for. What did I do wrong?”

Naomi shook her head. “Everything. To begin, Morgan wasn’t blowing us off when he told us he had to miss rehearsal tomorrow because of his duties. He was dealing fairly with us. I’m surprised you didn’t grasp that on your own, but let’s continue. Next is your reaction to the tattoo.”

“I hate tattoos. I think they mark people as being lower-class.”

“Does Morgan know anything about your prejudice? Did the subject ever come up, before? Again, he’s telling you up front, so you two can discuss it. Furthermore, even if he absolutely must get it as part of his mission, any reputable dermatologist can provide a prescription for tattoo-removal nanotech. Were you unaware?”

Christabel turned away from Naomi for a moment. I was, but I’m not going to admit it. “Are you joking?”

“No.” Naomi removed one of her boots to reveal her ankle. “I had some ink right here, but I removed it after making some changes in my life. Now, if Morgan is only getting tattooed for a mission, what’s to stop him from removing it afterward? You’d never know, unless he told you.”

“But why does he tell me these things?”

Naomi shrugged. “Ever consider the possibility that he respects you, or did until you threatened the relationship in order to force him to let you have everything your way? Didn’t anybody ever tell you that you should never do that? Any man possessed of a backbone will dump you on the spot.”

“I need to talk to him, don’t I. I should apologize.” Not that I need you to tell me that. If Isaac finds out how badly I fucked this job up, he’ll be disappointed with me. I can’t let that happen. Christabel began rifling through her bag, desperate to find her handheld. She tried to reach Morgan as soon as her fingertips brushed the device’s case, and didn’t wait for him to greet her before speaking. “Morgan, I’m sorry. I was out of line earlier.”

His response came in plain text. “Never call me on duty.”

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Tattoo Vampire – Part 2

“Dusk Patrol Tattoo? You want me to investigate a tattoo parlor? Why tell me this here, instead of calling me in?” Morgan glared at Saul Rosenbaum, who came to his studio apartment in the Bronx. While Morgan forced the place into a semblance of respectability, it was still a cheap apartment in an impoverished neighborhood. “I haven’t even invited Christabel here.”

Saul glanced around, taking out a cigar and a lighter. “I wanted to see what sort of place you chose for yourself instead of making do with a bunk at headquarters.”

Morgan opened the windows; between the lingering odor of fresh paint and the tobacco in Saul’s cigar, the apartment was beginning to stink. “Put that away. I don’t want you smoking it in my home.”

Saul shrugged, and put the cigar in his mouth without lighting it. “Not exactly hospitable of you, Adversary, but I suppose I should have asked.”

“You’re right on both counts, but let’s return to the subject. Why are you here?”

“You said you wanted a mission. For your sins, you’re getting one. Hell, I even brought it to you like room service, ’cause everyone gets what they want.”

Morgan suppressed a smile. “I watched that movie, Saul. Don’t tell me somebody named Kurtz is running this place.”

“That’s taking the joke too far. The proprietor is Quincy Westenra. We’ve got a long string of complaints about the guy, most of them unsubstantiated. People say he tranks them, and then molests them while they’re out. We’ve got victims of both genders, so I wouldn’t make any assumptions concerning his preferences. We got serious when a victim turned up HIV positive after getting a tat from this guy.”

“Is he deliberately spreading the disease?”

“Not that we know of, but I’m not here because some sucker picked the wrong tattoo parlor and had to get HIV purged from her system. We sent in another Adversary, and Westenra made him disappear.”

Morgan nodded. “Are we still giving the bastard due process, or extreme prejudice?”

Saul spread his hands. “That’s up to him. I’m going to hand you off to Edmund Cohen now. He’s going to tell you how we want the mission to go down.”

With this, Saul left to make way for Edmund Cohen. Cohen was taller than Rosenbaum, and slimmer; instead of a cigar, he carried a faint hint of hashish with him, as if he had smoked some at breakfast. “Ready for your first real mission, kid?”

Morgan fought the urge to bridle at his former instructor’s words. “I took the oath and wear the pins, sir. I am an Adversary, and my mission to Ursa Styrns was a real mission.”

Cohen shrugged off Morgan’s protest. He produced a cigarette case and opened it one-handed. “Have a joint and loosen up.”

“No thanks.”

“More for me, then.” Cohen stood by an open window, lit up, and took a long toke before continuing. “Sure, the Ursa Styrns job was a legit mission. Somebody has to remind those people that there’s a world beyond Wall Street that doesn’t take kindly to attempts to fuck with the market. However, that’s something any Adversary can handle – just like most of the jobs you’ve had the last three months.”

“Did I not handle it?” Morgan doubted the answer would please him.

