I have a temper. Sometimes it attacks me, perhaps just to remind me that it's there. It likes to latch onto true crime stories and force me to hate the culprits and/or victims (depending). Today it turned a dormant plotbunny into a steroid-crazed Frankenstein's monster that jumped all over my head until it hurt. The story in question is called Mass Murder, and its antihero is an ex-Catholic vigilante who begins by summarily executing pedophile priests, starting with the ones who raped him when he was a boy, and ends up attempting a murderous terrorist attack on Saint Peter's Square during the Pope's Christmas address and intended to take out not just the Pope himself but countless thousands of his followers as well. In the meantime he massacres convicted sex criminals, brutally assassinates Roman Polanski, and firebombs a halfway house for sex offenders while shooting the firefighters and police officers who try to save the house's inhabitants. Out of his self-righteous crime spree, a deadly terror cult is born: the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus that first appears in Black Science. The terrorist calls himself the Sexecutioner.
This terrorist has many powerful allies, including Perverted Justice, Fox News, Nancy Grace, and the tabloids. He gains a fanatical cult following, out of which the terrorist organization later emerges among his more criminal or otherwise violent followers. He has a soapbox, and preaches from it as much as possible. And he has many Evangelical friends and allies who share his irrational hatred of the Catholic Church, which he calls by its name in the Book of Revelation, "Whore of Babylon".
But his violent methods gain him some ferocious enemies as well. Foremost among them is a young special forces soldier (Green Beret? Navy SEAL?) doing on his second assignment with the military police (MP). Lieutenant Will Becket's first assignment was to bring down a criminal gang made up of other elite soldiers gone right-wing nut to the point of turning traitor. He sees this new terrorist as little different from them, only he's a "solo" (lone terrorist) with a cult following. Will is the Sexecutioner's equal in ruthlessness, violence, and tactical brilliance; he recognizes that he and his prey could easily have been in each other's place had fate decreed differently. Really, these are two villains fighting to the death: one is a self-righteous terrorist who thinks he's a hero because he's righteous; the other is more or less amoral, yet intolerant of people who endanger the social order by taking the law into their own hands — and he's rumored to be a vampire.
So what restarted this back-burner story idea? The Roman Polanski case, of course! As I will explain in a future blog entry, I think his punishment should be commuted as long as he pays his victim the damages he's balked on so far (well over $600,000 today, counting interest) — but public opinion, inflamed by the increasingly right-wing and tabloid-dominated "mainstream" media, will accept no other fate for him but a lynching party. And so, in Mass Murder, the previously priest-murdering Sexecutioner must kill Polanski in broad daylight in his first real act of real terrorism.
I don't believe in making villains fascinating personalities. I reserve that for heroes; it's one of the things that makes them heroic — that is, they have a soul. The defining characteristic of a terrorist is that he murders his own soul in order to become a perfect killing machine for the cause. Likewise, a gangster properly is a monster of crude appetite, of greed and the absolute lust for domination. Terrorists and gangsters are, in real life, variations on the psychopathic serial killer; for that reason, their proper genre in fiction is horror, and none other. The Sexecutioner is a serial killer who started killing out of revenge and escalated because the savagery of his murders produced in him an orgasm so intense that it eventaully transformed into religious ecstasy. This is what terrorists are: serial killers who found religion. Think Kevin the cannibal in Sin City, and you have the purest example of the terrorist mind. These people, if you can call these cannibals that — terrorists, gangsters, serial killers, and other psychopaths — are not human; they don't even want to be human, so they deliberately suppress any trace of humanity in them. They are the will to power incarnate. They must be soulless, even faceless, if they are to be the objects of terror that they are in real life. Thus the Sexecutioner's mask is his true face.
In the closed mystery, we see the killer commit the seemingly perfect crime; the mystery is how he's going to get caught. Instead of the perfect crime, we have the perfect criminal — the evil superhero. (Another such hero-villain is the Preborn Avenger, who assassinates abortion doctors and violently [his word] punishes women for "murdering" their "preborn children".) As long as the Sexecutioner remains inhuman, he is invincible. His vulnerability consists precisely in the threat of his suppressed humanity surfacing. Once he starts becoming human again, he is doomed. In the end, the Sexecutioner's human side overwhelms him and gets its revenge: he goes mad in prison and commits suicide.
Mass Murder in the terrorist's words: "When I killed Roman Polanski, I thought the whole world would praise me for it and call me a hero. He raped a child, and therefore he had to die the same way." Almost to the end, he considers his crimes perfectly justified.
The last sentence ends Will Becket's moralizing coda: "If there be a moral to this story, let it be said that we must beware those who, believing that the law protects criminals instead of punishing them, take the law into their own hands and threaten the order of society in the name of justice."
After our villain's self-introduction, we must start the action with a crime. How about a classic locked-room mystery? Inside a small Catholic church seemingly as impenetrable as a fortress, a priest has been stripped, castrated, raped, and crucified over the altar. The difference, of course, is that we know who done it. But here we find out just what kind of threat he poses to the world. The crucified priest was a military chaplain, which is why Will is summoned. He says, "If our killer were to become a full-blown terrorist, who knows what kind of horror he could inflict on the world before he's destroyed."
So there you have it: the mutant plotbunny that's competing for attention come NaNoWriMo.
I already know what's going to be on the cover: a crucified priest and gothic lettering. On the back cover? The masked terrorist, carrying a priest's severed head and pointing his gun straight at you.
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