J.N. Williamson’s “How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction

First, a different kind of how-to-write book; each chapter is written by a different notable in the field – Williamson, Bradbury, Tem, Grant, Bradley, …

The variety of perspectives is interesting. I wonder if each author chose their chapter subject or were assigned it by Williamson, who served as editor.

Bradbury’s chapter, for example, is about where ideas come from and nurturing them, not specific techniques. Tem and Castle each take a turn at character but each from their own perspective.

Bradley’s “World Building in Horror, Occult, and Fantasy Writing” marks the first time I’ve seen the “world building” term outside of writers’ cons (I’m hosting a World Building panel at LitCon 2021).

Beyond chapters on technique – Plot, Character, Setting, World Building, Revision, Submission, … – How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction‘s contributors explain the whys of their suggestions. Example: William F. Nolan’s “Involving Your Reader from the Start” chapter contains several examples of opening paragraphs (I don’t agree that all of them are good). Near the end of his chapter he writes “In the no-TV, no-video, no-comics world of Charles Dickens, readers were conditioned to deal with complex, dense, often-wordy opening pages in books and stories. It was an era of leisurely reading when the pace could be slow and unhurried. Not so today. …”

In other words, writing evolves with a purpose. Yes, there are fads and they pass quickly. What survives is what out-competes others in the environment.

Amazing how evolutionary science affects everything, isn’t it?


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“The Little Knitty Dragon” is in Harvey Duckman Presents Volume 7

It’s so good to know one is loved. So warming, comforting. Appreciated.

So it is with the Harvey Duckman Presents anthologies. I’m flattered and honored to be among their regular authors (according to Harvey Duckman Publisher Gillie Hatton).

What’s personally wonderful to me is receiving comments like “…your Knitty Dragon story makes me cry every time I read it!”

And not only from Gillie, but others on the HDP staff. When one’s work has a strong personal, visceral reaction from readers… Means I achieved my goal. Means I moved the reader. Made them feel. Think.

Gotta love it.

Get your copy now while supplies last and read wondrous tales by fellow Harvey authors Tamara Clelford, Peter James Martin, Mark Hayes, Kate Baucherel, Marios Eracleous, and others.

 

The Goatmen of Aguirra, Finale

The Goatmen of Aguirra is one of my favorite stories and, based on comments, popular among my readers (thankee!). It appears in my self-published Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires, as an individual ebook The Goatmen of Aguirra: A Tale Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires, and was serialized in Piker Press in 2019.

I’m sharing it here because a friend is having some challenges using 1st Person POV, and The Goatmen of Aguirra uses 1st Person POV throughout.

Read The Goatmen of Aguirra, Part 12.

Hope you enjoy.


The Goatmen of Aguirra (Finale)

 
Tenku wakes me early in the morning. He is as excited as I’ve ever seen him.

“Where are we going?”

“Yes.” He gently butts me.

I know what he means. The nannies are kidding. The field behind the village is littered with nannies on their sides, their legs folded slightly up towards their bellies and their eyes glazed. They do not scream or weep. There seems to be no pain at all. Tenku leads me to Hepob. Gomer is with her.

I ask questions, the xenopologist in me still strong even though I’m sure my transmissions are no longer reaching any ship.

Kids are born one hundred twenty-eight Aguirran days after conception. Kids are always born in the village. They’re only single births with twins being very rare and it is unusual for any individual pair to have more than two children. If there is is a methodology for deciding which partners will have more kids it alludes me.

It is dawn and the kidding begins. Like popcorn in an old style popper, the plateau pops with the bleats of first one kid then another, the sky filling with bleats and nays and hinnies as the kids pop from their mothers, the air turning first rich then acrid then pungent as puddles of blood and bowel and afterbirth meet the rising sun. The kids’ coats are damp, matted flat and mucousy. They steam as they dry. This is perhaps why they are born so early in the day; to ensure their coats being dry and fluffed before the night’s cold and rain. Close my eyes and I can hear the nannies’ tongues licking, scraping, and cleaning their kids, followed closely by the hollow sucking as the nannies consume the afterbirth.

It is the first time I’ve seen kids this early in their life. They more closely resemble goats back home –

Home.

Where am I?

There is a cracking sound inside my head and I feel myself drawn into the ground, my spine and legs fused into a trunk and roots reaching deep.

