Righteous Anger

We’re excited to continue our ongoing coverage of The Seven Deadliest by welcoming Bracken MacLeod to Ink Heist! Bracken is one of our favorite authors and chances are if you’re a fan of dark fiction, you’re already well acquainted with his work as well. His work is atmospheric and character-driven, which makes for potent stories that are likely to stick with you long after you reach the end. Bracken has written stories dealing with anger before and just so happened to be given wrath as his sin. In his article, he talks about the creation of his story, how he became involved in The Seven Deadliest project, and how he decided to put his own unique stamp on dealing with a familiar theme. Be sure to keep coming back to Ink Heist in the coming weeks as we plan to feature guest articles from the authors involved with The Seven Deadliest each week leading up to the anthology’s release.

Bracken MacLeod Explores Wrath in “A Short Madness”

His story in The Seven Deadliest, coming in May from Cutting Block Books

Righteous Anger

The most interesting thing to me about my turn in The Seven Deadliest is how reluctant I was to write it. When John F.D. Taff approached me to contribute a story to his planned seven deadly sins anthology, I told him I probably wasn’t the guy for the job. An open and vocal atheist, I have… issues with the concept itself of sin. While I acknowledge that things like greed and envy and sloth, for example, are generally disagreeable qualities in a person, I am not at all fond of the idea of pervasive moral stain. Which is to say, if someone is lazy, is that all they are? The only prism through which they should be viewed or judged? A person who is otherwise affectionate, kind, and generous is somehow morally doomed because they’re slothful?

I know, it’s a simplistic rendering of a complex idea. Sloth in my example, may work against a person’s desires to be all those decent things I listed, frustrate their good intentions and prevent them from fully realizing their best potential. But with few exceptions (and there are some, don’t get me wrong), I don’t like to think of an entire individual as a single moral failing. Most of us are so much more than our personal imperfections. On top of it all, I’d already turned down another novel-length project revolving around a similar theme for the same reasons. So, I told John no as well.

He persisted. When I explained that my inclination would likely be to write a sympathetic portrayal of my sinner and that was a position I wouldn’t budge from, he said that was the reason he’d contacted me in the first place. He wanted someone who’d approach the idea unconventionally and didn’t want to read the same story about a sin; he wanted to read my story about it. Flattered and out of excuses, I reluctantly said yes.

Then, he gave me my sin. Wrath. I laughed. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine painted a mock anthology cover to tease me. It was my face under the title, RAGE: Stories about Bracken MacLeod. John swears he pulled wrath out of a hat. I believe him, but the coincidence is still rich.

Wrath is defined as “great anger that expresses itself in a desire to punish someone.” My relationship to anger is well-known. It’s kind of on brand. I’m not known as a patchouli-wearing peace and love pacifist. I get angry about things, and I allow myself to feel and express that feeling honestly when it arises. I tend to come at the things that rile me straight on, for better or worse. And in that vein, I’ve already written about anger more than a couple of times. So now, how to write about it again in a way I haven’t already explored?

I figured I’d tackle the subject by trying to inhabit for a time the kind of character I am not. Someone who doesn’t have the luxury of expressing his pique out loud and who believes, or at least trades, in the redemptive power of forgiveness. What if he was faced with something he couldn’t forgive? Not necessarily because it is unforgiveable, but because he doesn’t want to. He wants to be angry, because there’s no one else out there who is upset about what’s happened, and that’s an injustice as he sees it. So I picked a priest, and we open with the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. Confession. It’s supposed to be good for the soul. But for Father Price, forgiveness is a weight he carries. The things he hears often make him feel embarrassed, sad, troubled, anxious, and sometimes angry. This time, though, he’s not just angry. He’s feeling wrathful. Righteously so.

Writing this story gave me a chance to quote something I’ve wanted for decades to get tattooed on my body: “It is difficult to fight against anger; for a man will buy revenge with his soul.”  ~Heraclitus

My sin is wrath. And I’m fine with it

Follow along with the series:

About Bracken MacLeod

Bracken MacLeod is the author of the novels, Mountain Home, Come to Dust, and Stranded, which was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award in 2017 and is currently under active development at Warner Horizon Television. He’s also published two collections of short fiction, 13 Views of the Suicide Woods and White Knight and Other Pawns. Before devoting himself to full time writing, he worked as a civil and criminal litigator, a university philosophy instructor, and a martial arts teacher. He lives outside of Boston with his wife and son, where he is at work on his next novel.

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