Good Guys and Bad Guys and Why They Look The Same by Lawrence Berry

Transmundane Press believes in evil, it’s the good they’re not sure about.

In writing Abra, I couldn’t find a hero. Everyone was as real as breakfast toast and no one was about to win the citizen of the year award from their town.

Saints have been in extemely limited supply in my part of the world. While I have kept an eye out for those with unblemished and loving hearts, most of the people I’ve met were doing the best they could for the shape they were in. Hitting a friend when they were down, helping themselves to a stray twenty falling from a cash register, walking on a restaurant check, were neither right nor wrong. They judged these actions through the lens of necessity, the day-to-day god that rules this splendid world.

If I have a character who doesn’t seem to know on which side of the cup the coffee goes in and is always smiling in a geniuine and open way, I have a problem. Such a creation can be dealt with by a) making him simple, b) suggesting that he suffers from amnesia, c) drawing him as an escaped patient from an asylum for the criminally insane, or d) making him a sated psychopath who just left a kill site.

The best people have to be durable, somewhat suspicious, slow to trust, and true children of necessity. The bad guys in a story have it easy because they failed all the tests in childhood and are following their string out. They aren’t sorry about who they are. They make their money on the streets and they don’t care where it comes from. Muscle and intimidation are their dearest friends and they know between which ribs to stick the knife.

They’re monsters down with being monstrous. This is not to say they aren’t charming, good-looking, skilled in and out of the bedroom, good for a laugh, and willing to lend a fifty dollar bill to a pal in need. Their essential badness is an equation they carry around inside and apply to every situation. Where’s the angle in what’s happening? How can they gain advantage from the events at hand? And guilt is for suckers.

Against this the hero has a code, a sense of realistic right and wrong, and determination to the do the right thing, if possile. If it’s not, see Plan B. They make mistakes and misjudgements, but they suffer for them. Nobility is something they can attain, but it’s not their normal state of being. Outside of the monastery, life is a fight from day one and it’s better to win than lose—losing isn’t in their genes. The code they carry around, trying to live up to, takes a beating and doesn’t see much polish. The difference is that they have one and the bad guy doesn’t.

The anti-hero shakes this equation up because he’s operating in an amoral world that eats the weak and the slow. His essential goodness becomes manifest as he’s tested by the choices he makes. A bad man fails every test and takes advantage of every weakness. Revelation of his black heart also comes from the obstacles he faces and fails to conquer. The tragic badman knows how far he’s fallen from his best hopes and suffers because of his actions. He’s the bad guy that can fall fartherest because his conscience is a constant measuring stick. There is a line of reasoning that every saint begins as a bad man that becomes turned by god toward the light. Saint Paul on the road to Damascus is the perfect example.

In any event, this is a complex world and the pure of heart completely misunderstand the situation in they’re in.

Transmundane Press wanted a collection of stories where no one is untouched by the world and what it makes us do, no one is untested by the turns of fate. I think this is the only kind of story worth writing because even the best of us can’t know on which side of the ledger we’ll fall before we face the struggles that act as mirrors. This is the magic they asked for, a story where everyone finds out who they are and what they’ll do on a lightless road, traveling into a dark world without horizons.



48416177_2008938705839504_8094266344947580928_nLawrence Berry sold his first story to Cavalier Magazine and went on to have a ‘best of’ in that publication. Specializing in horror stories, in his work can be found in a number of new anthologies and podcasts. Lawrence specializes in horror fiction.


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