© Aphelion Webzine
I’m pleased to announce that my 13,000-word story The Theatregoers has been published in the July 2021 edition of the webzine Aphelion. The Theatregoers is a sword-and-sorcery story in, I hope, the tradition of such revered pulp writers as Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and C.L. Moore and, as usual with my fantasy fiction, I have published it under the pen-name Rab Foster.
On this blog I’m not normally presumptuous enough to offer other writers, or aspiring writers, advice on how they should go about creating stories. On this occasion, though, I’ll suggest two strategies that helped me to put The Theatregoers together.
Firstly, when you have an idea for a story, get that idea written down as quickly as you can before it flits from your memory again. (At my age, things flit from my memory with terrifying speed.) I have a 17-page-long document on my computer hard drive containing more than 400 ideas I’ve had for stories over the years and I’m constantly adding to it.
Admittedly, many of those ideas will probably never see the light of day as stories and, to be honest, looking at some of the ideas I wrote down long ago thinking they were bolts of divine genius, I don’t think the world will be missing anything if they don’t. I doubt if anyone really wants to read a story about the notoriously bad Dundonian poet William McGonagall building a time machine in order to travel back in time to prevent the Tay Bridge Disaster from happening; or about a Sri Lankan tuk-tuk driver who’s secretly a superhero; or about ‘a fashion show for serial killers’, where the dresses have been fashioned out of… Well, you can probably guess what they’re made of.
The other writing strategy I’d suggest is to keep reviewing your list of ideas and particularly think about how two or more ideas can be incorporated into one story. In other words, don’t see each idea as a single seed from which a single story is grown. Many times, I’ve had an idea that’s looked good on paper but that has resolutely refused to develop into a story – until it’s occurred to me to try splicing it together with another, seemingly totally different idea elsewhere on the list.
In fact, with The Theatregoers, I ended up throwing no fewer than four disparate ideas from my 17-page list into the creative blender. I’d always wanted to write: (1) a story set in an abandoned city out in the middle of some inhospitable desert (similar to the setting of the 1921 H.P. Lovecraft story The Nameless City); (2) a story set in a theatre, where the characters would have adventures falling through trapdoors, scrabbling down stage curtains, flying about on wires above the stage, running through storerooms full of assorted props, and so on; (3) a story about vampire-like creatures that don’t drain their victims of blood but of moisture; and (4) a story about a tattooed person whose tattoos aren’t as inanimate as you’d expect, reminiscent of the title character in the classic Ray Bradbury collection The Illustrated Man (1951). Somehow, I came up with a single, hopefully coherent narrative.
© Panther Books