Tag Archives: stories

Scott Sigler’s new short-story collection: Blood is Red

If you’ve read through much of this site, you’ll see that I love to read and have an obsession with authors. If you’ve missed that Scott Sigler is one of those authors, this post will bring you back into the loop.

Today, in honor of mothers, Scott Sigler released a new short story collection, Blood is Red. Filled with 8 short, horror stories, this new collection is a steal for less than $1 in the U.S. Amazon Kindle store.

Each story has a distinct voice and style. And each story in the collection reaches beyond the confines of horror into the heart of what makes a good story – some insight into life beyond the story. As with all of Scott Sigler’s other work, the depth and heart of the characters makes these stories.

Blood is Red also marks the first national/international publication I’ve edited. Reading the stories, and offering notes and suggestions was an interesting, and fun, experience. The most difficult part ended up being the frustrating lack of people to discuss the stories.

I’m most excited that now I can easily make everyone I know read “The Great Snipe Hunt.” Seriously, the story still kicks around in my head, making me jump whenever I’m walking down the alley behind work and papers rustle at the edge of my vision. (Thanks for that Scott)

Some of the stories are available in his podcast feed, if you want to check them out before you commit a dollar to him. But if you’re a fan of horror, Scott Sigler is a solid bet. Especially for less than a dollar.

On the willing suspension of disbelief

I read mostly science fiction and fantasy. I watch a lot of fantasy and science fiction movies and tv shows. And I listen to mostly science fiction and fantasy podcasts (with a darker, horror bent).

And I’m telling you that so you know I am very willing to suspend my disbelief.

You want to throw someone out of an airlock and pick them up alive in 30 seconds, I’m with you. I’m not tied to hard or soft science fiction; I love  both. Want magic and elves and faeries and Dream to be real characters interacting with everyday people? Sweet. I’m very well versed in the lore and am looking forward to seeing what you do with the conventions. I’m even willing to go with changes to the rules that have been set up over the history of writing, if you’re doing something interesting (I’d put up with sparkly vampires as long as you can kill them with a wooden stake and don’t break your own rules to tell a stalker story).

But what I’m finding is that I don’t like to discover what genre you’re in half way through your work. If your work is  a short story, then I can go with the whole thing and find out at the end, but that’s because you aren’t a significant time commitment.  And I generally pick up books in the science fiction/fantasy section, which gives you more time too. But if you’re a movie or a tv show, I better have the same idea you do in the  first 15 minutes or the first episode.

And as I come across more stories, I find that I need to have a better idea of what kind of science fiction or fantasy you are. There are different rules, and I need to know what to falls under the contract of willing suspension of disbelief in your story.

I realized this last night when I was watching the finale of Lost. I watched the first couple of seasons, but then left the show, as the lack of answers was too frustrating. But since I knew everyone would be talking about the finale, I made an effort to see it. I caught most of the recap, and felt prepared enough to watch the end without being too confused over all the new characters and plot developments.

And I as I watched the final episode, I kept thinking of the fifth book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (you read that right) where the brackets all start closing and the variables become constants. And it dawned on me that Lost was not primarily science fiction, like I’d initially thought, but it was fantasy.

I’d never thought Lost was hard science fiction, because really what actual scientific explanation could there be for an island that doesn’t exist on the maps with all the satellites in orbit and Google maps . But the idea of the magnetic field, and the company that worked on the island seemed to fit into soft science fiction. And I can go with that. That’s more like Eureka, and while there’s some scientific basis, it’s really mostly made up. Like hard science fiction and fantasy had a kid.

finish the rambling

Odd and the Frost Giants

I loved this story. Neil Gaiman is a master at taking a stable mythology and weaving a new story into the established set.

This story of Odd is one of the shortest. Not to say that it is in any way inferior to his other tales, it’s just that the scope of this story fits nicely into its well constructed cover.

Odd, a rather small human child, is delightful as he interacts with some of the more famous Norse gods in the same manner he interacts with humans. His practicality makes him endearing and worthy of the cheering he encourages. One of the best examples of his interactions happens early-ish in the story.

Odd sighed. “Which one of you wants to explain what’s going on?” he said.

“Nothing’s going on,” said the fox brightly. “Just a few talking animals. Nothing to worry about. Happens everyday. We’ll be out of your hair first thing in the morning.”

This exchange between Odd and the gods at the beginning of their interactions solidifies Odd’s reactions to the rest of his experiences before this tale ends.

The best part about the American edition is the biography Neil Gaiman writes at the end. The single page takes very little time to read, but those few moments are some of the best in the entire book. His last page supplies an excellent example for caring about writing, even when there is no guarantee no one will read it because there are always readers like me who will leave no word unregarded.

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Rock and Water (part 2)

So here is the second part. I’ve already started on another section. Who knows – it might grow up to be a real story….

