Turtledove
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Steve
Fictional Character
"Character"
Metafictional Fantasy
Type of Appearance: Direct narrator
Nationality: United States
Date of Birth: c. 1950s

Steve was a fictional character who was aware of his fictional status. An old hand at being a fictional character, Steve was by turns amused and frustrated by his unnamed author's decisions as the author completed about time travel.

Steve entered the story from "limbo", and found himself walking down a street in a suburb of Los Angeles in the 1980s. While he could privately reflect upon his situation, his actions were dictated by the author. He didn't even learn his name until he was compelled to go into a used bookstore, and the owner, Lee, greeted him by name.

After some mandatory conversation with Lee, Steve went to the science fiction section, realizing that the author was probably a fan himself. He selected Peter S. Beagle's The Folk of the Air. Steve knew that Beagle was a talented writer. He was also able to read the copyright page, believing the author hadn't seen him do it.

After paying for the book, Steve immediately found himself in an apartment. After getting over his anger at the sudden scene change, Steve sat down and began reading his book, which he enjoyed immensely. He was particularly intrigued by a character called the Ronin Benkei, who actually only appears in a few scenes. Despite this, Steve was impressed with Beagle's craftwork. After eating, he put the book down, watched the news and then went to bed, noting sarcastically how "exciting" his life was.

When he awoke, the scene had shifted again. He found himself lying on the ground in a blanket. Steve was initially terrified he was about to die at the author's whim. Then he saw himself and realized he wasn't in his proper body, and that he was now of South East Asian descent. Steve was particularly concerned, as he knew that the author wasn't Asian, and he feared the author was about to make him do something stupid and embarrassing.

Taking stock of his situation, he found samurai armor, and realized he was probably in medieval Japan. Steve pondered as to why the author was indulging in the cliché of the modern person dropped back in time. After putting him armor on, Steve encountered another person, similarly armored. This person called Steve by the name Benkei, and thanked him for not dueling in a monastery the night before. Initially, Steve believed he was Beagle's Ronin Benkei character. Then he addressed the newcomer (in Japanese) as Minamoto Yoshitsune, and told him that he'd won nine hundred ninety-nine duels. Steve proclaimed Minamoto would be the thousandth.

Minamoto responded by quoting the Bible's warnings against pride. Steve realized the author needed to do research. The duel commenced, with Steve/Benkei winning, and proclaiming himself the king of the world. Privately, Steve wondered why he was quoting from a film from a decade after his "home" time. Steve concluded that the author would never sell this story, though he was relieved given how poorly this story was going.

However, the scene changed, and Steve found himself facing off against Minamoto Yoshitsune again. At first, Steve thought he was in Groundhog Day (which he knew of because the author had seen it four times). However, he quickly realized that the author was rewriting the scene, after completing additional research or after having the story reviewed by another person. This time, Minamoto Yoshitsune did not quote from the Bible. Moreover, during this version of the duel, Minamoto had two tengu. Steve realized that the author had done his homework this time, and had discovered that Benkei actually lost the first duel with Minamoto. As Steve had no desire to die, he decided to yield to his superior opponent. After confirming that Steve/Benkei did indeed surrender, Minamoto Yoshitsune compelled Steve/Benekei's service, and Steve agreed.

Steve/Benkei initiated another duel a few days later, and Minamoto won again. Steve/Benkei remained faithful from then on. Steve continued to observe the author's shortcomings as the story progressed. Still, Steve found the era fascinating; it was during this time that Yoshitsune's half-brother, Minamoto Yoritomo became shogun and reduced the Emperor to a figurehead. Unfortunately, Yoritomo was suspicious of everyone, including his half-brother, and so ordered Yoshitune's death. Steve/Benkei and Yoshitune fled Kyoto and become soldiers of fortune.

While Steve lived a long time as Benkei, he didn't narrate all of those adventures. For one thing, he was hurt in some of those scenes. For another, he continued to age, with the instantaneous memories to go with the aging process. He was also rewritten and revised by the author. He did narrate one instance when the two dressed up as yamabushi to get past one of Yoritomo's checkpoints. When one of the guards realized who Yoshitune was, Steve called Yoshitune an idiot and hit him hard. The guard's colleague pointed out that no man of lower rank would hit a noble like Minamoto Yoshitune. Steve and Yoshitune escaped.

After more adventures, Steve could feel the end of the story coming. He and Yoshitune arrived at the Koromogawa with Yoritomo's men following behind. Realizing they were trapped, Yoshitune asked Steve/Benkei to buy him some time to commit seppuku. As Benkei, Steve fought savagely, killing and maiming several attacking samurai, until finally he was feathered with arrows. One arrow hit Benkei right between the eyes.

Suddenly Steve became an omniscient observer. The samurai approached Benkei's body, which was still standing. Steve looked for Yoshitune's body, but didn't see it. Steve knew that no one took it. Now omniscient, Steve knew the story that Minamoto Yoshitsune escaped to the Asian mainland and became Genghis Khan. However, Steve didn't know for sure that was what happened, and the story ended before he could learn for sure.[1]

References[]

  1. Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March/April 2021
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