Stoked to announce that my sci-fi/horror story “Marzly’s Market” will appear in No Place Like Home: Tales From a Fractured Future, to be published by Angelic Knight Press in November, 2012. This is a story I began writing some years ago in the form of a novella. Its current form represents a true re-write, for though I liked the initial idea, it wasn’t until I revisited it last summer and completely changed the ending that I realized what it was really about.
Sometime I would like to do a full blog entry on re-writing, as I am re-writing a full length novel that will follow Slash of Crimson in the Crimes of Heaven and Hell series. I feel like I’ve been discovering some important elements of craft during this process and it’s definitely worth discussion.
But for now I’d like to focus on a theme-related topic, namely, that enigmatic sub-genre known as “sci-fi horror”. Many of my favorite novels, short stories and movies fall into this sub-genre. Alastair Reynolds’s Chasm City, Stephen King’s I am the Doorway and John Carpenter’s The Thing to name a few.
The nature of ‘genre’ can be a peculiar thing. A fine line distinguishes convention from cliché. And yet, as a fan of heavy metal music, for example, it is the fusion of things we expect and love (for example, loud, intricate guitar solos) with unusual, original twists, that allows form to fully function, as it were.
And so just for fun, I’d like to list a few conventional themes of sci-fi horror which still grab me when done well. My upcoming story attempts to put a twist on one of these, though I won’t spoil it by saying which…
1) The Derelict Spacecraft: What happened here? Who were they? Were they taken by aliens, or is it a ghost ship? A haunted house adrift in the stars, a perhaps taken by interstellar plague—such images are enough to draw me in for at least a few scenes to see where the narrative goes. And unlike haunted house thrillers, if you’re a fan of firepower, explosions and pyromania generally, such will usually augment the creep factor with some blazing action along the way.
2) Parasites: “We are talking to you from within the one called Carl Moore. We are not Carl Moore. Nothing will ever be the same.”
3) We dug it up, now it’s pissed: Worker: “Doc, what is that thing? Pull me up, man, I don’t get paid enough for this shit!” Scientist: “But it’s fascinating and utterly beautiful.” Worker: “Drop the lifeboats man! Gimme my check and get the fucking lifeboats!” Scientist: “If only we could harness its potential for all mankind. Or at least for our stock price…” Worker: “Nuke it! Nuke the whole place! Grab the espresso machine then NUKE IT ALL!”
4) It wants to get with our (men/women): “Oh Brad, I know he’s a segmented mollusk but there’s something about him.” “Jane, stand back, let me at ’im!” “But Brad, I’m carrying his larvae!” “Actually, Jane, about those larvae, they have my eyes.” (Blushes).
…well, there are plenty more themes and if anyone’s up for it, feel free to post them. Still, whatever conventions one might include in a story, its context and characters are what will generate its meaning. So while The Thing and Jurassic Park both feature some deadly ‘dug up’ critters—their creators imbued them with the imagination, style and historical context that supplies each with its own unique function and meaning.