News · 01/15/2010

Jeff Vande Zande on 2009

Contributor Jeff Vande Zande (author of “Inside Job” and “The Major Players”) writes in response to our recent question about what sparked imaginations in 2009.

Throughout 2009, as I would be driving home from work, I’d get this image in my head that I was actually driving in this huge palm. The driving gave me the false sense that I was in control, but actually that palm could squeeze into a fist at any time and crush me… and there was nothing I could do about it. I guess all of this stemmed from listening to and watching the news. We can easily become victims of the decisions of others, simply because they wield power. We can be sent to wars that non-soldiers want us to fight; we can unknowingly ingest dioxins because some big company needs to make profitable chemicals; we can lose our jobs, our house, and our futures because the banks decide to gamble our money in real estate. We can be almost instantly destroyed in a nuclear attack. I guess in 2009 I became aware of myself as especially small and powerless… though that might also have something to do with closing in on 40 years old.

On an unrelated/related note, I remember that I was standing outside my son’s room listening to him play a Robin Hood video game on his computer. In the game, as he (Robin Hood/my son) would kill castle guards, Robin Hood would quip, “I’ll send your widow a purse” through the computer’s speakers. For whatever reason, I started thinking about that widow and her poor dead husband. He only wanted a job to bring home money for his family. He didn’t want to get caught up in the hatred between the Sheriff and Robin Hood. The guard was a nameless victim — simply because he needed the money and couldn’t walk away from the job. And so, I thought I would write a story from the widow’s point of view. For whatever reason, I thought it was going to be witty, but it turned out deeply sad and tragic. I guess what happened is that all those powerless feelings I’d been having in 2009 manifested themselves in the story of this helpless widow. It was a concept sprung from a video game based on folklore. After I started the story, entitled “The Major Players”, I realized that I was actually using the concept to say something, hopefully “necessary”, about our contemporary world.