We’re all a mish-mash of experiences and talents. The system for finding writers rather like the brute force approach taken by Bosch (of the Haber-Bosch process) to finding a catalyst that would make sequestering those precious nitrates (in the form of Ammonia) from the air cheaply and effectively. They just tried a lot of substances, without having a clue what would work or how it would work. Frankly, they got lucky.
Publishers — and indeed authors –are no better off when it comes to finding the catalyst that turns words and imagination into an irresistible story. And then it may be an irresistible story for me, and not you. But as time passes we do get slightly better at it.
Well. Maybe. I’ve just been looking for a specific short I wanted.I thought I’d write about it tonight… after the hell of a day I just had.
Which for the life of me I could not remember what I called. So I started looking through my Word ‘shorts’ folder, and as the names tell me little, reading a bit of the story… and sometimes the whole story , because it carried me. I’ve certainly written a lot, and much of deserves obscurity (at least as far as I am concerned) But looking through a couple of hundred shorts (not all of which I finished) written over twenty years (and that’s not all – there’s stuff on paper only from before that) I could see some some stories that needed to be revived, and some that needed whole books… and I could also see the change (and lack of it) over time.
It’s a good way of seeing what you’re good at… and bad at. I decided I was probably best at being a sort of Simak-lite, writing the country people I know best, and like. (I was surprised to find just how many Australian rural-based shorts I had written. I’ll put together a collection one day.) Old dogs, cats, and children, and country people… well they’re comfort reads anyway, if not put together with that magic catalyst.
So I’ve got some idea of where the stories come from, how I have got to here. But I still have no idea where the story I was looking for is, and whether I dreamed it and never wrote it. Which in itself is odd, because I do keep -and back up, my stories and even fragments. Searching on phrases I remember… gets nothing.
Yet it seems so familiar. Which some of the shorts I re-read… didn’t. Which brings me into a rather odd idea. Either I’m channeling (and he was no genius – just like I am the re-incarnation of a Polish peasant, and everyone else gets to be the reincarnation of kings, or generals or princesses) or my subconscious has been sneaking off and writing without me – perhaps channeling that to some poor schlub in another continuum. I have to feel sorry for them.
Do you ever have that feeling?
Anyway I couldn’t find the story, but this one my channel must have left there instead.
Death walked the moonlit tall hedgerows and narrow lanes. There were deep shadows there, which suited him. Somewhere in the distance, the bell tolled.
A nightjar warbled joyously. Death took it. It was a small and petty gesture, but all that lived must die…
He knocked on the heavy wooden door.
Normally walls and doors were no object to him, as thin as an insubstantial as smoke is to mortals. But this one was… different.
No one answered his knock
So he tugged the bell-pull.
A dolorous clanging could be heard, somewhere in the nether regions of the stone hall. It echoed the sad peals he had heard earlier.
And then the door was flung open and ghost-white sylph stood there, looking at him… with untrammeled delight. “Death!! she squealed. “It’s SO good to see you, at last. We’ve been waiting CENTURIES for you. Forever! Come in! Come in, do! Oh Motherrr! We’ve got a visitor!”
Death, paused, and hastily checked the hourglass that went with the fatal hour for all those he came for.
His empty eye-sockets could not blink. That did not stop him wanting to.
The sand in the hourglass was fountaining upward. The scythe in hand felt heavy… and yet he knew it had no weight. Nor should the blade be flecked with rust.
“Don’t let him stand on the doorstep!” crooned a voice from the darkness behind the bonewhite slyph. “Bring him to me!” The voice like was honey… thick and warm and sweet and drawing…