brni (brni) wrote,

evolution of a first line

The editor tells me the project is "on hold," but there's an anthology coming up involving "tales of conflict between men, monsters and machines." And I'd been sort of bouncing some ideas around in my head, none of which I found terribly compelling.

And then it struck me. Men. Monsters. Machines. What happens when you roll them all together?

The Golem of ancient legend fits all three criteria. I'm imagining stone, heavy granite, and thick bronze gears and hinges. I imagine it fully articulated, each body part able to mimic that of a human, elbows and fingers and hips and toes able to move and flex. And, because the guidelines specifically say "men," I imagine it properly endowed, with a foreskin that slides on small ball-bearings to retract.

So what happens when a ten foot stone man appears in the midst of a medieval city, displaying his wares, at a time when the Inquisition rages in Spain, and witches are put to death?

Now, I have to find a likely city.

I start the search in the Balkans. The Balkans are a crossroads, of people, culture, trade routes, religion. Mosques and cathedrals stand side by side. Or used to, before the wars of the 1990s.

Crossroads are always interesting.

I must say, Wikipedia is an amazing thing.

I settle on Dubrovnik, a port city at the southern tip of what is now Croatia. That city has been around since the 600s, inhabited first by Italians fleeing Slavic invaders. It was on an island separated from the coast by a muddy strait, and they called it Ragusa. On the other side of the strait, the Slavs built their own city and called it Dubrovnik. After several hundred years, the two cities joined forces to fill in the strait and merge the cities. The result was a city named Dubrovnik, which was the capital of the Republic of Ragusa.

Over the years, the government of Ragusa pledged allegiance to many other governments - Venice, Byzantium, the Ottoman Empire, the Hungarian Empire - all at the same time. At a time when Hungary and the Turks were at war, Ragusa, theoretically a vassal state of both empires, was able to keep the trade routes open, and thus became one of the most important port cities in the Mediterranean, and continued to be until the country was destroyed by Napoleon. I'd never even heard of Ragusa.

During the time period I'm considering, Dubrovnik was populated by Italians, Croats, Turks and Hungarians, as well as many others. And I'm thinking, What's the religious debate look like between Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims in the face of a giant stone schlong? As Spain and Portugal begin their Inquisition, the Jews fleeing those countries find refuge in Ragusa. There's several waves of refugees - first the Jews who flee with their faith intact, then the Conversos - the Jews who converted to Christianity rather than die - who faced torture and murder when blamed for the outbreak of Black Death. Even better. How can you pass up an opportunity for a bris joke?

And then I had it. The first line.

The Jews were still disembarking when the golem climbed out of the harbor.
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