Cohen took another toke, imitating a dragon. “You handled it fine, but the XC thinks you’re wasted on that kind of work. This tattoo job is better suited to your specialized talents. Quincy Westenra killed the last Adversary we sent to bust him. We found the poor bastard in a dumpster on the other side of Queens, and the coroner marked the cause of death as exsanguination.”

“I think you should stop smoking that shit before you tell me Westenra’s a vampire.”

“Look on the bright side. You probably won’t need a stake and garlic for this job.” Cohen called up a set of files labeled Project Harker, and displayed them on Morgan’s secondhand wall screen. “Just before Nationfall, the North American Commonwealth’s military figured out that they had a platoon of soldiers with CPMD, and decided to experiment on the poor bastards. They wanted to enhance these soldiers’ unconventional warfare capabilities. One experiment involved modifying them to subsist on human blood when no other food was available. The Commonwealth Army organized the survivors into a special forces unit code-named Dusk Patrol.”

“And he calls his shop Dusk Patrol Tattoo? I suppose he had trouble letting the past go.”

“Ask him yourself. We’re sending you after him because we need somebody who can face Westenra on equal terms. The abilities and adaptability you displayed in training suggest you’re the right Adversary for the job.”

Morgan nodded. “Have other Dusk Patrol survivors turned up?”

“One turned up at Fort Clarion a few years ago, and murdered two young men before the Adversary sent to investigate killed him. Her report’s in the dossier, but the names are redacted.”

“Are there any other reasons to send me that might impact the mission?”

Cohen lit another joint before producing a folded sheet of paper and passing it to Morgan. “As a matter of fact, there is: you aren’t marked as one of us. Most Adversaries get that tattoo the day they’re sworn in.”

Morgan shrugged. “So, that’s my cover. I’m getting a tattoo to celebrate becoming an Adversary?”

“Hell, no.” Cohen took a toke before continuing, “You have no idea this design is used by Adversaries. You’re just some metalhead in civvies who thinks it looks cool. We’re going to shoot you up with some nanotech that will neutralize the general anesthetic Westenra’s likely to use while pretending to give you a local. When you think he’s at his most vulnerable, spring the trap.”

“What level of force am I authorized to use, should Westenra resist?”

Cohen shrugged, and glanced around the room. “For my part, I don’t care if you shove five meters of rebar up his arse and plant the other end in front of his shop. However, the Society doesn’t want Adversaries emulating pre-Renaissance Wallachian warlords when dealing with idiots who murder Adversaries. It’s bad PR.”

Morgan unfolded the paper, and studied the tattoo design. A parody of the caduceus, the design replaced the staff with an ornate sword, and made the twin serpents a pair of diamondback rattlesnakes. From the sword’s point radiated ten roses. Tartarus take Christabel if she objects, but I’m getting this tattoo. However, I won’t be able to keep my sword handy once I strip down to get inked. An ankle holster might work, but my service pistol’s too much gun to hide in my boot. He looked up at Cohen. “I can start once my equipment requisition goes through.”

“Don’t you have gear?”

“Westenra will figure out something’s off if I wear my usual weapons to his shop. And I’ll need to tell Christabel and Naomi I won’t be available to jam tomorrow.”

Cohen shook his head. “You’ve got two girlfriends now? Is Naomi hot?”

Morgan rolled his eyes at Cohen’s remark. Unable to trust himself to refrain from admitting that the tall, pale keyboardist Christabel recently brought aboard was not only attractive, but had graced his dreams for the last five years, he allowed himself only a short question. “Are we done here?”

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Tattoo Vampire – Part 1

Morgan Stormrider carried with him bittersweet memories of the Queens neighborhood in which Dusk Patrol Tattoo was located. Situated at the edge of Queens, where the city of New York ended and Long Island began, the Nassau’s Edge slum constituted a rectangle, three blocks by six, of three story houses whose basements had been converted into shops. The residents refused to leave New York altogether, but were either unable to afford a more fashionable part of the city or unwilling to pay for the privilege of living in one.

The house whose basement Dusk Patrol Tattoo occupied blighted the street. A sane property owner would have razed it to the ground, rather than waste time and money fighting structural decay and black mold. A reasonably paranoid landlord might buy the adjacent houses as well, and raze them on general principles. However, nobody owned the building. Nobody was willing to buy it. It was thus fair game for squatters under city law, though most squatters lacked the audacity to open a business in a building under adverse possession.

I shouldn’t be surprised by the proprietor’s temerity. Morgan smiled as he checked the weapons hidden in his boots. His orders were explicit, and required that he disguise his true nature until it was time to make the arrest – or the kill. He had the nerve to kill the last Adversary to come for him, so running the sleaziest tattoo parlor in New York while squatting is chump change by comparison.