Where am I?

– although their craniums are noticeably larger and the eyes more obviously placed for binocular vision. But male and female kids walk on all fours and follow their mothers around just a few moments after birth, butting their mothers legs, near knocking the nannies over to get at their milk.

Hepob is on her knees before me, a newborn billy nipping her coat to get at her teats. Gomer comes over to me and places his left hand forward. “She is yours now. I have given you a son.”

“What?”

He leans forward and grabs my testicles in his hand. His left hand. He takes his hand away then grabs me with his right. He says something, an untranslatable word but now its meaning is clear to me. Home. The untranslatable word is “I-Am-Home.” The meaning is not transitive but transcendental. It is an equivalence.

 

Does this thing work anymore? The lights come on. I know it records. I just don’t know if there’s anybody listening. Or anyone to listen.

Tenku is dead. Gomer, soon, I think. Age, when it comes, comes quickly to them. Gracefully, though. He has left me his Wa’asis. Hepob is teaching her daughters how to grow and cultivate it. What was once so unique I now know as ordinary. Unlike us, Goatmen mate for life. A mate’s passing is announced with a song. I suppose it would be translated as “He/She waits for us” that starts with the mate and finishes when the youngest has chorused that line.

The Theisen are always with me now. They’ve told me about their technology, one we had long, long ago and forgot because something inside us didn’t let the blue-eyed Neanderthals live.

I have blue eyes.

Our technology, they tell me, was developed because we feared the unique, the different, thus we created a science which ultimately made everyone equal without and did nothing to make us equal within. We developed the means to give everyone equality then mocked and mistrusted those who used the means.

How is it here the Neanderthals lived? How come evolution provided no challenges?

 

A young nanny has asked me to take her to the Theisen. I was afraid of this. As soon as she asked, by a communication I do not yet understand, Gomer was there. “Come,” he said. After some walking we are near a cave I recognize but don’t know where from. “You go in. I’ll stay here and watch.”

There is no need for Wa’asis this time, but I take some anyway. Dutch Courage for what’s inside.

 

I’m climbing the Theisen. There is no indication of how long I’ve been doing it, although I feel many days and nights have passed. As always with them, I am naked.

Long before I see their tops, I see Aguirra fall away below me. Shortly after, stars dwindle in the distance. Galaxies come and go. Nebulae bathe me then recede. The gravity storms of blackholes and radiation tides of pulsars wash over me without affect as I pass them, one by one.

Still the tops of the Theisen aren’t in sight. There is something, though. A barrier of some kind. It is semi-solid, firm yet yielding, and like Ezekiel breaking through to see the mechanisms of the Universe, I go through.

I know where I am. Robin is gone. So is Jeremy. So is The Merrimack and her crew. Earth is no more. There is no taste or scent of her.

Definitions are by what, not by who, and at the top of the Theisen the what and the who are one.

I see myself reflected in the whirlpools of this space, a goatman with broken horns staring at me. He waves and smiles.

And I remember. When I was a child. Shopping for Christmas Trees. It was a large lot. A field. Acres and acres of trees. Getting lost. Not hearing my parents voices or the voices of any elders or other children at all.

Just hearing the voices of the trees.

Screaming at what they said. Not wanting to accept or believe but knowing it was true.

I let go of the Theisen and start to fall, unafraid of the descent, knowing where I am and knowing now which direction is down.

I emerge from the cave and know many days have passed. Gomer, my first-friend and -brother, has died outside the cave. Hepob seeks comfort from me and weeps. Between sobs she whispers “He waits for us” and, not understanding, dimly aware, I quietly join in.

 

My kid is ten years old now. He is strong and fine and makes me proud. Gomer, too, I think is proud. In my dreams he offers to go into Hepob again if I wish another child.

Not yet, I tell him. There is something first I must do.


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The Goatmen of Aguirra, Part 12

The Goatmen of Aguirra is one of my favorite stories and, based on comments, popular among my readers (thankee!). It appears in my self-published Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires, as an individual ebook The Goatmen of Aguirra: A Tale Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires, and was serialized in Piker Press in 2019.

I’m sharing it here because a friend is having some challenges using 1st Person POV, and The Goatmen of Aguirra uses 1st Person POV throughout.

