Tag Archives: fiction

Deck the Halls with Boughs of Horror

My creepy Christmas story ‘With Their Eyes All Aglow’ was recently singled out in a review on Shocktotem, so I thought I’d share a little research that went into the tale.

O Little Town of Deathlehem, edited by Michael J. Evans and Harrison Graves

O Little Town of Deathlehem, edited by Michael J. Evans and Harrison Graves

Last Christmas time I heard a disturbing factoid reported on the radio: Each Christmas tree brings up to 25,000 bugs into your house.

Okay, tiny mites are icky, but it’s hard to beat spiders for pure terror. I looked at the lights shining on my tree and imagined a cluster of luminescent arachnids. Do glow-in-the-dark spiders even exist?

The glowing spider has only been spotted once, in the deepest jungle of Myanmar in 1923 by Barnum Brown, the curator for the American Museum of Natural History.

“Darkness came on swiftly and my pony began to stumble. Somewhere we had missed the trail…Presently, a few feet away, I saw a ball of light as large as a man’s thumb.

Tying the horse, I advanced as carefully as possible toward the object, which was surrounded by thorny bushes…I struck a match. There in full view was a spider, his large oval abdomen grayish with darker markings. Still he did not move, and as the match flame died out, his abdomen again glowed to full power, a completely oval light, similar in quality to that of the fireflies.

Remembering native tales of poisonous insects and spiders, I wrapped a handkerchief around one hand, parted the brush with the other, and when close enough, made a quick grab. Alas! The handkerchief caught on a stick before I could encircle him and my treasure scurried away. I followed as quickly as possible, but the light soon disappeared under stones, brush, or in some burrow, for I never saw it again.”

I had my spider and my setting. To make things more interesting, I made my glowing spiders more sociable.

Giant spider web forming in Texasbig web 2

Social spiders cooperate like ants or bees. Colonies can spin much larger webs and then swarm to take down prey as large as birds and bats.

(I was going to insert some photos of bats in webs, but I couldn’t find any that were not being feasted upon by giant spiders.  You’re welcome.)

My wife suggested the title for this story be, ‘Spiders get all up in yo’ bidness and then ruin Christmas.’ Yes, these spiders may ruin Christmas for a few unlucky people, but don’t let that stop you from checking out the anthology O Little Town of Deathlehem. You can buy the book at Amazon, and all profits from the anthology will benefit the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

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Looking for Van Helsing

The legend of DRACULA, as written in the classic novel by Bram Stoker, has spawned countless works of fiction.  Legends often contain a kernel of truth, however, and the character of Dracula is believed to be based on the real historical figure Vlad the Impaler, the notorious 14th century prince of Wallachia.

New evidence has been unearthed that another enduring character from Bram Stoker’s novel may also have some basis in reality: the courageous ‘vampire hunter’ Abraham Van Helsing.  Author Ed Erdelac found surprising clues about the real life doctor and used them to create a sequel to Dracula, with his new novel, TEROVOLAS.

I asked Mr. Erdelac to describe his research and tell us about the ‘real’ Abraham Van Helsing.

When did you first make your discovery?

Back in the summer of 1997 when I was living in Uptown Chicago, I landed a seasonal job carrying old boxes of documents back and forth from the basements of the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library during this big re-organizational push they were having.  At the back of a shelf, I found a large box marked for the Ravenwood collection that had (in my opinion) been deliberately mislaid.  It was posted from Purfleet in England, and contained a series of dated, sealed packets ranging from the 1860’s to about 1934, and accompanying letters from Dr. John Seward to the head of the university’s archaeology department in 1935.

The name Seward was familiar to me, but I didn’t realize it was that Jack Seward until one day on lunch, avoiding my student supervisor, I cracked open one of the packets out of curiosity and started reading.

What I’d found that day was what I now call The Van Helsing Papers, a series of personal journals translated from Dutch, and organized into packets with relevant correspondences and newspaper articles that all served to convince me that the Abraham Van Helsing, who famously opposed Count Dracula in Bram Stoker’s seminal novel of 1897, was a real person with a long and fascinating career in the fledgling field of paranormal investigation.

What is the premise of this book?

For the first release of Van Helsing’s papers, I decided to cover the period immediately following the events of Dracula, as I thought it would garner the most interest, considering the continued popularity of the ‘novel.’

Eight months after the conclusion of the Dracula affair, Van Helsing committed himself to Jack Seward’s asylum in Purfleet, as he was suffering from violent delusions brought about by his mortal encounter with the count’s three vampiric wives.  Disposing of three sleeping women had taken its toll on Van Helsing emotionally, and Seward diagnosed him (possibly incorrectly, but I’m not a psychiatrist) with melancholic lycanthropea.

After several months of psychiatric care he was released, and discovered the cremated remains and personal effects of Quincey P. Morris, the Texan who died in the Carpathians fighting Dracula and his followers, were still in the possession of Arthur Holmwood, Lord Godalming, who was tied up with legal affairs that originated with the recent death of his father.

