Yesterday I completed the final edits on my collection of Weird Fiction. You should be able to purchase this in the next couple of weeks from a variety of outlets, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and for the reader of your choice. For my loyal readers of this blog I’m posting the afterword in which I provide my best description of where the title came from and what I consider to be Weird Fiction.
Afterword – What is The Hole in Your Mind?
What is the hole in your mind? First, I must give credit to the writers responsible for Babylon 5 for the line, “There is a hole in your mind.” In the very first episode of Babylon 5, a would-be assassin tells this to Commander Sinclair. In this case the hole references a missing piece of time. Later on in the series we learn that the hole refers to the part of the human mind that cannot come to terms with some of the mysteries and realities of the universe.
For this book I chose the title, The Hole in Your mind, to represent the void created when what you experience does not match up with expected reality. Most of these stories could easily fall in the Horror genre, but I prefer to think of them as Weird Fiction. In stories of this type the end brings the protagonist to the very edge of reality and either gives him or her a peek at what lays beyond or shoves them right over the edge. Either way the protagonist returns form that edge changed in innumerable ways, or not at all.
Weird Fiction has strong roots in the Horror genre. Some of my favorite short stories spend time taking the reader into a world that could only exist in the mind of a writer. One of my favorites from horror master Edgar Allen Poe is the story, “The Black Cat.” It is the inspiration for my own story, “The Cat’s Meow,” included in this collection. In the very first lines of the work the narrator warns the reader that what follows may not fit easily into the reader’s conception of what is real.
“For the most wild yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence.”
The early master of this genre and my biggest influence is H. P. Lovecraft. His writing, more than anything, captures the horror of the unknown. In many of his stories the central character comes face to face with the unreal, with something that his mind simply cannot comprehend. In this instance the hole in the mind is defensive yet when breached leaves the character in the throes of madness. The reader still has the burden of trying to imagine horrors that have no basis in reality. This is where the hole in their minds comes into play. In some cases, Lovecraft recognizes this. In this example from The Call of Chuthulhu, the narrator accepts that at this point language simply breaks down. The words necessary to describe and relate the horror in the story to the reader just do not exist.
“Poor Johansen’s handwriting almost gave out when he wrote of this. Of the six men who never reached the ship, he thinks two perished of pure fright in that accursed instant. The Thing cannot be described – there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order.”
Lovecraft would revisit this breakdown in language in other tales. For a writer this is an interesting point to make. What happens when the very things you are attempting to convey defy the language you use to convey them? In Lovecraft’s work he often invented terms, places, a whole theology of beings just to encompass, or circumvent, the language barrier in what he was attempting to create.
The goal of any writer is to transport a reader into the world of their story. In some instances that world exists not in the rational and grounded but the fantastically bizarre. In that instance the writer is expecting to find a hole in the mind of the reader that will allow him or her to fill it with a world both alien and yet inviting. Writers call this suspension of disbelief but in its own way it is just blocking out the part of our mind that screams this is not possible. Granted if readers only read about things that were possible we would have fewer books on the shelves. The fiction sections of your bookstores and libraries are full of things that not only are improbable but not possible as well.
Readers expect a horror story to have scary bits. They expect a hero standing up to some kind of monster. However many things that may terrify readers and leave them sleeping with the lights on, are grounded in very real things to this world. Spiders, snakes, even werewolves and vampires are all creatures that readers have no trouble conjuring in their minds as they read. Some they have seen, and others are so ingrained in our literature that they are all but real. A truly terrifying tale will take this expectation and twist it back on the reader. Never mind the snake in the garden, it is the shovel wielded by the maniac that you must fear. While your mind processes what the snake is doing the hole in your mind will never see the maniac coming at you.
Invoking the hole in your mind is more than just crafting a bizarre twist at the end. The general atmosphere of the story needs to reinforce and prepare the reader for what is about to come. Failing to do that will result in an ending that is more fake than resolving, more jarring than satisfying. The reader is on the same journey as the writer and the goal is for the both of you to reach the end point at the same time with the least amount of difficulty. The stranger the ending the harder that may be. For the writer, this writer in particular, that is what makes Weird Fiction as much fun to write as it is to read. It is the inherent challenge and risk of taking readers out so far beyond the norm that you may in fact lose them. Should that happen it is time to take stock, take heed, and start over again.
All of the tales in this volume share that element of the strange and the bizarre that is a hallmark of Weird Fiction. They are in no particular order or grouping so feel free to bounce around. They come from many different years of writing, from deep in the file cabinet to closer to the top. If I can achieve anything I hope it is that on finishing this volume you will be inclined to read more Weird Fiction and revel in all the madness that the hole in your mind can stand or supply.