Scene: A blackened room.
(THE ACADEMIC is shining an interrogation light suspended from the ceiling into the eyes of THE PUBLISHER — who is blindfolded and tightly lashed to a steel chair with lengths of rusty chain.)
THE ACADEMIC: You did not learn well. You have disappointed us. You know you may not use the word “nincompoop” in publication. You are degrading our powerful friends. You need to write better.
THE PUBLISHER: But we write the same thing! Commentary and fiction! You call people names and degrade others much worse than we ever have.
THE ACADEMIC: Not the same! Never the same! We write through our characters. Our characters are not us! They are independent thinkers with minds of their own!
THE PUBLISHER: Exactly the same. No difference. No distinction. Except that we own our commentary and you are hiding behind a fetishized fiction. We place our name on a byline. You hide behind characters and claim they do not speak for you even though you’ve written the words they speak and the behaviors they act.
THE ACADEMIC: Our dead teacher would be disappointed in you. The Fictionalizer holds no responsibility for what characters say or feel. Characters are their own people. We birthed them. We are our own God, but we believe in free will for our characters, but not for other people, and especially not other people like you.
THE PUBLISHER: Invoking the dead to make a living point is both disingenuous and morally imperfect. You cannot separate the measure from the man. Our teacher did not like cowards. Our teacher wanted ownership and responsibility for all thoughts and actions.
THE ACADEMIC: Oh, forsaken child, it has been this way for a millennia and a half! The Fictionalizer is exempt from common morality. We preserve the high ethical ground. We alone are the aesthetic judges who not only place the jury in situ but wear the hangman’s hood as well. You would be wise to follow us and not weave your own noose!
THE PUBLISHER: We do not hide behind the drama. We create the drama and force it to unreel in unexpected ways and we stand up to accept the consequences. Does it bother you that I’m writing this? Writing you?
THE ACADEMIC: Bother? Why should it bother?
THE PUBLISHER: Because I’m beginning to realize an error was made.
THE ACADEMIC: We are pleased you are becoming self-aware.
THE PUBLISHER: I’m beginning to realize the real nincompoop — is you!
THE ACADEMIC: Preposterous! Take it back!
THE PUBLISHER: But I birthed you.
THE ACADEMIC: And my mind belongs to me and you, sir, are wrong to invoke that word against me. I forbade you before; obey now or I dump you in the river to drown!
THE PUBLISHER: Is this commentary or fiction?
THE ACADEMIC: I am not a nincompoop!
THE PUBLISHER: Unwinding.
THE ACADEMIC: Nincom…
THE PUBLISHER: Unaware.
THE ACADEMIC: …poop!
(The interrogation light EXPLODES. Total darkness. SCENE.)