Holly's note: I'm proud to be a part UNLOADED (Down & Out Books) and thankful to editor Eric Beetner for asking me to contribute. I'll be writing a post about the origins of my own story, "Peep Show," next week, but this week I wanted to give Eric a chance to tell us about the origins of the anthology itself. UNLOADED is available for pre-order now and officially drops April 18.
I put aside the idea, thinking that it wouldn’t make any difference to make a book and by consequence, make a statement. Then there were more shootings – at movie theaters, military bases, workplaces, shopping malls. And I realized that the argument against even doing something small played right into their hands. The argument I so vociferously disagreed with was the same argument I was telling myself. If it doesn’t stop all violence, then why bother at all? I wanted to bother.
Violence has always been with us. Gun violence has been around since the invention of the firearm. It won’t stop. I know that. Our little book won’t stop it, won’t move the dial in Washington, most likely. But to do nothing just wasn’t tenable any more.
And I noticed that other writers felt the same way. And we all felt helpless. We’d rant on Twitter, post links on Facebook. I felt we needed to do more. UNLOADED was born.
Two important things:
1) I don’t want to take away all your guns. I believe strongly in limits, in more rigorous background checks, in closing loopholes, in making guns harder to use for anyone not the owner, for more training, and for restrictions on guns clearly manufactured for military use.
2) I know a collection of short stories without any guns in them is a small gesture.
The thing is, myself and the other writers included in Unloaded began to worry that we were a part of the problem. That we glorified guns in our writing. That we added to a culture obsessed with guns. We wanted to speak out and say we know the difference between fantasy and reality, and we want reality to look a little less like the violence-filled fantasies in our stories.
The writers I reached out to came on board the project enthusiastically and without hesitation. We represent gun owners and non-owners, Democrats and Republicans. We represent the overwhelming majority of Americans who feel that some greater level of gun control is needed and that the mass shootings that occur far too regularly are a product, yes, of mental illness, but also of a culture that accepts guns and gun violence as a cost of our freedom. And we feel that our current gun culture is not anywhere near what the founders intended – a direct repudiation of the NRA position that the home stockpiles of weapons and the ease by which we can get guns would make the founders proud somehow.
We want to reduce the amount of suicides by gun, the amount of tragic accidents by guns, the amount of deaths of children by guns.
And we used the greatest weapon at our disposal – our words.
This collection is intended to thrill and excite. My intention was always for the readers not to even notice the absence of guns, and maybe in some small way, to open a dialogue that if we tried to reduce the prevalence of guns in our everyday life the way we have all done in our fiction, even for a brief time, then maybe we could see another way.
And though I know it’s small, the old arguments ring hollow to me now. Because if we can save even one tragic accident, one mass shooting, one disgruntled ex-employee, one suicidal teen…then one is enough. Even saving one is better than staying silent, because staying silent is the same as seeing someone load a gun and saying nothing.
We’ll all continue to write about guns, we’ll all continue to wonder about our own roles in the gun culture in America. But at least now we are on record and we’ve tried to inspire a rational, reasoned and civil conversation.
Unloaded is out April 18th and it contains original stories, and two reprints, from some of today’s top crime and mystery writers. All writers donated their stories and all profits will go to benefit the non-profit States United To Prevent Gun Violence (www.ceasefireusa.org)
The writers include: Joe R. Lansdale, Reed Farrel Coleman, Joyce Carol Oates, Grant Jerkins, Hilary Davidson, Keith Rawson, Rob Hart, Kelli Stanley, Alison Gaylin, Alec Cizak, Joe Clifford, Ryan Sayles, Angel Colon, Kent Gowran, Tom Pitts, Tim O’Mara, Thomas Pluck, Holly West, Trey R. Barker, Jeffery Hess, S.W. Lauden, J.L. Abramo, Patricia Abbott, Paul J. Garth and Eric Beetner.
The ebook is up for preorders on Amazon and eagle-eyed readers may notice the print version is already available early.
Eric Beetner is the author of more than a dozen novels including RUMRUNNERS, THE DEVIL DOESN’T WANT ME, DIG TWO GRAVES, WHITE HOT PISTOL and THE YEAR I DIED SEVEN TIMES. He is co-author (with JB Kohl) of ONE TOO MANY BLOWS TO THE HEAD, BORROWED TROUBLE and OVER THEIR HEADS and co-wrote THE BACKLIST with author Frank Zafiro. He lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts the Noir At The Bar reading series. For more visit ericbeetner.com.