Read The Goatmen of Aguirra, Part 11.

Hope you enjoy.


The Goatmen of Aguirra (Part 11)

 
I don’t know how long I’ve been here at this point. I’ve been making records as often as I think to, always when I wake up, but have no idea of how long it has been.

Hepob and all the other females of kid-bearing age are due soon, if not today. I wonder who Hepob’s mate is, or if she even has one. For that matter, why are there only two sexes here? Why not one, or ten? There is a life form on Chalderon that was at first thought to use seven hosts before it could reproduce. We discovered too late there were seven sexes and each played a significant part in the fertilization and development of the embryo.

Unfortunately, only the last sex was sentient, and when your life cycle is several thousand years and your planet is colonized right before the end of your mating period?

It is too horrible to think about.

Tenku is here. It’s black root time.


Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post and requires either General Membership (free) or a Subscription (various levels). Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. All posts are free to all members save certain posts in the My Work category. Enjoy!

The Goatmen of Aguirra, Part 11

The Goatmen of Aguirra is one of my favorite stories and, based on comments, popular among my readers (thankee!). It appears in my self-published Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires, as an individual ebook The Goatmen of Aguirra: A Tale Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires, and was serialized in Piker Press in 2019.

I’m sharing it here because a friend is having some challenges using 1st Person POV, and The Goatmen of Aguirra uses 1st Person POV throughout.

Read The Goatmen of Aguirra, Part 11.

Hope you enjoy.


The Goatmen of Aguirra (Part 11)

 
The translator is failing so I use it sparingly. The recorder I use because I can. I will take a guess and record the date as 916015.

Funny how much lighter these units have become without The Merrimack to power them. The mists cleared. The earth is churned more than before due to the leaping and running of the young billies. Most of the elder billies have gone, as have all of the young. There is no more rumbling. I peer over the edge of the Tower and make out the bodies of those who didn’t make it.

Tenku is staring at me.

“What happened here? What was this?”

He grabs my genitals. I don’t know if that is the answer, but it is the only response I get.

He doesn’t seem surprised by them. I am surprised at the gentleness of his touch. They must seem a child’s, weak and ineffective in his hands. How did an ancient Hebrew oath right find its way here, I wonder.

Back in the village, Hepob offers me the same porridge as when I arrived. It tastes slightly different and I see scrapings of the black root in it.

After I eat, I rest.

 

I slept long and deeply, yet my sleep was fogged by dreams as thick as the altiplano’s Aguirran gnats. I no longer know how reliable or intelligible this redaction has become.

I remember several dreams, although only a few clearly. In one, I was back at the ship. Sanders, Galen, Tellweiller, and Nash walk through me and past me as if I don’t exist, nor can they hear me even though I scream at them. The Old Ones have advanced. The Merrimack was called home.

In one dream, I watched Galen and Tellweiller on one of Dave’s C3I monitors, then realized I was Dave watching the monitor. This wasn’t a common dream, where you know who you are and have a sense of yourself no matter what you are in the dream. Here, I was more a passenger along for the ride; not David Sanders, but able to experience his environment, thoughts, and emotions along with him. Not a pleasant journey. He seems a lonely, fearful man.

On the monitor, I watched Tom ask Bob if he’d like to join him in a little exploring. “Care to come along?” I sat with Dave in C3I as they finished lunch in the Common. Dave tapped in the commands for a two-way screen split and zoomed a separate window onto each man’s face. His eyes, always quick, looked down and over his nose at the images on the screen. They went out of focus momentarily and he “hmmed”, bridging his fingers against his mouth and nose. His eyes still out of focus, he titled his head back further, just enough so he could see the tip of his nose in the foreground of their faces. This is an unconscious habit he has when talking to people.

As the two men cleaned up their table and left the Common, Dave adjusted the Eyes to follow them out of the ship. They hadn’t travelled far when they stopped. Without even looking for any remotes or robotics, they fell into each other’s arms, laughing and giggling, pulling off their suits and, making themselves comfortable against each other, finally … finally I looked away, not so much embarrassed as wanting to afford them their privacy. My only thought was “How could they have kept this secret so long?”


Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post and requires either General Membership (free) or a Subscription (various levels). Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. All posts are free to all members save certain posts in the My Work category. Enjoy!