The Gap Into Conflict - The Real Story

Stephen R. Donaldson examines the darkest parts of humanity in this first of a series. On the surface this story is a space opera of large scope. In fact, Donaldson attributes Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen as providing half of his inspiration. The other half of the story is about control, manipulation, torture, rape and shame. In Donaldson's universe there is no good/evil, no black/white; everything is shades of gray. Each character has something to hide; some secret so deep and dark that they are unable to admit it to themselves. Yet by not examining the wounds of their past, by trying to hide from their own shame, they are victimized. Morn Hyland becomes a victim of her sickness as much as she is a victim of Angus Thermopyle's torture and manipulation. Nick Succorso is victimized by his ego and his obsession with revenge against the one pirate that defeated and humiliated him. Who is the rescuer, the villain, the victim?

From the author's afterword:
"There was nothing to be done about my personal shame, of course. I could only dismiss it. Time and thought brought me to the realization that I had no reason to feel ashamed. Suppose for a moment that my worst fears were realistic: that I am in fact an Angus Thermopyle thinly disguised by niceness; that this fact is transparent in The Real Story; and that all right-thinking readers will be disgusted by the results. So what? None of that impinges on the integrity of The Real Story itself. If I drew on some buried part of myself to create Angus, so much the better: at least I'm writing what I know."

At first it would seem plain that Angus is the Villain; he has captured Morn and has put a zone implant into her head. Morn Hyland would seem to be the Victim; completely under the control of Angus she has no choices or volition. Nick is a self-centered pirate, but why does he plot to rescue Morn and put Angus in jail until he rots? Is it really a surprise that Angus will not reveal the facts that will imprison Nick and Morn? Perhaps Angus is showing courage and has a grasp of the larger scope of things. Or perhaps he is plotting some deeper betrayal. As the story progresses the reader observes not only the roles of Hero, Villain, Victim getting swapped around, but also the characters are drawn with enough depth that their motivations are transparent. It would be hard to read these stories and not examine one's own core beliefs. And that, more than anything else, is the mark of an inspired story.

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