Yesterday I posted a list of my 2019 publications.
Compiling that list was an interesting experience. For one thing, it was more than I had thought I had done–I tend not to spend much time thinking about what I’ve done, I focus on what I’m doing next. (Part of why I’m so bad at promotion, I’m sure.)
But this is the time of year for looking back and I want to take a moment to discuss each of my stories and see if maybe I can find some pattern to my year’s production.
“The Summer Of Love” Time Travel/Alternate History SF. Told from the point of view of a man in the world brought into existence when a US soldier from 1968 goes back in time to kill Adolf Hitler before he can grow up. I took the idea that without Hitler Germany remained allied with the Soviet Union, and as a result the League Of Nations became a Communist World Government. It is not a happy story.
“The Blacklight Ballet” Thriller/Horror. A building engineer sent to survey an abandoned shopping mall finds a cult of cannibal clowns squatting in it, and must fight them to escape and rescue their captive. Nothing explicitly supernatural is going on in this story, although I do kind of hint that the leader might be something other than human.
“These Were The Things That Bounded Me” Survival SF. A young man in a wheelchair has to find ways to survive after a plague wipes out the population of his small town, joined by a young woman blinded by the disease.
“Mystery Train” Historical Fantasy/Horror. A railroad employee set to guard a body being transported cross country is confronted by a supernatural creature intent on claiming the dead man’s soul. I wrote this from a Catholic perspective and I think it works–I asked a number of practicing Catholics to read it over to vet the theology.
“The Bullet From Tomorrow” Time Travel SF. A detective in 1965 Los Angeles is visited by a man from the future who enlists his aid to prevent a nuclear accident during the Watts Riots. I really like this story, I had a lot of fun with the chemistry between the characters. If I were to suggest any of my published works be nominated for a Hugo Award, it would be this one.
“My Foe Outstretched” SF Action. Sometime in the future two men enter a modified subway tunnel to duel to the death. The story is constructed around a Tales From The Crypt style poetic justice ending.
“Replevin” Memoir. A mostly true story from when I worked as a repo man. Very short and rather atypical for me.
“Whatever Lola Wants”. Crime Fiction. A first person thriller about a man who is blackmailed by a figure from his past, and how he deals with the situation. I was going for a particular Pulp Crime style with this one, and I guess I nailed it because Switchblade Magazine bought it.
Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts. Fantasy Noir. The project that ended up dominating last year, writing the stories and then working with Lagrange Books to edit it together into a collection. More than an anthology but not quite a novel, the stories fit together–I think neatly–to paint a picture of the protagonist Erik Rugar.
“The Lord Of Slow Candles” Weird Modern Fantasy. Taken from my days working the night shift at a convenience store, I tried a Tim Powers style Magical Realism piece, taking the odd behavior of a bag lady and inventing a rationale for it. I had fun with it and I think Grace’s story is bittersweet and strangely moving.
Looking over this list I see a common thread of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. This pleases me. I suppose if I have a message in my fiction, it would be that we never really know what we are capable of until we are tested, and you can’t find out what you’re made of without losing a little skin.
It’s our choices that make us who we are, and, I suppose, it’s the hard choices and the dark places we stumble into that reveal who we are.