3. And All the Fathomless Crowds
Attempting to exterminate Non-Minds on sight is a sign of Romero Disorder. In the days immediately after 12/12, many human survivors developed this disorder. The sheer number of Non-Minds overwhelmed them, and each human died of exhaustion mid-rampage – if the Non-Minds didn’t get them first.
“And All the Fathomless Crowds”, first published in Dead North, is an anti-zombie-apocalypse story. The world has been overrun with dangerous, mindless creatures… and humans just kind of sit tight and learn ways to exist as peacefully as possible. It’s centered around Sandra, a young woman at university taking her Survival 101 exam, who runs into a very unexpected form of Non-Mind.
Dead North’s submission call asked for stories with local flavor. Mine is set in a post-apocalyptic version of Queen’s University, my alma mater, and it was delightful to add details from Queen’s and from Kingston, Ontario more generally which could serve as inside jokes with other folks who have lived there. The story should be perfectly intelligible to people unfamiliar with Kingston, though.
A lot of the eerie atmosphere is taken from what it actually feels like for me to walk down the street on a bad sensory day, except that it’s made absurdly literal and concrete. So other people aren’t just unnerving to look at but are dangerous magical creatures, etc, and so is every other sensory thing. In that sense, it is a stealth autism story, though no one in it is autistic and the word “autism” is never used.
Derek Newman-Stille at Speculating Canada wrote a wonderful review of “And All the Fathomless Crowds” which articulates some of the thoughts behind it better and in more detail than I would have been able to. (Although I do have some related thoughts about zombies, diseased bodies, violence, and ableism, which went up on Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s blog.)
The title sounds like a reference to something, but it’s really just a bunch of words that I made up so that they would feel rhythmic and topical.
Song Pairing: For Sandra’s test of outer survival and inner strength, there is no better accompaniment than Lacuna Coil’s “Survive“.
4. Mama’s Sword
They talked a long time, mostly things I didn’t care about. Mostly Daddy talking on and on about how much he loved her, wherever she’d been, whatever had happened to her. He sounded like he was trying to convince himself. He sounded like he was crying.
“Mama’s Sword” is a Lovecraftian sword and sorcery tale about a seventeen-year-old girl, Kejiu, whose mother comes back from her adventures traumatized by a too-close brush with cosmic horror.
(Horror fiction talks a lot about characters going mad after witnessing Things Man Was Not Meant To Know; it more rarely acknowledges that this is also more or less how PTSD happens in real life.)
The inspiration for “Mama’s Sword” was an incident from a D&D game. To make a very long story short, a woman was rescued from an adventure that had gone very terribly wrong. I wanted to explore what happened to that character after she was rescued. In the process, of course, it became something that wasn’t a D&D story at all, and the setting was changed to reflect that.
This was a very emotionally difficult story to write, and I probably wouldn’t have finished it if not for Krista D. Ball bugging me to get something written quickly for an anthology her friend was editing. (I’d tried to write a story along these lines, and failed, before. If you’ve heard me referring before to the story that made me want to stab myself in the eye with a toothpick, this is it.)
As a result of this, “Mama’s Sword” ended up being first published in the extremely obscure little book, Blood Iris 2012. If you never heard of that book, you’re in luck, because now you can read it collected with my other works right here in MONSTERS IN MY MIND. Enjoy!
Song Pairing: There are a million artists who have written powerful, sensitive songs about PTSD. Battle Beast are probably not those artists. But they’re my guilty pleasure listening and I can only take so much gloom in one post, so here, have “Dancing With The Beast“.