Date: 10/27/2007 12:32 PM Title: Collateral Damage
Good job. :) It's a more cogent and interesting little piece than that on which it was based. Unlike a certain author, you don't shrink from the implications of the scene and you don't let Princess do so either.
The most sterling quality of this work is its honest introspection. I like it as Princess tries on various softening rationalisations and discards them as she brings herself to face the truth that yes, she is the sort of person who'd kill an innocent (must remember that precious word) child if it were convenient to do so. In acknowledging the reality of this, she acknowledges its irrevocability, its enormity and the gulf it opens between her and the rest of society. And what is her reaction? It would be entirely justified for her to recoil from what she has done and who she is
threatening to become, to be filled with regret, remorse and even anguish. Indeed, we all but expect it. Instead, on the very last line of the story, she decides to step forward and embrace it, whatever it means. Shiver, O Sheep of the world for your watchdogs are not themselves adverse from a little bit of mutton.
To expand on that metaphor a bit, besides their famed stupidity, need to have a leader to follow and love of conformity, sheep are also relatively defenceless, a problem exacerbated by their being grazing animals that can't (usually) be kept in an enclosed area like you can with poultry and pigs. Keeping the flock safe is something that has exercised the mind of sheep-holding humanity since the animals were first domesticated. Where wolves abound, it's a function often fulfilled by livestock guarding dogs, typically great big critters that live 24/7 with the herd and despite being carnivores themselves, never attack or eat the sheep. In a sense, the civilian populace of a city can also be seen as a hapless group needing protection from the depredations of evil invaders, who similarly trust that their guardians won't turn on them. Save that that's not necessarily true... at least not in this case.
I don't generally comment on style (for there's usually not much to say) but I love the way your style of writing strengthens the story. I love the succinctness of this story and the clean, simple language used. It's not a story that can tolerate misplaced words and you don't misplace any, not even a single spell-checker-suggested
homonym. There is almost-perfect proofing (where I myself am) and then there is perfect proofing, which is where this story is. Fantastic. This story is about definitions: how we define ourselves and it is even more fantastic that every single word used means what it ought to mean. This excellence is reinforced by the judicious placement of definitions that turn the mind to the point of the following paragraphs and helps to pace the evolution of this thought process from the event to its consequences.
Also appreciated is your use of repetition in the sentence 'And I'm fine with it' even as Princess comes to differing conclusions about the day's events. The repetition itself is irritating BUT it is a necessary and worthwhile irritation. It adds something to the story that would not have been there without it. It gives the story a cadence and emphasises the point of the cathartic writing exercise Princess is engaged in: her need to find closure on this issue. The way I see it, up until the end, it's bravado, the swagger in the face of censure and her attitude and her ever-shifting rationalisations that come through. The last time though, it's different: she's made up her mind to accept who she is and continue just that way regardless of the consequences. Her decision is disturbing enough; with the addition of this sudden cessation of spin it becomes shocking and by having the exact same term that used to mean 'At least I think I can live with that' to genuinely mean 'And I'm fine with it' the point is driven home nicely.
The only part that didn't work for me was her protestation that it wasn't a cartoon or comic book. I found that too heavy-handed a 'get it? huh? huh?' device for my liking, I found it weakened by the fact that there are a lot of cartoons and comic books that *do* acknowledge the lack of moral absolutes and the realities she's struggling with... and sadly, there are people out there in the real world who think that simplistically. The point is valid and necessary to the story: it's just not been stated in the most accurate or powerful way.
Despite that one reservation, I do think that this is one powerful short story. Take a bow. :)