by Slave Nano
Writers get their inspiration from lots of different places. It could be from a snippet of conversation overheard in a coffee shop, a person they know, a fragment of another story, a piece of art or music. Well, the inspiration for my story, The Most Perfect Sin, came from my favourite history book, one by Christopher Hill called The World Turned Upside Down. He was an expert in 17th century history and wrote extensively about puritanism and the English Revolution, and a biography of Oliver Cromwell.
The World Turned Upside Down is about the explosion of radical ideas immediately after the English Civil War. This was always my favourite period of history. The English Civil War was basically a dispute between two factions of the English gentry, so when the war ended the foot soldiers of the New Model Army (the standing army Cromwell created to defeat Charles I) started to question what they were fighting for when they had no stake in the nation. Added to this was a dose of extreme religious radicalism as puritanism splintered into extreme sects, and the idea of the divine right of kings was blown apart by the execution of Charles I. It was a period of great political and social upheaval.
I loved all this. I got immersed in the worlds of the Levellers, the Diggers, the Quakers, the Seekers and the 5th Monarchy Men. These groups questioned social norms. One of the most fascinating of them was the Ranters, and it’s one of them that features in my story. They questioned the very concept of sin. Very simply the argument runs that if God is omnipotent then he is everywhere and in everything, therefore his spirit is in every man and whatever man does must be godly. Therefore, if man drinks, swears and fucks then these are godly acts! This is the argument my character, Tobias Coppe, preaches in the opening scene of my story. My character ends up in the bedchamber of a puritan maiden, Chastity Clarkson, and sets himself the task of seducing her by religious discourse by persuading her that sex is godly. You’ll have to read the story to find out if he succeeds.
Anthologies which include this story: