Sunday, January 15, 2012

We Incorporate The Gist: Ellison, Lovecraft, Barker, King, Ligotti...Etc.

Curious as to what readers pick up on in my fiction.  Curious as to what other writers they may see in relation to my work.  I mean, as writers, we read and read and read and some writers leave minor stamps, while others leave larger sledgehammer impressions.  For me, I don't see anybody as dominant, or anybody consistent, really.  I see me, my distinct (I hope) take and Dark Fiction that often veers into the well of Dread, the bleak nightmareworld that is Horror.  But even at that, it's not always something I shun.  Often I embrace the unexpected, the different, and welcome it into my trembling arms. 

Wait!  Thinking out loud--okay, typing out loud; typing out loud?--that's perhaps the Clive Barker element.  Hmmm...I always love when he embraces the monsters.  Y'think that might be his influence?  But I can gladly say, yes, there was a time Barker's horror was the horror I most enjoyed. But we grow and evolve, though something there remains: The Gist. 

That which is most important for me when it comes to his work.

"Smith goes elsewhere, a bleak universe that one gets glimpses of in works by Harlan Ellison, H.P. Lovecraft, and occasionally Clive Barker. The intellect powering these nightmares is a staggering, transcendental monster in itself."

This review mentioned, perceptively and quite amazingly, Harlan Ellison.  I have read more Ellison than any other writer.  But what...what of my writing reminds a reader of Ellison?  I have no idea, I don't see it.  I know, though, that The Gist must always be with me, what with mentally ingesting so much of his work.  I actually find a lot more of an Ellison vibe in my novels, particularly the first one I wrote, The Corner of His Mind, which is rather hilarious since he specializes in short fiction.  (Well, after all, he IS the best speculative short fiction writer ever, so...)

H.P. Lovecraft?  Moments sprinkled through some stories, one story ("The Sunglasses Girl") has a solid element that could be derived from that same mindset (at least the ending; then again that may, again, be my take), but there's none of the usual, overwrought trappings.  "Strange Trees" might also have an element...  Another story upcoming in Lovecraft eZine is also, well, yeah (of course, hence, the magazine's name), of a Lovecraftian nature but, again, it's of the mindset, not the world.  It "feels" like Lovecraft, but also walks its own path.  Or stumbles, falls, and the Weird takes over...

"The stories are also very literary reminding me a little of Ligotti but with more dialogue."

Thomas Ligotti?  The title story features a main character derived from a Ligottian mindset, but not Ligotti's writing.  I have succeeded, then, in my task at hand.  Creating a character of that mindset, capturing The Gist, yet taking it to new and unexplored terrain.  Though, again, with the psychological/supernatural elements overlapping, the tale is uniquely its own; or, at least I hope you, attentive reader, see it that way.    

"The way Mr. Smith twists his plot is on the same par with early Steven (sic) King. Amazing darkness here."

Stephen King?  Well, it is a Dark Fiction/Horror collection.  Do I write anything like King?  Probably not, yet in a couple stories, with a more, possibly, traditional foundation ("I Want To Take You Higher," maybe "Gladiatrix") a reader might sense that.  Though, to be honest, "I Want To Take You Higher" is more my riff on Joe Lansdale.  Which, of course, I may be the only one to think this, hehe...

Always curious as to how others perceive my fiction.  Some takes seem spot on, while others make me furrow my brow, yet also make me want to investigate why they think that, what about it reminds them of this or that writer.

But, ultimately, let's get real.  We read and read and read and take it all in.  Those writers become the foundation upon which we build, the Giants Whose Shoulders We Stand On, and if we do it write, I mean, if we do it right, we don't just copy what they've introduced to us, we expand on it, building our own dark wing, perhaps a cloud-swathed penthouse, perhaps a cellar, where all the creepy things might enjoy our company.  At least the best of us do...and that's what I strive to be.  We take The Gist of what really affects us and incorporate it into our own distinct stories.     

You can get a sample of the reviews and even the fiction here (check the Look Inside feature at  Check it out.  And buy the book if you haven't as of yet.  A worthy venture for those into The Dark Stuff.  As another reviewer wrote, it's "not your average horror."  And, if you are waiting for the print version, it is definitely in the works.  I've seen photos of the hardcopy book; the final stages are at hand.

Amazon Germany:

Amazon France:

Barnes & Noble:


Of course, influences come in many shades, from writers (inc. poets, lyricists, etc.), artists, movies, the mad world around me.  Though writers are referenced here, I know there's much more going on than that.  This being a writer is an all-encompassing gig.  One I Love being a part of.

Next time...I have no clue.  I didn't know what this post was going to be until I started writing it. 

Here's a creepy cool photo I found by Jonathan Buffard of the stairs down into a cellar where many a dark fiction/horror writer's mind ends up.  Or...something like that.



  1. We humans describe a new thing by comparing it to something familiar. "A kangaroo? It's like a giant jumping mouse." Well, no. Not really. And the more familiar you are with mice and kangaroos the less resemblance there is.

    No doubt your influences show up in your work but just because someone sees an influence doesn't mean you put it there.

  2. So true, David. I think I was just fascinated that some element of Ellison in particular was gleaned from my stories. I've read so much by him yet see nothing myself that says "ah, yes, he's obviously read Ellison." But the writer who mentioned the Ellison explained in a way what he qualified as the Ellison influence he picked up in my writing...and it actually came down to "feel." Which is perfect, as far as I care.

  3. Great post! I often see influences in my writing AFTER I finish. It never seems to be a conscious effort - it just happens.


  4. Thank you, Sylvia. Yeah, I almost never consciously think, "I'm going to write a story in the vein of..." whichever writer is traipsing through my head. My first reader Always points out things of this nature that most often just make me shake my head in amusement.