After a fall through something that might have constituted a Muse video, Leau and Felsen found themselves on rather squishy ground. Taking a moment to check that they were each themselves and in one proper piece, Leau stood up and brushed some of the flotsam from their journey off her jeans. Looking around where they had landed, Leau and Felsen immediately saw that this world wasn’t too different from their own on the surface. Sure the ground resembled the safety coverings on new elementary school playgrounds, both in feel and maroon-brown color, but other than that they could have been in nearly any park at home. The air was apparently close enough that they didn’t have any problems breathing, and the environment generally resembled home. Felsen looked at Leau and began to think that maybe he’d gone crazy. There wasn’t anything in his experience that prepared him for this squishy grounded insane dream world reached through a wave. Particularly the large creature he could see approaching them over her shoulder. Shaking his head he asked, “Where are we? How did we get here? What’s that large creature?”
Leau had known that these were the types of questions she’d be facing for the first part of their trek, and that knowledge partially formed her lingering dread for the adventure she’d been secretly hoping would happen her entire life. She had already been formulating answers to his first two questions as he opened his mouth, so it took Leau a few moments to realize that Felsen had asked a question she wasn’t prepared for. Swallowing her first responses, Leau spun on her heel to face whatever was coming up on them. She swallowed again to contain the fear.
What was quickly approaching looked like a cross between a sun fish, a giant squid, and the Dalek/human hybrid from the new Dr. Who. Very creepy – particularly after a fresh fall through the ocean holding hands with a friend who was simply that. What Leau wanted to do more than anything else in the moment she saw the creature was to run screaming, but she knew that would do nothing to help the situation. So she took a deep breath, and faced the unknown creature with all the poise she could muster.
“What are you?” the squid creature demanded.
“Ummm, I’m Leau and this is Felsen. Where are we?” Leau, for all her reading, entered into this conversation with much trepidation. The creature’s appearance and physique had completely thrown her off and she was unsure just what this new encounter would bring. She could only hope the Felsen would let her take charge and not muck up the whole thing. There was a small part of her that was also worried about whether she’d be able to not muck up the whole thing either.
“What are you doing here if you don’t know where here is? How did you get this far in without talking to anyone? What is this nonsense? You’re coming with me – now.”

Rock and Water (part 1)

So I’m totally enjoying this time. I’ve started writing another story. I have no real idea where this is going. I’m still writing it. Maybe it’ll be long. Maybe it’ll just be long for me. In any event, the first part is done enough for the moment. I’m sure it’ll be revised several times. It’s kinda a fun game.

Leau couldn’t believe that she’d followed Felsen up here. It was true that there was nothing she liked better than water and rocks, but this was more than a little crazy. The water was crashing over the rock, and he wanted her to walk on top of it all? What kind of crazy person had she let lead her here? There was every possibility that they could get washed off. That was all well and good, but you never knew what could happen. What if they got swept off the rock and into some other world? Who knew what kind of crazy things would happen to their lives while they were away. Unless they ended up in a world that ran on a different time from theirs, then it wouldn’t be as bad because they would only be gone for a bit. That could be fun – traveling to different world. What if it was all underwater? That might be a bit difficult to manage, but the great thing about traveling to other worlds was that if they were significantly different from your own something in the traveling process made it so that you could survive. That’s how it always worked in the stories she’d read.
“I wonder what would happen if a wave washed us off… What would we find under the rocks?”
“I dunno. We’d probably get bashed into them and drown. The waves aren’t that big though, so there’s no need to worry about it.”

That was Felsen – practically pessimistic. As they reached the top of the rock and looked over the edge, Leau was beginning to hope (for one of the first times in her life) that nothing fantastic would happen. She’d forgotten that Felsen had never really read fantasy books, and while he’d watched some anime and science fiction, his favorites were always the rational ones and not so much the fantastic. He would have no idea how to fight a dragon, or what to do in the event of a goblin attack, or where the best places to find help would be. If they did get washed off the rock Leau would have to take charge because Felsen would immediately entrap them in the wizard’s plan to take over the kingdom, or the queen’s plot to overthrow the ruling powers. They would be dead in about two seconds if she didn’t take over. And while she didn’t mind taking charge, she didn’t want to have to explain all the conventions of the story they were in the midst of trying to save their lives. It’d just be easier if Felsen already understood how whatever world they found themselves in worked.

But those were all simply stories that Leau had played out in her head, and there was no real way that they would get washed off the rocks and into one of them. She wasn’t calling on the Goblin King, so there wouldn’t be an owl or anything; it would just be like all the other times they’d climbed on the rocks and played along the tidepools.

