Background info for “Hearts and Minds,” one of the stories in The History of Soul 2065.
THE STORY IN BRIEF
Abe, Ruth, Paulo, and Ben are sitting around outside a candy store, bickering about politics and playing cards, when they are interrupted by an irritating stranger.
HOW IT WAS WRITTEN
Let me start by saying I love “Hearts and Minds.” It’s one of my favorite stories to read out loud because, well, it’s just so much fun to do the characters. And it’s one of the few where I came up with the punchline before I wrote the story.
But what really inspired this story was an experience I had while working at a tech publication. I was being shown a new genealogy program that had been developed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (popularly known as the LDS or Mormons), and noticed that one of the people in the family tree onscreen had a baptism date later than his date of death.
“You’ve got a mistake there,” I said, always trying to be helpful.
“That’s not a mistake,” said the woman. “He was baptized by proxy after his death, according to the wishes of his family.”
I smiled, thinking it a joke. “And what if he doesn’t want to be baptized?” I asked.
“He can always refuse it,” she said. She was absolutely serious.
I later found out that the LDS folks were posthumously baptizing people into their church en masse (including a large number of Holocaust victims). Once this was discovered, there were, as you can imagine, protests. Finally, in 1995, the LDS church created rules against inappropriate retrospective baptisms. (Apparently, those rules didn’t stick.) I had to write something about this weird (to me) phenomenon, and the result was “Hearts and Minds.”
It appeared in Weird Tales #336 in 2004.
NOTES ON THE PEOPLE
As I think I mentioned before, Abe (whom we have already met in “Sabbath Wine” and “Lost Connections”), is loosely based on my grandfather, or on what I imagine my grandfather was like (although he was never as stout as Abe eventually became, and probably not nearly as rambunctious).
Ben, whom we meet for the first time here and who is the narrator of the tale, is a combination of several people, depending on which story you’re reading and how old he is. Here he is somewhat based on a work friend I had back in the 1980s named Mark; a very laid-back, sweet guy. One day Mark asked if I’d meet him for lunch, and it was obvious that there was something he wanted to talk about — he was unusually quiet and solemn — but by the end of the meal, he had never actually told me what he actually wanted to say. I didn’t push him. I wish I had, just a little.
To this day, I wonder what he was afraid to tell me. That he was gay? (I knew that already.) That he had AIDS? This was when many AIDS patients were isolated and blamed for their illness, so it isn’t unlikely.
I’ve always regretted that I wasn’t insightful enough at the time to realize that he was ill and what he was going through. Mark left work soon after, for reasons that were never said out loud. He died shortly after that. I attended his memorial and sewed a square in his name for the AIDS quilt. But that wasn’t nearly enough.
All the other characters in “Hearts and Minds” are completely fictional.
NOTES ON THE HISTORY
There isn’t any specific moment in history referenced here. All four of the main characters — Abe, Ruth, Paolo, and Ben — represent fighters for justice from various times and places.
Finally, I thought it would be nice to let you sample the songs or artists that are mentioned in the story.
Moonglow / Benny Goodman Quartet
Minnie the Moocher / Cab Calloway
Union Maid / The Almanac Singers
(I couldn’t find a YouTube video of Woody Guthrie singing the entire song, but this is a version by the Almanac Singers, a group co-founded by Guthrie and which also included Pete Seeger, Lee Hays and a bunch of other left-wing folkies of the time.)
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