I spent a lot of years searching for my personal Civil Rights hero. History classes taught me the big names: Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, President John F. Kennedy. None of them connected with me. None had the mixture of goodness, integrity, and grit that makes someone my hero. Continue reading Respect Me as a Human Being: Jackie Robinson
NOV / DEC 2017: BY RACHEL KOVACINY
Film noir stories love to explore the question of just how much hold the past has over us. Can a person ever outrun their past? Can they atone for past actions? Are we doomed to repeat our mistakes, or even the mistakes of others? Or can a person make new choices, a new life? Can someone put the past to rest, leaving them free to begin anew? Continue reading Repeating the Past: Dead Again
HALLOWEEN 2017: BY RACHEL KOVACINY
I can still remember the first time I read an entire, unabridged Sherlock Holmes adventure. I must have been about thirteen and knew I loved mysteries. I’d been devouring books about Trixie Belden and the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew for years, and my appetite for fictional crime-solving adventures just kept growing. Continue reading Haunted by the Hound
SEPT / OCT 2027: BY RACHEL KOVACINY
Today, if you’ve heard of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, it’s probably because of one or two things. Most people know her name because she married Charles Lindbergh, who may have been the most famous man in the world when they met. He made the first solo transatlantic flight a few months before he met her, which made him a hero to millions of people. But she didn’t just marry a famous aviator—she shared his passion for flying and became the first American woman to earn her glider pilot’s license. Together, the Lindberghs made many record-making flights. Continue reading “Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Aviatrix and Author”
ULY / AUG 2017: BY RACHEL KOVACINY
When you think of classic western movies, what do you think of? A lone hero walking out into the street to take on the bad guys? Or a group of heroes working together to take on the bad guys? They’re both famous and popular patterns for westerns, and both appear in movies made from 1930 to 1970, but they weren’t both popular at the same time. In his book Sixguns and Society: A Structural Study of the Western, author Will Wright posits that changes in the story construction of movies reflected the changes going on within American society during the period. Continue reading From One to Many: What Westerns Tell Us About The Past
MAY / JUNE 2017: BY RACHEL KOVACINY
“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.”
Cue sinister chuckling.
That’s how the radio version of The Shadow began. Not with a cheerful, “Hi, folks, are you ready to hear the latest adventure of your favorite crime-fighting hero?” Not with a triumphant fanfare. Not with a reminder what you’re about to hear is a true story, with the names changed to protect the innocent. No cheer, no triumph, no innocence. Only evil lurking and the Shadow knowing. With that distinctly unpleasant laugh added, you have yourself a distinctive, memorable, and rather creepy flavor for your show. Continue reading “The Shadow Knows”
MARCH / APRIL 2017: BY RACHEL KOVACINY
Five hundred years ago this October, a monk and professor at the University of Wittenberg, Germany, wanted to discuss some theological questions with other learned Christians. So he wrote them all down and, since the internet was a few centuries from being invented yet, he posted them to the door of the church instead of to his blog or Facebook wall. He wasn’t trying to cause trouble, he wasn’t trying to start a new church body, and he definitely wasn’t trying to change the world. He just had questions about some church practices that troubled him, like charging money to get souls out of purgatory.
His name, of course, was Martin Luther. And, whether he meant to or not, he most certainly caused trouble, started a new church body, and eventually changed the world. But what he’d meant to do is reflected in the name we now have for the movement he started: the Protestant Reformation. He was protesting that some of the church’s activities went against what was taught in the Bible, and he wanted to reform the church, to fix things that had gone wrong. Not overthrow it, not replace it, just reform it.
