When asked to describe my own fiction, or when asked to describe my writing process, I prefer to describe my favorite literature. I believe that good reading helps produce good writing.
Fiction where characters hold deep internal monologues about life and love and relationships does not interest me. I want to read stories that create vivid environments through which unique characters move and exciting situations take place. And as my friends know, there is a special place in my heart for tales of the disturbing and horrific.
I’m no armchair psychologist, but I know that my obsession with horror is a direct result of my religious upbringing. The King James Bible was the primary literature of my childhood. And I love the Bible not only for its goodness, but also for the sheer terror it contains. The scriptures haunted my dreams and stimulated my imagination as a young boy. I envisioned the angel of death flying over Egypt and sucking the lives out of the first-born, and I imagined David cutting off the foreskins of 200 dead Philistines. I thought about Abraham being told by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac. What could be more horrific than that? I cringed when thinking of the crucifixions on Golgotha.
What I love the most is a good, bleak dystopia, something that would make John the Revelator proud. After all, his book is the progenitor of all apocalyptic literature. But a good horror story, like the Christian Apocalypse, does not simply have to end with ultimate destruction. The blackest clouds are often tinged with the silver foreshadowing of hope for a better future…the biblical yearning for utopia.
Horror is not my only genre. I love beauty in prose and detailed imagery that awakens and colors fantastic settings. I love the writings of Marquez, Bradbury, Miéville, and Bacigalupi. And for this reason, I consider Bradbury’s “Ylla” one of the most beautiful short stories ever written.
On that note, here is a list of some of the short stories most influential to my writing. There are hundreds more, and this list is ever changing:
- “There Will Come Soft Rains,” by Ray Bradbury
- “Good Country People,” by Flannery O’Conner
- “The Grey Wolf,” by George MacDonald
- “Children of the Corn,” by Stephen King
- “The Call of Cthulhu,” by H.P. Lovecraft
- “The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brian
- “By the Waters of Babylon,” by Stephen Vincent Benet
- “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” by Joyce Carol Oats
- “The Frost Giant’s Daughter,” by Robert E. Howard
- “The Pedestrian,” by Ray Bradbury
A short story of mine titled “Hunting the Southern Flatlands,” is being published in an anthology this coming October, just in time for Halloween. It is a tale of post-apocalyptic cannibalism that is both a political statement and a tribute to the aesthetics of all the authors listed above. I hope you enjoy it, and I will provide the link to the anthology when it is published.