Thursday, April 15, 2010

I Corinthians 13.13

by Ashley Lister

Several years ago I was on the phone to a publisher. I’d sent him an email query about a series of vampire stories. He was phoning up to ask how I expected to fit all three of the proposed stories I’d sent into one novel.

It was a frustrating conversation. In my email I’d explicitly stated that it was to be a trilogy of stories. The idea was about three sisters who each battle against vampires. The format was going to be one novel for the story of each sister. But, either I hadn’t explained it very well, or he was thicker than shit in the neck of a bottle. Either way, there had been a miscommunication.

Anyway, after patiently explaining the idea to the publisher the conversation ended with an agreement that I’d write three separate books entitled The BloodLust Chronicles. Each ‘chronicle’ would be succeeded by the name of the central character. And, because vampires are the embodiment of irreligiousness, I thought it would be appropriate to give my heroines names that were vaguely biblical. Which is where I came up with the names: Faith, Hope and Charity.

I have to admit, I’m not really into reading bibles. I’d heard the words faith, hope and charity bandied around previously, usually by those people who try to sell religion from door to door. I was fairly convinced that the words faith, hope and charity appeared somewhere in the bible, and so I asked my assistant (Mr Google) to help me find the exact quote.

I Corinthians 13.13
(King James Bible) And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

I liked this. It almost read like a tagline from a Hollywood blockbuster, particularly with that final declaration: the greatest of these is charity. I could imagine the words being read out by one of those baritone-voice narrators at the cinema’s trailers.

Content with this development, I figured I would double check my source, just because I always like to cover my ass when it comes to anything bordering on legitimate research. I opened up my personal copy of the New Testament Millennium Edition and flicked to I Corinthians 13.13.

I have to admit this is not genuinely my own bible. According to the stamp inside the front cover it belongs to some guy called Gideon. However, if he’s going to be dumb enough to leave his bible in the drawer of a hotel room’s bedside cabinet, he can’t expect to find it waiting for him when he checks back in.
I was stunned to discover that the words inside the Millennium Edition were different to what I’d found online.

I Corinthians 13.13
(Millennium Edition) And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

My first reaction was to panic. Admittedly, the difference in the opening few words was acceptable. This new version actually made a little more sense than the King James version. But they’d changed the name charity to love!

Obviously I couldn’t have a central character named ‘Love.’ That would be stupid. Unless her parents had been hippies, or unusually cruel, I knew the name ‘Love’ wouldn’t be appropriate.

Readers don’t like to suspend their disbelief too far. I knew I could create a world where vampires exist, and fill it with exciting, erotic scenes. But making out that one of the main characters had suffered an entire existence labouring with the name ‘Love’ would push the bullshit needle beyond critical.

As it transpires, the bible is occasionally updated. The King James version was commissioned in 1604 and completed in 1611 (although the first version to bear the words KINGS JAMES VERSION didn’t come about until 1884). As the English language changes (which all languages are wont to do) some of the meanings within the bible become obscure and obfuscated. Consequently, occasional modifications are made so that the message of the good book remains clear to the modern reader. (Providing they don’t accidentally leave a copy of their bible in a hotel room).

This was evinced to me by the subtle change of the word charity to the more wholesome and admirable trait of love. It didn’t appease my situation any, but it did help me understand what was happening with my character names.

Long story short: I went with the King James version. The Bible is a very useful book for many reasons, the main one being readers can cherry-pick what they want from it and ignore the versions that disagree with their way of thinking. I figured that a lot of wars have been fought by this process so there wouldn’t be any great harm in using it to complete a trilogy of book titles. And I went on to write, The BloodLust Chronicles: Faith, The BloodLust Chronicles: Hope, and The BloodLust Chronicles: Charity.


  1. Hi, Ash,

    You're an author. You get to choose what you include and what you throw away.

    And I agree, calling a character "Love" just wouldn't do.

    I haven't read these, by the way. Which of your many literary incarnations is responsible?


  2. Hi Lisabet,

    The books were written under my 'Lisette Ashton' name. I'm fairly sure that they're now out of print, which is a shame as they tell an entertaining story.

    And, as for calling a character 'Love'... I seriously think Kathleen's suggestion on Tuesday, to have a character called Myrtle, would be an improvement.



  3. Ash - I snickered all the way through this, but don't you love that moment of serendipity when you find out the way you wanted something to be is the way it is?

    And Myrtle is waiting for her closeup.

  4. Kathleen,

    It really is satisfying when things work out. It's a shame it doesn't happen very often :-(

    But I think Myrtle should have a series of adventures in appropriate locations: Myrtle at the Abattoir; Myrtle does Accountancy; Myrtle reads Derrida. Those are titles that would stick to the shelves ;-)



  5. Hi Ashley!

    Lisette? Sister of Lisabet? It has an elegant ring that recalls heiresses in jodhpurs leaping horses over fences.

    I've always enjoyed the language in the Bible for names and titles also. Hemingway was big for getting titles ("For whom the Bell Tolls", "The Sun Also Rises") from the Old testament.


  6. Garce,

    It's a feminine name that suits my feminine personality ;-)

    I was also told by someone that it's the name of Papillion's wave in the book Papillion.




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