The new Current Story is called A Stroll in Breda, and I have a lot of trouble deciding what genre it lies in. It is a very gentle excursion into weird fiction, lacking the brutality of finish that marks horror, and without the overt unreality of fantasy. As you’ll see in the tags, this had led me to stuff its octagonal peg in both a square and a round hole at the same time.
There is an something of authorial personal experience to this piece, but only trace elements. My father does indeed come from Breda (or an immediately adjacent village which has since been absorbed), and I have stood in several of the places mentioned. The Mastbos, for all its trim plantation nature, has the power to be a very eerie place in the right light. The beer is unreasonably good, and not just in the little bar across the street from the old tank.
The new Current Story, The Golden Oracle, is the sort of thing that a writing chap could get in a variety of troubles over. At the back of it are a couple of authors whose works I quite enjoy.
The first burden I’m giving myself, and the one I’m content to shoulder, is one of vocabulary. When I decided to pursue this story in the general way I did, I seemed to me that the style should match the setting, as far as I was able to make it. Since I don’t have a publisher to please, I didn’t need to suppress that urge. I don’t think “blatant attempt to pretend to 19th century writing style” is a trigger warning yet, but I suppose there are some who will appreciate a warning all the same.
There is another burden I look with distaste at and will attempt to leave where it lies. I am known by some to be a fan of the writing of H.P. Lovecraft, and if that’s news to you, I don’t deny it. The problem with this admission is that it brings with it a question of whether I also admire some of his less amiable qualities. The way I phrase that should give a clue, but let me be clear; Lovecraft’s racism saddens me deeply, and I do not share it. I bring this up because I’m setting a story in early 19th century England, and trying to write in the style of that time, and I’m presenting the reactions of people of that time and place to foreigners. I try to go no farther than I absolutely have to, but people do like to impute a writer’s attitudes by holding up characters as an example.
On a final note, I’ll admit to there being an element of hubris at work here as well. The initial inspiration for this story was a bit in the middle of Sheridan le Fanu’s The Room at the Dragon Volant which is marvelously weird on its face… but for one who spent a childhood in the 1970s getting very angry with Scooby Doo’s approach to the supernatural, it felt like a big fat cheat when the truth of it was unveiled. I wrote this story in part to get the taste of that out of my mouth.
I will still bow to le Fanu, generally. I know my place.
The new Current Story, which like the one it replaces is a flash, is offset in season. I had expected, when getting my batting order sorted out, that the December/January transition would find much of North America wriggling in the grip of tyrant Winter and we’d all like a vicarious excursion into summer.
Mild temperatures, however, seem to be the norm this year, although there have been some odd extremities of wind and snow in some locations. The Mermaid Parade remains the new story, though, because however wanting in chill it is, there’s still a bleakness to winter that I don’t mind being distracted from for a moment.
I’ll also mention that the genesis of the story was from merely reading the phrase “Mermaid Parade” in a state of profound ignorance as to how the actual item (which there is one of; if this is news to you as it was to me, here’s the straight goods on it) was conducted. After some giggling at the more whimsical mental images, this story is what fell out of my head. As with most stuff that drops from that chamber, it has little to do with the real world, and I hope anyone who has a deep and abiding fondness for the actual parade will forgive the excursion I took.
A quick little Christmas story for those who aren’t completely distracted by wrapping gifts and watching Alastair Sim go bonkers, and it is indeed based on a true story (exclamation point).
If you’re at all sensible, you’re on your guard now. If one is willing to carefully file facts to fit, every item of fiction can be found to have a real-world foundation… or rather, some real-world event can be pressed into service.
But, yes, this is based on a real-world event. I was recently in a room with a TV showing a broadcast image of a fireplace. That actually happened.
Merry Christmas to everyone to whom it is appropriate. I’ll also wish an appropriate mix of jollity and reflection for any who observe a different solstice-proximate holiday, of which there are many. Now, I’m off to wrap presents and get goofy on egg nog.
