Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Tiny Iris

My short story, "Tiny Iris", has recently been published in the anthology, Slave Stories: Scenes From The Slave State edited by Chris Kelso for Omnium Gatherum. As usual I'm blogging about the genesis of the story and there may be spoilers. The book is a shared world anthology. The Slave State is a place located in the 4th dimension, a place where humans are forced to work extracting inessential minerals from mining enclaves until the end of their lives...

Chris approached me for a story for the anthology and I agreed to participate if I found something suitable. Whilst I do often write for themed anthologies, I've rarely done so for shared worlds and I wasn't quite sure whether it would be something I would go for. As it happened, when Chris emailed over the guidelines and other works written within the slave state mythos so I could get a feel for the subject, his email header stated 'stories for hank'. This got me thinking about Henry "Hank" Chinaski, the alter ego of the American writer Charles Bukowski, and I realised that Bukowski's gritty novels such as "Post Office" where individuals live disparate lives walking a tightrope between existence and desolation whilst working mundane jobs weren't a million miles away from the Slave State situation. As it happened, that email header had nothing to do with the book (Chris had forwarded something without changing a previous header), but serendipity led me to my story.

I'd had "Tiny Iris" as a title for a while, without knowing what it would relate to. Somehow it felt right for this piece, and the whole thing was written in a few hours from the title, the Bukowski vibe, and the slave state mythos I had read. I wrote "Tiny Iris" whilst listening to "Big Calm" by Morcheeba on repeat.

In Ersatz you needed to keep yourself to yourself, not deviate from your expected persona. Any diffraction was an aberration. Before you knew it you'd be transferred to the mining enclaves, pointlessly digging out nothing of any importance until the day you died. At least in the post office you could consider you had purpose. Not that Hank ever knew anyone who had actually received a letter. When he started on the mail run he only delivered to derelict properties.

"Slave Stories: Scenes From The Slave State" also contains fiction by Laura Lee Bahr, John Langan, Mary Turzillo, Simon Marshall-Jones, Gary J. Shipley, Mick Clocherty, Violet LeVoit, Shane Swank, Clive Tern, Preston Grassmann, Roger Lovelace, Dale McMullen, Rhys Hughes, Gregory L. Norris, Andrew Coulthard, Kris Saknussemm, P. R. Differ, Richard Thomas, Ian Welke, John Palisano, Beckett Warren, Tony Yanick, Love K├Âlle, Chris Kelso, Spike Marlowe, Seb Doubinsky, Michael Faun, Hal Duncan, Mitchel Rose and Gio Clairval.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Blood For Your Mother

My short story, "Blood For Your Mother", has recently been published in Black Static #48, and as usual I'm blogging a few words as to how the story came about. There will be spoilers for those who have yet to read it.

In this instance, the gestation of the story is a little difficult to remember. As always I start with a title. I 'think' Blood For Your Mother was a line which I pulled from a conversation completely out of context to how it was eventually used. Having had the title I then needed a story to fit it. The obvious choice would have been a vampire story, but I rarely write those and in any event the 'obvious choice' is a choice I rarely choose to make. I found myself considering the word 'mother' which by implication leads to a child which in turn implies pregnancy. What if the mother in my story came to crave blood during pregnancy - as some females crave coal, ice-cream, gherkins, etc - and what if following that pregnancy the craving failed to stop? What if the child became estranged through the parents need to protect it? What if the child felt rejected and unloved? How might she feel forty years hence?

Add to that a Kafkaesque-mutation situation and you have a piece which mixes a dying father, childhood trauma, family estrangement, redemption, resentment and coming to terms with even the strangest of realities.

Here's a bit of it: I look at the toilet and then at the wall opposite. When I was a child of a certain height, sitting on the toilet led my gaze to that wall, where, in a whorl combined of too thickly applied paint and indentations in the plaster I had discerned a face that I sometimes spoke to. A placebo of a God that I knew didn't exist, but which alleviated my complete belief in the unknown that I had always found such a crushing burden. Latterly I came to understand what pareidolia meant, but even so it remained a comfort. I sat on the toilet now, and angled my body to child-size in an attempt to see it again, but either my grown-up stature made it impossible or the re-painting of the bathroom had obliterated its traces. After a while I returned up the stairs, slowly and heavily, to the face that I couldn't avoid.

"Blood For Your Mother" was written in one sitting whilst listening to Bjork's "Vespertine" album on repeat.

Black Static #48 contains new novelettes and short stories by Jeffrey Thomas, Cate Gardner, Steven J. Dines, Andrew Hook, and Stephen Bacon. The cover art is by Martin Hanford, and interior illustrations are by Joachim Luetke, Tara Bush, and Richard Wagner. Features: Coffinmaker's Blues by Stephen Volk (comment); Notes From the Borderland by Lynda E. Rucker (comment); Case Notes by Peter Tennant (book reviews and an interview with Simon Kurt Unsworth); Blood Spectrum by Tony Lee (DVD/Blu-ray reviews). Buy it here.