2020: the stories

Three stories published in 2020, in reverse chronological order:

Grooming my Grandfather appeared just a week or so ago in VASTARIEN: a literary journal (Vol 3, issue 2, Fall 2020) (at the time of writing, the electronic versions are available for pay what thou wilst). I am grateful to Jon Padgett for picking this up, as it is very personal to me. I like Weird, and for that matter, weird. However, I do not particularly like reading about dreams in stories, especially weird dreams, nor do I like formless stories where things happen ooh its like a dream. (For that matter, I also tend not to like long chunks of poetry or lyrics in prose fiction, no matter how I try, my eye will skip over them. No doubt it is a hardware problem that cannot be debugged.) I can of course become caught up in my own dreams, particularly those associated with deep, lingering feelings. I have had three sets of recurring dreams in my adult life – one involves sharks, mostly being able to see them clearly in the water when others cannot, often from outside the scene, but often in the water with them; travelling into space, particularly the launch, often from unexpected mundane, even suburban locations; and visiting my deceased grandfather in his home, where in each dream the house is more decayed than the last, but he remains the same, sitting bold upright in a chair, but hardly able to move, as though I am in one time stream, viewing two others. There are variations on each of them, the third sometimes involves other deceased relatives, also in a domestic setting. As I sit writing this, feelings are conjured that I cannot write down. Grooming my Grandfather is derived from the last set of dreams, but only slightly recounts any of the detail from them, because that would be boring to every other human being. Rather, in my feeble way, I have tried to conjure some of the feelings that arise in me through associated imagery: accepted rituals and routines that are ridiculous upon observation; the fear engendered by the loss of the warm comforts and certainties of childhood (and adulthood); the ambiguity of transitions; and the contrasts of competing but (perhaps) equally dreaded finalities – dissipation or fossilisation?

The Bride of the Blob appeared a little while ago in Andromeda Spaceways Magazine (issue #80) (you can pick up the whole magazine for $4.95 Australian, which is probably 35 cents USD, or a quarter of a Eurocent, or 0.000003 pounds). It is the third but perhaps not the last story I will ever write that is somehow based around Apollo and Neil Armstrong. It is only as I type this that I realise that thematically at least, this story too is based around my recurring dreams as set out above, though it shares none of their content. I am a child of the space age: I remember the lunar landing; as a child I wished to be an astronaut; and part of my love of science fiction is centred around space and its possibilities. This story was fun to write, largely around things that happened while I was growing up, but of which I was probably not aware of at the time – John and Yoko’s love-in; Timothy Leary dropping acid; Sartre approaching old age; the Vietnam war (well, I was certainly aware of that!) – combined with all sorts of space monster, B-Movie tropes. There are references to John Keel’s Mothman Prophecies, Philip K Dick being illuminated by VALIS, and even one of my recurring characters, Sergeant Burns and his detached arm. I was very encouraged by the first readers at ASM, whose comments included ” Wow, this is like a Vietnam War acid trip, directed by Coppola and written by David Lynch”. Thanks very much to Tom Dollemond for taking it on, and for our useful discussions.

Early in the year, Mid-life Crisis appeared in Chrome Baby (Bairn #91) (this one is free to read). The genesis of this story was me one day imagining a book title – Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea – of Zombies!” Monster! Rah! A reference to that remains in the story, however it soon parted company from that to go to a different place. I do not talk about my work work here, only writing work, but my job has often involved horrible people and the terrible things they have done. Early in my career I met the aged hippy who returned to Australia from India. The crime he committed did not involve harming children, rather I have taken that aspect from others I have dealt with. No crime is described in any detail, because I do not want to write that, and because since having children of my own, I have found it more difficult to read such things. I specifically recall having difficulty getting past the beginning of “Black House” by Stephen King and Peter Straub precisely for that reason. Despite the lack of detail, several times editors wrote in rejecting the story that it was too dark for them. I am grateful to Robin Dunn for placing it, and also for working with me on the ending, which I agree was originally too abrupt.

Another story was to appear in Hybrid Fiction, but the magazine folded before it appeared, so that was a bummer (no doubt for them as well!!).

So far for next year I have reprints appearing in audio form both Pseudopod and Tales to Terrify, so that is pretty cool, and I continue to shop other stuff around, with hope (and a song) in my heart.

Thanks very much to the editors and publishers I was associated with this year.

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