With the exception of one anomalous year, I have never travelled at Christmas; I have enjoyed the luxury of living in the same city as my immediate family nearly my whole life. This is not to say that I don’t want to travel, and indeed would travel a lot if means were at hand. Since they’re not, I have to do my travelling in my imagination most of the time.
For example, there’s a bit of a framing device in the new Current Story, The Healing Power of Crystals, which suggests a trip to England undertaken by me and my wife. Flummery, alas– she’s never been to Blighty, apart from a brief layover in Heathrow nearly twenty years ago (a frustration which still occasionally sets her quivering). When we do go, I say with unfounded optimism, I hope any of our stops offer anything near this sort of entertainment.
To those who find themselves wondering why this story isn’t particularly Christmas-flavoured, I offer this defence: M.R. James’s stuff wasn’t often seasonally thematic either.
This weekend, my generally quite North American family will be observing Sinterklaasje (fellow long-time fans of the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast will understand what it means to say that some of the background noise of my childhood was in the Dutch language). Our idiosyncratic approach to the day sees a handing of a single small present to each of the kids in the room after a small clue-driven scavenger hunt, while the adults try not to look meaningfully in the direction of the next clue lest Zwaart Piet appear to steal our rum.
Since I’ve already got a bit of a scavenger hunt going, I’m marking the day here by simply posting a very silly little bit of fiction, the short title of which is Two Natural Oddities. A bit of fun and self-flagellation, in keeping with the season.
The new Current Story has given me a lot of trouble. Reticence is the third title I’ve hung on it, and while it’s the best so far I’m still not quite settled on it. It also is so quiet in its approach that I feel a qualm hanging the label Horror on it, but it really doesn’t agree with anything else. It’s more or less a ghost story, and definitely a story about haunting.
There is also a fairly open-ended game attached to this story. To do homage to one of my psychopathies, I’m going to give away a fountain pen to the first person to comment on this post who can identify the four literary references I’m making in the story. It’s not a very grand pen, but I like it enough myself to want to see it used more (I’ve got rather a lot of pens, and this one gets neglected in the crowd), and it comes in its original packaging so you can believe it’s brand new. It’s also probably less reward than the work attached to it justifies, as a couple of the references involved are pretty obscure.
So, those inclined to a free pen, get your thinking caps on. Name the authors and works I’m referencing, and remember that as on Jeopardy, a nearly correct answer may help another contestant. Unlike Jeopardy, the answer can be in the form of a statement, although question form will be admitted.
To comment, you have to tell the comment mechanism your email address. That’s how I’ll contact you. Please don’t put your address, email or otherwise in the comment; strange people may pester you. Date stamps on comments will be considered authoritative; first correct answer is the only winner.
This new Current Story is called Join the Chorus. I was somewhat startled, when I had it out for comment, to hear that it was full of Christian imagery– this is probably a result of having grown up in a country which has a majority of its population derived from European immigrants (or at least had– I think they’re still the biggest group, even if they no longer outnumber all others put together), and certainly wasn’t the intention. Possibly, since this wasn’t a universal response from the readers, those who made the comment were acting upon their own programming.
While I’m professing my secular inclinations, I’d like to wish everyone a happy Fountain Pen Day. May the first Friday in November find you with ink in your pen and a song in your heart!
Tomorrow being what it is, I have a small bit of more or less seasonal whimsy to offer for the new Current Story. We hear a lot of fatigue with one sub-genre of Horror or another; The Inconvenient Weekend of the Dead is my response to my own manifestation along those lines.
No, I promise I’m not doing any fan fiction on this site. At least, not Star Trek fan fiction. There’s plenty of that in the world.
The new Current Story was prompted by my brother mentioning Chekhov’s old maxim at just the right moment, when some valves of my imagination were properly set. Thus, after a certain amount of effort, I arrive at The Third Act, which if we stretch a little can be wedged into the horror genre– you certainly would not want to be in the protagonist’s shoes.