Van Helsing volunteered to take Morris’ remains back to the Morris family ranch in Sorefoot, Texas, partly in the hopes of getting in some relaxing downtime, but it didn’t work out that way.

Morris’ estranged brother, Coleman, was in the midst of a land dispute with a neighboring outfit of Norwegian cattlemen led by a man named Sigmund Skoll, and only a few days after Van Helsing’s arrival, Cole’s foreman Early Searls and Sheriff G.B. Turlough were murdered. Slaughtered, might be a better word.

Needless to say, Van Helsing, being on hand, offered to lend his expertise, and gathered enough evidence from the crime scene to suspect a supernatural force was at work.  But of course, having only recently left the asylum, he was worried he had begun regressing to his previous aberrant mental state.

I don’t want to give too much away, of course.  Read the book.

Do you think your credits as a fiction writer will make people dismiss your research on the ‘real’ Van Helsing?

Well, there is a danger of that, yeah. But I believe fate put a seventy year old document in my lap for a reason. I could have spent another fifteen years shopping The Van Helsing Papers around to someone with scholarly credentials, but I think I’d probably have run into the same problems as Seward, the original compiler. People like that generally aren’t willing to put their reputations on the line. I have no reputation to risk, in that regard.

I think the truth of The Van Helsing Papers aren’t for everyone. But if it’s available to anyone, then I think the people who are looking for the truth will find it, and that’s more important than getting a blurb from some academic on the back cover.

You contend that Count Dracula was based on a historical figure.  You have pointed out that Bram Stoker describes Prof. Van Helsing’s appearance and personality in far greater detail than his other characters.  Do you believe that once the public has a chance to review your case the existence of the ‘real’ Van Helsing will become ‘common knowledge’?

Well, first off, I’m personally not sure about the popular notion that Dracula is Vlad Tepes.

That’s not implicitly stated in Dracula and not really my area of study.  I know there’s a lot of speculation about that, and I understand the theory has come under question recently, but it doesn’t really concern me.  I don’t have access to the documents which Stoker used to write Dracula and the Count’s past isn’t relevant to anything in The Van Helsing Papers.

I believe the Count Dracula that Van Helsing and company contended with existed, yes.  Van Helsing conjectures some about his origins, but I don’t think he discovered it in the course of his investigation.  He was understandable preoccupied in trying to preserve Mina Harker’s life.  At any rate, Van Helsing’s battle with Dracula was only a single incident in a long career.

In the past fifteen years I’ve uncovered a lot.  I’ve seen his death certificate (he died in 1934 in Holysloot, North Holland), for one thing, and I have a copy of a book he translated into Dutch for his colleague Arminius Vambery (Western Cultures In Eastern Lands is the English title), and there’s mention of him in the personal papers of T.E. Lawrence and Flinders Petrie for example (though I doubt you’ll get confirmation of that from any of their biographers).  After the publication of Dracula though, he became something of a pariah in the academic community, and even many of the people who called on his expertise in later years went a long way to suppress their associations with him.

Of course I hope the real man will come to the world’s attention, that’s my intent, but the public is fickle and strange.  In a culture that celebrates Twilight, it’s popular for men like Van Helsing to be portrayed as monsters, and we like our monsters fictional.

Witch hunts and vampire panics are well documented in Europe and America, but evidence of superstitious practices is not the same thing as proof that those superstitions were correct.  Even if the historical Doctor Van Helsing did believe in vampires, what makes you think other elements of the Dracula story are true?

I would urge you to read Terovolas. Because if the primary accounts in it are true, and from my years of cross checking and corresponding with historical societies and descendants of the participants, and visits to the actual locations (there’s an old tombstone at the Fairview Cemetery in Bastrop, Texas for example, on which you can still make out the name Coleman Morris, and the Bowie knife Quincey used on Dracula is probably the same one I traced to the Autry Museum here in Los Angeles) I can verify that they probably are, then chances are better than average the things portrayed in Dracula are real as well.

But of course, Dracula was presented as fiction, and compiled by Stoker at the behest of the Harkers. It’s possible that some things in it were spruced up. I can’t speak for it 100% as I don’t have access to that segment of Van Helsing’s personal papers. They were taken from him by an undisclosed party during his stay at Purfleet. All that of course, will probably come to light in a later publication, once the legalities of it are sorted out.

But there are further references to Count Dracula elsewhere in The Van Helsing Papers, including an incident in 1898 or so involving his Gypsy followers, so I know that they at least existed, and believed in Dracula’s powers, and exercised inexplicable abilities of their own.

Anyone interested in the fictional world of Dracula or the real life travels of Dr. Van Helsing should read TEROVOLAS.  The story is a must for horror fans and the depth of research available in the footnotes will thrill fans of historical horror.  Get the book now at http://journal-store.com/fiction/terovolas/

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Game on

Mecha West update!