The trouble was, he attacked the selling of indulgences. Indulgences were like “get out of jail free” cards for purgatory, which the church taught was a sort of limbo world between earth and heaven. They said that if you believed in Jesus as your Savior, but you’d committed more sins than the good works you’d done would atone for, you had to hang out in purgatory for a while until, as the Ghost in Shakespeare’s Hamlet put it, your foul crimes were “burnt and purged away” in “sulfurous and tormenting flames” (I,5). If you or someone you loved was probably going to have to stay in purgatory for a while, the church said you could lessen their sentence, or even forgo it entirely, by buying an indulgence. That was a piece of paper that entitled you to some of the extra good works done by various saints who had done so many good things in their lives that not only would they go straight to heaven, but they had leftover goodness you could get credited to yourself or a loved one. Why worry that your mother or father or child who died recently was languishing in torment when you could pay the church to get them released? Or, as a popular rhyme about indulgences went, “As soon as the coin clinks in the chest, the soul flies up to heavenly rest.”
Selling these indulgences was a really big moneymaker for the church at that time, which made church officials happy. Why? Because they were building a gigantic cathedral in Rome called St. Peter’s Basilica. This was an expensive and lengthy project, and selling indulgences was a super-successful fundraising idea. So when some upstart monk had the audacity to question whether or not selling indulgences was a scriptural practice, the church authorities couldn’t ignore him.
But wait — what was one unknown professor at some German university going to do against the power of the church, which had the support of the entire Holy Roman Empire? What did it matter if he posted ninety-five discussion questions on the door of some church? How many people were going to attend his little theological debate, anyway? The internet didn’t exist, TV didn’t exist, radio didn’t even exist — nobody except some musty old professors were going to care about this, right?
A century earlier, that would have been true. But by 1517, the world had Gutenberg’s printing press, which allowed pamphlets and books to be printed cheaply and quickly. Ideas spread swiftly and accurately now, not passed by word of mouth or by people copying out what someone else had written, but by being printed and distributed in massive quantities. And that’s what happened with Luther’s 95 Theses — someone printed them up and started passing them around. People got excited about this debate. Word spread that some professor in Wittenberg was daring to question the church’s practice of selling indulgences. Shocking! Exciting! News-worthy!
Suddenly, Dr. Martin Luther was the center of all kinds of attention and controversy. Simply by wanting to discuss church practices and whether or not they were based in Scripture, he’d caused trouble, he was on his way to starting a new church body, and the Reformation he began would end up changing the world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rachel Kovaciny’s story “The Man on the Buckskin Horse” appears in the Five Magic Spindles anthology now available in paperback and Kindle editions. Learn more about her at her author website, rachelkovaciny.com
NOV / DEC 2016: BY RACHEL KOVACINY
Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, not far from New York, there was a very, very large mansion, almost a castle, where there lived a family by the name of Larrabee. The widowed mother, Maude, and her two sons, Linus and David, men so wealthy and influential and handsome as to be almost princes. And above the garage there lived a chauffeur by the name of Fairchild with his daughter, a young woman named Sabrina. Continue reading Sabrina: The Thought of What Could Happen
NOV / DEC 2016: BY RACHEL KOVACINY
What is it about the wrong kind of guy? The rogue, the rascal, the scoundrel. The one you know you shouldn’t trust. And you truly don’t trust him. You know better. Obviously. Everyone knows better than to trust a guy who gets paid to lie, cheat, and hide. He makes his living being untrustworthy. So you don’t trust him. At all. Continue reading Han Solo
HALLOWEEN 2016: BY RACHEL KOVACINY
When I first went to see the 2013 film version of The Lone Ranger, the last thing I expected was a film that involved people coming back from the dead, a horse that could fly, and cannibalism. Especially the cannibalism. Tonto and Silver working some kind of magic to heal the ranger’s wounds wasn’t a big surprise. After all, the original radio and TV series both involved him being nursed back to health by Tonto after being left for dead. And Silver has always been an exceedingly intelligent, powerful character in his own right, so him being portrayed as a spirit horse with special powers didn’t feel like a big stretch either. Besides, the whole film is a legend being told by a very old Tonto to an impressionable, credulous little boy, so those changes seem more like embellishments old Tonto uses to make the story more exciting, rather than strictly factual occurrences. Continue reading Consuming the Past: The Lone Ranger