Monday, March 28, 2011

A Jolt of Dread Makes John a Happy Boy.

I love the short story; the novelette as well. I’m always surprised that short stories get the short shrift when it comes to fiction. Especially in our over-stimulated world, where distractions rule--chewy sound bytes, sordid media blips, streaming blurbs teeming with banality, cyber-nincompoopery nonpareil!--it would seem a perfect form of instant fiction gratification without strings, something to fill the space between here and there, reading it on your electronic device of choice or as a--what are they called?--hardcover or paperback book, ahem, they seem made for current times. I started out writing short stories, still write them often; though I enjoy novel writing, the immediacy and that instant gratification kick (yeah, it works both ways) when completing a story in a week or so is always a joy.

I remember being 7-years old when my mother, who enjoyed the esoteric--she had books on UFOs, the paranormal, all that is odd, that I dug into with curious glee--handed me an anthology of horror stories. I vaguely remember the cover had some beast crawling out of a dark cellar (if that’s the right anthology--there were more, oh yes), yet I cannot remember the title, alas. But buried within those pages, there was a story by H.P. Lovecraft that left me in a state of wonder because of how the words created an ambience of eeriness that enveloped me. I clearly remember feeling as though that fantastic world was real because in my head he painted such a vivid picture that my already darkly inclined mindset embraced it. I think the story was one of the Silver Key stories, but it could have been any one of his weird tales; “The Colour Out Of Space“ comes to mind as a strong possibility, too, it being one of the greatest weird tales ever, fully immersing me in an ambience of dread so fine I can sense it squirming in the cranial prison even now.  For the sake of argument, yes, I know "Colour..." is a novelette, but my point is it was easily digested in a lazy afternoon, not a week or three as with a novel.  Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison (the master of the speculative short tale) followed in line; Joe Lansdale, David Schow, Clive Barker, Clark Ashton Smith, Ballard, Borges, Ligotti, Kiernan, Pulver, Barron... The list goes on and on, old and new masters who 
affected me and still do, giving me the jolt to write, to create a world and worlds as distinct and strange as theirs.

In 7,500 words or less. ;-)


  1. You might want to check one of today's tweets by Joe Lansdale (that I have RT) since it deals with short stories!

  2. I saw that, yes! Joe Rocks; some day you'll see some of my earliest fiction, there's a few that really lean into Lansdalism, haha...