Over the last week or so, I have had three short stories – all of them horror – come out in a variety of online magazines. That was more a case of coincidence than anything else: the stories had been accepted over the summer months, and the magazines themselves had scheduled the release for the end of March/start of April. After writing Wise Phuul, I have spent a fair amount of time on short stories, not because writing them is particularly lucrative (it isn’t), but because I have found it a good way to improve your writing with comparatively little investment in terms of time. There is also the pragmatic bonus that short stories get your name and work out to a variety of potential audiences – very handy for a developing writer like myself. Today, as per the suggestion of other members of the Dunedin speculative fiction community, I thought I would talk a bit more about my three recent releases.
The first one is The Keeper, which has come out as part of the April edition of The Horror Zine. This one is the most conventional horror story of the three, the protagonist being a young 20-something woman who survives a yacht sinking off the Cornish coast, and finds herself dealing with a gentleman whom she takes to be a retired lighthouse keeper. The inspiration for this particular story was the old 1970s Doctor Who serial, The Horror of Fang Rock, featuring Tom Baker – there are no aliens in my story, but the Doctor Who piece reminded me of why lighthouses are so useful to horror stories: the inherent isolation, and the fact that the protagonist is, in a sense, trapped. There are precious few places to run on a lonely island. My story also makes a knowing wink at the “it was a dark and stormy night” cliche – but it’s OK… my protagonist is familiar with Bulwer-Lytton and nineteenth century English literature. So maybe I get away with it? Maybe?
The next one is entitled In the Land of the Elephant’s Footprint. This one came out as part of the Spring edition of Into the Ruins, a science-fiction magazine specialising in deindustrial stories (incidentally, if you are looking for places to send a short story, I can strongly recommend checking out the Submission Grinder database: https://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/ ). In the Land of the Elephant’s Footprint is also decidedly more experimental than my normal output – and by experimental, I mean that the point-of-view characters are bloodthirsty trees. The story itself is set around a far-future Chernobyl, with the title being a reference to that famously deadly formation within the ruined nuclear power plant – the Elephant’s Foot, which like Medusa in Greek mythology will kill you for looking at it. In that sense, it is once again a setting that inherently lends itself to horror.
The third and final one of this bunch, Gone Fishing, was actually written (and submitted) in 2016. It was just that the magazine I sent it to, Bards and Sages Quarterly, sent me a revise and resubmit request in response – but I wasn’t actually good enough a writer to figure out how to make the requested revisions, so the story sat on my hard drive, gathering dust while I focused on writing other things. I finally went back it in 2018, rewrote it, and sent it in again… whereupon Bards and Sages accepted it for their April 2019 edition. Clearly, good things take time. The story is set in Turkey, and involved a fair amount of research on Kurdish folklore (foxes!), but it also has the distinction of being the only story I have ever written that started life as a (literal) nightmare.
In light of my recent output, I seem to be shifting away from being a fantasy author who writes horror, towards being a horror author who writes fantasy. Funny how these things happen – though I am of the opinion that genre is a matter decided by readers and publishers, rather than writers. In terms of other upcoming material, I actually had a fourth horror acceptance over the summer too, this time for a truly sick and twisted piece called A Christmas in Bohemia, but that is not coming out until October. For now, I have another couple of shortish ideas to work with, a longer New Zealand historical piece whose subject matter is now really awkward in light of recent events, plus the intent to resume work on my novel sequel, which has been on the backburner far too long. The joys of being a writer. 🙂