As the sun set over the ocean, the golden light gleamed off the water’s surface and made Leau squint. The sun was getting ever closer to the golden moment when everything would look like something out of the King Midas myth and even people like Felsen could feel the magic that bubbled under the surface of the world. And as Leau squinted into the sunset, she saw, for the briefest of moments, what she thought was a building. She looked harder and convinced herself that it was a new oil tower and not anything to be worried about. But as Leau looked again, she was unconsciously inching closer to Felsen. If they were about to be transported to another world, she wasn’t going to be too far to reach his hand. If there was one thing that she knew was imperative to their survival in whatever might happen in the next few moments it was that they had to end up in the same place together. Since he wasn’t interested in her, Felsen would never be close enough for Leau to grab his hand to ensure that wherever they went next, they would go there together. And at the moment that a wave she never saw coming swept up high onto the rock, the building resolved and she reached for his hand.
Felsen, however, didn’t have a clue as to what was happening, and so he didn’t reach out for her. He hadn’t been watching the sunset and the liquid gold flow over the surface of the earth. Oblivious to the glorious wonder he was missing, Felsen had been staring down in a tidepool and watching the progress of one of the numerous hermit crabs through its daily gauntlet for food. He’d heard the wave coming and quickly stood up. Felsen had just enough time to see that Leau was captivated by something out in the water and peer out into the sun. He hadn’t noticed Leau’s move closer to him, and didn’t reach out for her because he had no idea that her movement was necessary for them to end up in the next place together. But as Leau felt her body slipping off the rock and into the water that would conduct them to the unknown, she reached out farther and just managed to grab his hand. Once she was certain that they were now going to end up in the same place, Leau began to relax ever so slightly. Even if she’d have to teach him the ways of fantasy, at least she was with someone reliable and smart. He’d learn fast enough and then would be tremendously more fun to travel with.   

Cellophane flowers

So here is (probably the first) part of a story that I’ve written. And while I’m the author, it should be noted that I operate under the view that authors can write pretty much anything and not have it be completely autobiographical, nor something that they completely believe. I also do not work within the framework that authors completely determine the meaning of texts. That said, here is a story that I have written, take it for what you will…

“Cellophane flowers of yellow and green, Towering over your head. Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes, And she’s gone. Lucy…” His mind began to wander away from the words in the radio. It’d been like that for awhile now – jumping from one thing to the next. Whether this jump was out of self-preservation or just the same ADD he’d been suffering from was still up for debate. The song always had reminded him of everything he was drinking to erase, but with the self-destructive bent he’d been on recently, self-preservation didn’t seem like the most likely option. Brains were funny things though so he was left with the glimmer of uncertainty.

And really he’d nearly drunk enough to go through into the lab to begin the erasing process so he could’ve simply left Lucy in the sky to prep himself for this next phase. Memory erasure was still pretty new and he wasn’t entirely convinced he wouldn’t end up in a vegetative state from this brilliant idea. It was rather convenient that part of the process was to get drunk. He tended to feel much braver after a few drinks.Downing the last of his beer, he got up and walked to the back door. The attendant scanned him and, after verifying his blood alcohol level, moved aside so he could enter the lab. After one final bracing breath and quick review of why he couldn’t not do this, Led stepped over the threshold and walked with resolve to the next attendant. And while he was prepped, that same stuttering entered his consciousness. He ignored it, and, as the process began, he surrendered to the inevitable release and embraced the life that waited.

Led wasn’t actually running from anything more specific than a less than noticable life. He’d opted for the premium treatment to have the life he’d known erased and a better one uploaded. It was an easy decision as soon as he’d heard about it. There wasn’t much anything in Led’s life that he couldn’t let go of. There was no family, no friends that would really care if he suddenly didn’t exist, he wasn’t even irreplaceable at work. He was just another mediocrity taking up space in the world. He’d originally thought that suicide would be the best use of his life so that there could be more resources for someone the world would actually give a damn about, but he wasn’t that level of discontent yet. So he figured he’d push the restart button and try life again. If it failed this time, he’d left himself a note in his safe deposit box so that he’d avoid being stuck always trying again and again and be able to end his sad excuse for a life.

When Led had given his two week notice, his manager looked slightly surprised, but didn’t ask any questions. He hadn’t bothered to tell any of the other people he knew; what the point was in explaining his actions to an audience who didn’t care? The company had asked their routine questions to prevent people from dodging the law through the erasure, but once they were satisfied that he was legit, they too stopped caring. Even Led hadn’t really bothered to push himself to answer why he’d decided that the life he’d had wasn’t worth his, or anyone else’s, time.

If pressed, Led might have mumbled something about not doing much with his life and about how, as just another drone, the best thing he could do to advance society was give up his place so that someone with ideas (or a backbone) could thrive and make life better for everyone.  

Very altruistic sounding.

The reality of the situation was not as self-sacrificing (it never is).

What Led was unwilling to face, even for himself and with no one ever knowing, was that Led was tired of being alone.

For as long as Led had been alive, he’d been alone. For reasons he didn’t fully understand, he’d never found anyone to be paired with. He’d seen the few friends he’d had get married, or thought of them in conjunction with other friends, but he’d never experienced that. Even at work he’d never been put on a project with the same person consistently. There would occasionally be groups that he’d work with, but not one person who got to know him better than anyone else. If he’d taken the time to reflect on his life, Led might have thought through why it was that no one was paired with him, and why he’d never invited anyone’s curiosity.

But that was not something that occupied Led’s mind. And so Led had led a life that left him unsatisfied to the point of restarting it through the new erasure process. That was pretty much all there was to Led – a life alone full of non-self-reflection. But as he opened his eyes, rubbed his hand through his sandy-brown hair, and took stock of the room he found himself in, all that had made up his life before was gone. He no longer even had the option of taking stock of why people hadn’t ever felt the need to get to know him because that Led was gone. Sure the safe deposit key was there, along with a very few other personal affects, but the man who had created and cared for them no longer existed. Led was on the brink of a whole new world.