 

see more at http://www.mottalima.com/

Steam Punk Cowboy by Renan Motta Lima

Heroic Journey Publishing took our table top game Mecha West to GenCon this year for beta testing and it was a hit.  Don’t take my word for it, though, you can hear about it on the 1D4 podcast!

Mecha West is moving into its final stages and we should start to see some original artwork soon.  Stay tuned for more.

 

 

 

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Meanwhile, in Bangkok…

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The One That Got Away…and the one that didn’t

My short story The One That Got Away will appear in CALLIOPE’s summer 2012 issue.   It’s a horror/comedy story with a nod to H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horrors from beyond.

I got the idea for this story as a lad when my uncle hauled a crab trap from the muddy waters behind his house and imparted its terrible secret. It was a chicken wire cage with a turkey neck in the center.  Hungry crabs can always find a way in to get the bait but they can never find the way out, despite the fact that it’s right in front of them.  As my uncle explained it, the crab’s wonky depth perception made the circular tunnel it had climbed through disappear against the weave of chicken wire walls.

I found this manipulation of the crab’s inferior senses existentially dreadful! I chose to explore a fish’s point of view and include some humor.  I ultimately thought that the crab trap scenario is almost too horrifying to tell!

Imagine smelling an irresistible feast from outside a room.  You find an open door and help yourself inside.  The door vanishes behind you!  More and more people are entering all the time, seemingly passing through the walls into the room.  You try to warn them but they blunder in any way, thinking you are just being greedy with your food.  Besides, the door is wide open!  Now you are all trapped inside, crawling around the room, crawling on top of each other, desperate to find the open exit that’s right in front of your face.

After days the room is so crowded you can’t move.  All the food is all gone.  Savage riots erupt constantly and you and the other prisoners are dismembering and killing each other.  Eventually your captors will come to claim you, to boil you alive, crack you open, and scoop out your flesh.  But they are in no hurry, because they know that you will never find the way out.

existential horror...but delicious.

 

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On the importance of flossing daily

My short horror story TOOTH AND BONE will appear in Short Sips, the second volume of Coffee House Flash Fiction from Wicked East Press.  The story details the unfortunate meeting of an unscrupulous dentist and a patient in dire need of the dental arts.

I’ve spent a lot of time in dentist chairs, and that is where this story was conceived.  I was going through a particularly vigorous deep gum cleaning when I thought, “How strange it must be to put your hands into a total stranger’s mouth?”  The story came back to me recently as I was having a root canal performed (for a second time).  I kept the thinking about it when I lost
the crown on the fresh root canal.  By the time I went back for the new crown I owed nearly $2,000.

The dentist had a long list of other things that needed to be done.  And things that needed to be redone.  This may have colored the tone of the final story a bit.  It’s not a happy story, but I hope you’ll think it’s a fun one.

My dentist says that if you ignore your teeth they’ll go away.  I say watch where you put your fingers.

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Mining a shared world – Avenir Eclectia

If you build a big enough sand box there’s room for everyone to play.  That’s the idea behind shared world fiction, and if you like anthologies with multiple points of view it’s as fun to read as it is to write.  I currently have two stories due to appear on the multi-author website AVENIR ECLECTIA.

Anyone can become a ‘historian’ of the new multi-author cross genre world of Avenir Eclectia.  Submit a piece of flash fiction (150-400 words) about something new or explore the environments and characters already created.  The story thus far:  Mankind has travelled for countless centuries across the universe in the generation ship Avenir.  The ship acts like a space station, perched between the shattered volcanic moon Sheba and the unstable planet Eclectia below.  While the rich relax aboard the Avenir, desperate people hunt giant insects for food on the hard scrabble world below.  Beneath the surface of the oceans people live in underwater cities, where many hope for a glimpse of the mysterious telepathic creatures that glide by the glassy walls.

My stories EVOLUTION and the forthcoming LEVIATHAN tell the story of Dr. Kwame Singh, a social scientist who is pioneering a new field of inquiry he calls Evolutionary Theology, or ‘EvoTheo’.  He is interested in how the long migration from earth and new environments have made religions mutate and evolve.  He begins his research as a detached observer but soon finds himself experiencing strange revelations.

The first story takes place mainly on Sheba, an ore rich moon that has been split in half by a cataclysmic event.  The rugged miners who pull the Iridium ore up to the surface have created a chapel 30 km below the surface called New St. Kinga’s.  The chapel was inspired by real world locations found in salt mines around the world.  St. Kinga is the patron saint of salt miners, and there are hand carved chapels dedicated to her in Poland and Columbia.  These churches were all lovingly crafted from salt as places of refuge and devotion for miners.

St. Kinga's chapel, poland

Wieliczka salt mine, Poland

Bochnia salt mine chapel

Bochnia Salt Mine, Poland

colombian salt mine church

Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, Columbia

Splashdown Books, the publisher of Avenir Eclectia, will also be releasing a print anthology titled AQUASYNTHESIS.  Look for it this summer.  When my second story appears, on-line or in print, I will share some more of my research.

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