© Blood Moon Rising Magazine
In the last few years, nearly all the fiction I’ve had published has belonged to one of two genres: horror and fantasy. The horror stuff has appeared under a pseudonym I use, Jim Mountfield. The fantasy stuff has borne another pseudonym, Rab Foster. (I generally use pseudonyms for my writing because ‘Ian Smith’ is one of the most boring names in the world. Also, it risks me being confused with the white supremacist prime minister of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, who unilaterally declared independence from the UK in 1965, or with the bloke who used to play Harold Bishop in the never-ending Australian soap opera Neighbours.)
Well, my new story The World Builder has just been published in the October 2019 edition of the ezine Blood Moon Rising and it’s something of an anomaly. It’s a horror story inspired by a visit my partner and I made a while back to the historical / cultural site of Polonnaruwa in north central Sri Lanka, where we observed some big, abandoned anthills that looked worryingly… organic. Blood Moon Rising is a publication that specialises in horror stories and articles about the horror genre, and I’m especially pleased that my story has become available to read just before Halloween. However, the pseudonym it’s been attributed to isn’t Jim Mountfield, but Rab Foster.
This is because when I started to develop the story, which involves a, shall we say, special type of ant, I quickly realised I couldn’t set it in the ‘real’ world. It would just seem too far-fetched. And to my mind, a story that strays beyond the boundaries of believability can never be properly scary. So it made sense to set the story in an ‘unreal’ world, in a fantasy setting where the rules of what’s plausible and implausible are less rigid, and let its horrors unfold there. Thus, it became a Rab Foster story instead.
Actually, in the middle of putting together the story, which as well as featuring super-powerful ants features an Emperor of Games of Thrones-style viciousness, I realised I could link it to another Rab Foster story I’d had published. That story was called The Water Garden. It appeared back in 2010 in a now-defunct publication called Sorcerous Signals and was about an evil Emperor cultivating some deadly gardens in which he can discretely get rid of his political rivals. Part of the inspiration for The Water Garden had come from the bizarre ‘Garden of Death’ that Ernst Stavro Blofeld installs at his hideaway in Japan in the 1964 James Bond novel You Only Live Twice.
So I set The World Builder in another quarter of those gardens, adjacent to the one in The Water Garden, and called this new quarter the ‘Earth Garden’. That makes 2019’s The World Builder a sequel to 2010’s The Water Garden.
In fact, the way is now open for two more sequels – stories set in further quarters named after the remaining elements, the Air Garden and the Fire Garden. Rest assured that Rab Foster will be working on them shortly, as soon as he can figure out what hideous, horrible things to place in those gardens.