Tuesday, 26 August 2014


My short story, "Periscope", has recently been published online at Perihelion SF (you can read the whole story from that link), and as usual I'm blogging a few words about the creation of the piece for those who might be interested. Please note, there will be spoilers so it's probably best to read the story before reading this blog.

This particular story was written a couple of years ago and has taken a while to find the right home. Because of this, I find my memory to be a little sketchy as to its birth. I certainly remember having the title - a simple word with much potential - for some time. And once I had the name of the main character (Dr Swe Swe Win) I also had the setting for the story (Myanmar) which added colour to the piece.

The periscope in the title is a device through which the future can be glimpsed, like a machine for scrying. The 'twist' in my story is that the Dr is the only one who can see the future through the device and the information received is completely random - snapshot glimpses of a future without any indication of a date. The 'previews' he receives are therefore more or less useless, yet prevailing governments seize on his visions, desperate to have the upperhand in a world that's gone to pot. This macro world view is counteracted by the micro, the Dr's thoughts on his current relationship and his questioning of what in fact is reality.

I personally think it's a story which improves with each reading. So don't just read it once, read it twice!

Here's an extract: The periscope Dr Swe Swe Win had designed was mammoth and steel, circular in nature, with mirrors at every conceivable angle. He wasn't sure of the science in it because he hadn't expected it to work, but similar to scrying the periscope delivered images directly to the eye of the beholder. Nostradamus used a bowl of water to see the future whilst he was under trance. Dr Swe Swe Win had the periscope.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Beyond The Island Of The Dolls

My short story, "Beyond The Island Of The Dolls", was recently published in the anthology Postscripts To Darkness Volume 5, and as usual I'm blogging the gestation of the story for those who are interested. There may be spoilers if you have yet to read it.

The initial inspiration for the piece came after I discovered (online, rather than in person) the Isla de las Munecas situated near Mexico City. There's plenty of information about this island online, but the following photograph should give an idea as to why I was intrigued by this destination. Naturally I couldn't resist using the location for a story idea. At the same time, the title popped into my head. Naturally an adaption of "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls" in a totally different context, I liked the association and also the use of the word 'beyond' because this tied in with how I wanted to work the story.

What I was loathe to do, however, was the obvious: some kind of doll-come-to-life story, or even a straightforward horror story. Whilst visually the island might appear creepy, research indicates the reason it looks that way is more about an individual managing grief. I thought it better to use the island as a metaphor, perhaps for catharsis for the main character, and in that respect an almost anti-horror story seemed appropriate. This thought coincided with guidelines I had seen for a Des Lewis edited anthology, Horror Without Victims, and I wrote the piece with that market in mind. Stories are volatile things, however, and towards the end of the piece it was clear that I was trying to shoehorn the story into the anthology's remit without it taking a more natural course. As it happened, Des rightly bounced the story, and I revised the ending and began sending it elsewhere.

In my piece, it is the loss of a child which sends my main character travelling, and the discovery of the island goes some way to assuaging guilt and coming to some understanding, whilst not totally solving the problem. Grief doesn't disappear overnight, if ever; it simply needs to be assimilated into experience. Coincidentally, the death of the child in my story was written without the knowledge of the death of the child in the 'legend'. It was only afterwards that the more immediate connection became apparent.

Here's an extract:

"Those dolls on la isla de la munecas," continued Esteban, "they appear horrific because of their physical state, because they remind us of children, because our minds find it hard to differentiate between the child and the doll. Yet they have simply been neglected. Those exact same dolls, when new, would have been on similar displays within the four walls of a department store. It is only out of context that they appear horrific. And our imagination does the rest."

If you have read the story and have any thoughts on it either way please feel free to comment.

Postscripts to Darkness Volume 5, featuring a stunning array of strange fiction and illustrations, is $18 CAD inclusive of shipping worldwide. See the store page at http://pstdarkness.com/buying-pstd-5/ to order and for more information.