Here we go again. Mornings in the Home always began the same way. No matter what time Stafford reached Anarcho's room, Anarcho was invariably awake, waiting for Stafford to open the chintz curtains. But he never reprimanded Stafford for being late or wasting time. In the old days, Anarcho had been as impatient as all supervillains, ever eager to pursue some cunning scheme. Now there was no rushing and shouting and clanking; no messy experiments left bubbling overnight; no lairs to build or dungeons to dust.
Today's tasks were more homely. Stafford pulled back the duvet to reveal Anarcho's shrunken frame, tinged green from over-exposure to tachyons. First came the bathroom routine: toilet, sponge wipe, shave, and so forth. Then the mechanical maintenance: eye lube, claw sharpen and polish, exobrain defrag and reboot. These prosthetics were all obsolete. Anarcho was the Home's oldest resident, his life convoluted by time travel.
This story began as a joke in another story. In "Bob's No-Kill Monster Shelter", I included this line:
|Professor Perdition will give a lecture, "On the Care and Feeding of Monsters", by live videolink from the Dunschemin Retirement Home for Repentant Supervillains.|
Some readers — particularly those outside Britain — might not understand why the home's name is a joke. It's a riff on the house name Dunroamin, i.e. "we're done roaming — from now on we're staying home". So Dunschemin means "we're done scheming", i.e. a home for retired supervillains. Terry Pratchett used a similar joke in his Discworld novels, where Dunmanifestin is the home of the gods.
Although it was originally a throwaway joke, I felt that "The Dunschemin Retirement Home for Repentant Supervillains" might make a good story title, and I jotted some notes for possible plotlines that might fit the title. But it didn't feel very urgent, so the notes languished while I worked on other projects.
Then I received an invitation to write a story for The Sum of Us, a theme anthology about care-giving and care-givers. I remembered my idea for a story about a retirement home for supervillains. The anthology's emphasis on care-givers gave me the additional idea of using a henchman as the protagonist. I set to work.
In writing the story, I had to engage with some moral issues. How does a henchman justify working for a supervillain? What keeps him loyal? Do supervillains ever really retire? Do they deserve a retirement home?
I also had to create a cast of supervillains, and serve up some colourful superhero action. These scenes were fun to write. Indeed, the whole story was fun to write. I don't believe that the author's experience of writing a story has much bearing on a story's final quality or how readers perceive it. But I'd rather have fun while writing than not!