Okay, so, a number of things have happened since I last posted.
First: THE NOVEL IS DONE. Well, the first draft is. But I generally write relatively complete first drafts, so I don’t anticipate very much needing to be done to the structure of the thing in the editing stage–which I plan to start in a couple of weeks. I may have to vanish again right about then but for the present I plan to return to at least a semi-regular posting schedule.
Second, my numbers station-inspired story “The Cold Death of Papa November” is now up to read for free at Three-Lobed Burning Eye. You can also hear me reading it at that link (and you can download the mp3 for ipodery). I really do love that weird piece of… something. The story, I mean. I’m glad it’s been loosed on the world. And the rest of that issue of 3LBE is very worth your time.
And finally, another plug for Shadows & Tall Trees #2: Issue #1 sold out, and it’s very likely that this one will too, given the limited print run and the fact that people seem to like the magazine. So if you want it, I’d get it sooner rather than later. It is also very worth your time, and not just because of me (seriously, Steve Rasnic Tem’s piece in there is way unsettling).
And that’s it for me for now. But watch this space.
So I’m taking a short break from regular blogging. This is looking like a busy month for me and I want to get on top of some things before I pick it up again. I am looking to be back on schedule next week, hopefully. In the meantime, however, issue #2 of Shadows & Tall Trees is now available.
At the Top of the Stairs by Richard Harland
Back Among the Shy Trees by Steve Rasnic Tem
Memento Mori by Sunny Moraine
The Candle by Ian Rogers
Voices Carry by Eric Schaller
The Pool by Alison J. Littlewood
Devil’s Music by Louis Marvick
This is really a terrific collection of fiction and I’m very pleased to be in such great company. Shadows & Tall Trees has been getting some very positive buzz in general, and I’m privileged to be a part of it.
My own piece, “Memento Mori,” was inspired by the closing passage of Bob Doto of Quiet Earth’s review of Werner Herzog’s My Son My Son What Have Ye Done, which is one of the best movie reviews I’ve ever read (though I confess that I still haven’t seen the film in question). It concerns the question of what that would actually be like, what it might mean and how someone might process the experience. I decided that taking the analogy and running into extremely literal territory with it might produce something pleasingly surreal, and I hope I mostly succeeded in doing that.
Here’s the first little bit of it.
M-Brane SF #21 is now on sale and very much worth picking up; it features some really amazing work by some really talented authors. I close out the issue with my post-apocalyptic short story “Centralia”.
“Centralia” came from several different places. Most prominently, it came from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which was incredibly inspiring to me in terms of what a post-apocalyptic story could look like, feel like, and do. The Road gave me permission to write stories that presented the end of the world without explaining how it ended; the fact that everything had changed was enough to go on, and examining what that change meant to the people who lived through and in it became the focus.
The story also came from my own background and experiences growing up in southeastern Pennsylvania; I didn’t live in coal country, but I went there more than once, and it can be a profoundly affecting landscape (there are reasons why some of the film adaptation of The Road was shot there). Centralia is a real place, the fires really do burn endlessly underground, and a town really did die there–and is even still in the process of dying. Towns die slow, and they leave great bodies behind, though even those don’t last for long once the last inhabitant is gone.
The image of constant underground fire is obviously haunting–it was a profound inspiration for the makers of the Silent Hill film, among others–and the idea of coal leads in a kind of organic way to images of trains. From this mix emerged the core around which the story is built: the idea of the mindless continuation of that for which we no longer have any reason. Those who have left Earth behind continue to extract resources they may not even need in ways that are bizarrely archaic and inefficient. Those left behind on Earth travel endlessly for lack of anything else to do, though no place is better than any other and everywhere is rapidly getting worse. The trains push on through the night, automated and mindless. The fire burns beneath Centralia, unseen and quiet and patient, until at last two people come along who can feel its warmth… and find warmth in each other. They give it purpose, and they give each other purpose, which might be all any of us have when everything else is gone.
There’s really no proper end to the story. It never felt to me like it needed one.
Excerpt under the cut.