Gazing Into The Abyss

“Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.” [He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.]Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil. Aphorism 146

On June 6, 2014, I was struck with the inspiration for a novella.  It came to me in a flash as I was riding in the car.  I had just begun work on what would become The Start of the Majestic World a few weeks earlier, but the idea for this other book came to me so close to fully-formed that I felt compelled to write it down.  I finished the first draft in August of 2014, and then spent the next year editing it.

What was remarkable about the experience was how easily it all came to me.  Normally (for me, anyway) writing a story is a difficult and tedious process.  I have a general idea what I want to do, but filling in all the details is a long, painful ordeal.

Not on this one.  90% of it came to me in the space of a day.  Everything from a detailed plot structure to the characters to minor bits of description and lines of dialogue appeared ready-made.  It was almost as though the book wrote itself. Not only that, but I very quickly became convinced it was the best story I had ever written.

So why, given that, haven’t I already published it, since I wrapped it up over a year ago?

Well, the thing is, it’s really, really dark.

Most of my stories are horror, or at least have horror elements.  I’ve written stories involving human sacrifice, murder, torture, demonic possession, and all sorts of other disturbing things. So it’s not like I’m a stranger to grim subject matter.

But this was different.  It was creepier than even some of the stuff that Colonel Preston did in Majestic World that I ultimately cut for being too disturbing.  And the ease with which it all came to me only made it more troubling.

I did a lot of soul-searching after writing this book.  That sounds dramatic, but I really did start to wonder about what kind of mind would come up with this kind of story.

A lot of things have changed in my life since I first got the idea to write it, and for whatever reason, I haven’t felt the same desire to write horror since I finished it.

I was thinking about this recently, ever since the calendar turned to October.  I still love this month, and Halloween, and spooky stories–but I think I want to return to writing less intense stories; more on the order of The Revival, that stresses atmosphere and mood. And maybe I’ll dabble in other genres as well.

With all that said, I am thinking of publishing this book soon.   I spent the time to write it, so I think it is worth putting out into the world.


  1. I went through a difficult divorce. It was a really dark time in my life. The life I was working toward was shattered. A friend, who owned a used book store, recommended “Death Bird Stories” by Harlan Ellison. You will not find a novel or anthology of short stories any darker than what’s in this book.
    These stories raised me out of the deepest depression of my life. They symbolized and gave expression to what I was feeling and couldn’t explain or understand. They helped me, and could harm someone deeply depressed and vulnerable, but the popularity of the stories over the last 40 years must have struck something in the readers.
    This is how the book has affected my writing:
    The darkest story I’ve ever read was “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” the tile says it all. In this story darkness wins.
    I used elements of “Whimper of Whipped Dogs” in my “Human Sacrifices.” In whimper the protagonist first fights, then embraces the darkness. In HS I turned the darkness into hallucinating due to sleep deprivation.
    Maggie Moneypenny Eyes, I used Ellison’s description of Maggie to start Optimus: Praetorian Guard. I’ve had to tone it down a few times as my target readership finds that much description objectionable.
    In Along the Scenic Route, you have a car dual with machine guns and lasers, sanctioned by government with each contestant’s life insurance at stake. Ellison gives relief by having a man and wife bickering during the whole confrontation. I’ve never found a use for this in my stories, but sooner or later I will.
    The first episode of The New Twilight Zone, sadly short lived, was “Shatterday” written by Ellison from his short story. Here you have a self indulgent person wining and wenching, cheating his partner and other bad stuff. He meets his alternate self and his life is slowly taken over by his good side. Here darkness loses.
    The original Star Trek’s: City on the Edge of Forever, written by Ellison, has Kirk letting the woman he’s come to respect and love, die to save the future. Darkness here was a benefit.
    The only other time in my life where I was depressed by circumstances and at wits end. I watched The Adams Family. On leaving the theater I told my wife, “I needed that.” Dark humor was the perfect medicine.
    Don’t be afraid of the dark. Use the dark. Control the dark.

  2. My husband writes excruciatingly dark fiction. Just as you said, even with the really, really bad stuff cut out, it is very dark. I’m not sure why one is compelled to write anything. Why am I great at non-fiction but can’t write fiction at all? I’d say go for it. If you have it ready to roll, then publish. If you then wish to change styles or moods, go for it too. There! I seem to have left a comment that said nothing at all. I’m sorry! I think I answered a question I was asking myself more than commenting on yours. I’ve been holding back in my writing, fearing letting go and just going for it. I think by encouraging you, I’m actually encouraging myself. Does that make sense?

    1. Thanks for the comment–makes perfect sense! And thank you for the encouragement. Yes, sometimes letting go and just going “all in” on what you want to write is the only way.

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