Literally Reruns, Short Fiction

Literally Reruns – The Hangings by James Hanna

There are all types of world gone wrong pieces in the LS vault. Simply, we find Dystopia much more interesting than Utopia; same goes for Hell and Heaven. Perhaps it is indicative of the human species that we are much better at imagining pain than we are happiness.

No less an authority on the human condition than Mark Twain made brilliant observations in his Letters to Earth–not so oddly, a book that he did not dare to publish wholly in his lifetime. Among many other blasphemies, Twain took the position that the concept of hell was about control and that religious leaders were just as corrupt as dictators and elected officials. In the end, Twain was said to have become dark and cynical in his outlook. Which is partly true, in consideration of the personal losses he had suffered in his old age, but I say not so fast as far as his thinking processes went.

James Hanna’s The Hangings is a story that the old river pilot would have admired. It features regular people bullied around by forces that they cannot control, which, as always seems to be the case, are the same forces they are responsible for creating, whether through action or worse, inaction.

Q: Are such governments inevitable? Even today most of the powers in central Africa and, of course, North Korea, are not far off the authority in your story.

Q: I found the couple charming. Please explain the process you went through in their character development, while keeping it in line with the hellworld around them.

Leila Allison


James’ responses:

Q: Are such governments inevitable? Even today, most of the powers in Central Africa and, of course, North Korea are not far off the authority in your story.

I don’t believe that despotic governments are inevitable, but I do feel that America today is a democracy at risk. Our government has the institutions to hold autocracy in check, but the politicians that fill these institutions are not doing a very good job. Either they are minions to the despots who want to shanghai our country, or they hold the illusion that despots can be reasoned with. People who seek unconditional power cannot be reasoned with—nor are they likely to be anything but amoral in their pursuit of power. It will require heroics, not half-measures, to hold these people back.

Q: I found the couple charming. Please explain the process you went through in their character development, while keeping it in line with the hell world around them.

In developing the old couple, I wanted to make them likeable. I also wanted to make them passive and infinitely finite. Sitcoms and petty piques fill the horizons of their minds—therefore, they are not capable of fathoming the direction their country has taken. The docility with which they await the hangman’s noose may border on dark comedy, but one need only witness a Trump rally to realize the extent to which people can be exploited. The couple, though charming, harbor the docility upon which evil so easily feeds.


The Hangings

3 thoughts on “Literally Reruns – The Hangings by James Hanna”

  1. We like to imagine old folks as docile as Poppy and Magie but in my many years, I have never encountered one. Most that I’ve known, and I’m now one myself, are opinionated and cranky–unaccepting of change and generally know what’s right. Of course, this is fantasy as well as dystopian and with that precept I enjoyed the story. I like Hanna’s voice and style–unusual and fresh in today’s world where everyone is a writer.


  2. Leila,
    I suppose the choices should all be good as we have accepted the stories!
    But you continue to get that wee bit more out of the writer with your insightful questions.

    Great to see this one again.
    I was really interested on your take about the old couple!!

    Thanks so much to both of you!


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