The sign behind the door claimed that Dusk Patrol Tattoo was open for business, so Morgan pulled the handle and slipped inside. Dim lights mounted in the ceiling flickered, as if fighting a losing battle against the gloom pervading the front of the shop. The proprietor, identified in Morgan’s orders as Quincy Westenra, looked up from a battered book and pointed at a wall of faded designs printed on rice paper. “You got a design in mind, kid? If not, take a look at the shop specials. I’ve got some stuff you’ve never seen before, and I can do everything in one session, without any pain – I guarantee it.”

Morgan nodded, and made a show of examining the shop’s designs. He found nothing a cleaner, better lit establishment in a more respectable location could not also offer. One poster advertised a variety of Chinese and Japanese ideograms with translations whose accuracy Morgan distrusted. Another offered romanticized ‘tribal’ designs. A third offered a variety of nude female figures mounted on great cats and other more improbable beasts. The last offered fantastical designs sufficiently commonplace to comply with an ISO standard.

Pretending to be disappointed, he approached the counter while withdrawing a folded paper from his pocket. “Do you do custom work?”

“Costs extra.” Westenra eyed Morgan with an interest that struck him as predatory. “Especially for rough sketches.”

“My girlfriend found this on the network. She thought it would be fuckin’ metal. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble with it.” Morgan unfolded the paper and showed the proprietor, hoping the sight of the design, a tattoo many of Morgan’s fellow Adversaries bore with pride, would rattle him.

Westenra hesitated a moment, and named a price. “Half up front. Half after.” He shoved a form across the counter as Morgan reached for his wallet. “Read that and sign first. Gotta have informed consent, since I use anesthesia.”

Morgan nodded as he skimmed the form, which specified the use of local anesthetics where the tattoo would be pricked into the skin. He signed on the dotted line and placed a small sheaf of banknotes atop the form, with the pen as a minimal paperweight. “Shall we begin?”

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What’s YOUR favorite fictional sword?

Sure, this Fantasy Faction article on swords in fantasy dates back to 2011, but that doesn’t bother me. Not when I still listen to classic Black Sabbath albums like Paranoid, which dates back to 1970.

I can’t blame the author for not mentioning the Starbreaker, since I didn’t publish until late last year. I didn’t grow up watching Thundarr the Barbarian, and I managed to avoid Thundercats. I can name several swords I prefer over Squall Leonhart’s gunblade, despite being one of the few people who enjoyed Final Fantasy VIII.

Stormbringer

It’s at least four feet worth of rune-carved black metal; it eats souls and feeds its wielder power; it can destroy the avatars of gods and demons, and it inspired a badass Blue Oyster Cult song. Aside from Stormbringer’s nasty little tendency to munch on Elric’s friends and lovers, what’s not to like?

Oh, and here’s the BOC song I mentioned.

Changeling

This crystalline sword from C. J. Cherryh’s science fantasy saga chronicling the adventures of Morgaine and her retainer Vanye is even deadlier than Stormbringer. How do you defend yourself against a sword that opens a black hole at its tip whenever it’s drawn?

One word: run.

The Lion-mark Katana from Kill Bill

I don’t think the sword Hattori Hanzo forged for The Bride despite his vow to never again forge a killing blade has a name. It doesn’t need one. It’s an extension of The Bride’s will, and the instrument of her bloody vengeance. That’s good enough for me.

Terminus Est

Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun (Shadow of the Torturer, The Claw of the Conciliator, Sword of the Lictor, and The Citadel of the Autarch) can be slow going for readers unfamiliar with his style. However, the executioner’s sword with which the journeyman torturer Severian is gifted as he is exiled by his guild is an exquisite instrument. It’s all edge and no point, which makes thrusting attacks impossible, but Severian still wields it to deadly effect on his enemies — and his facial hair.

The Unnamed Sword of tegeus-Chromis

I’m going to get really obscure here and mention M. John Harrison’s The Pastel City, the first and least literary of his Viriconium novels and stories. Its melancholy protagonist, Lord tegeus-Chromis, fancies himself a better poet and musician than he is a swordsman, and doesn’t bother to name his sword. Considering the skill with which he wields that blade, he must be a damn good musician.

Graywand

Fritz Leiber’s character Fafhrd is as practical a sort as his parter, the Grey Mouser. Instead of having a special sword named Graywand, Fafhrd simply takes any longsword that’s handy, calls it Graywand, and starts kicking ass with it.

What about you? This site has a comments section for a reason. If you have a favorite fictional sword, I want to hear about it.

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