Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Story Sheets: "Inside the Demon's Eye"

Welcome back to another edition of Story Sheets! It's once again time to talk stories. I have a bit of a surprise for next week's entry, which will be the last, at least for now. I'm planning what to do for Lent this year, and since I don't have many more short stories to write about in this series (for now!), these entries will be taking a short hiatus. But until we get to there, enjoy the show.

Once again it's time to take a look at one of my stories. In this entry we're going to be walking backwards in time a bit. I'm going to be talking about the first short I wrote outside my stories in Someone is Aiming for You & Other Adventures. It's still quite the departure for me, even now.

I wrote this one after reading a lot of pulp. It took me a while to get this one right, so it's going to be nice finally talking about it.

This time it's Inside the Demon's Eye, a dark adventure story. It was printed in StoryHack #3, and was quite different from my other stories.

The setting's quite different, but you get the gist

I could sum up where this came from in in a single sentence: I was reading a lot of C.L. Moore at the time. That's pretty much it. Mrs. Kuttner's early stories of space bounty hunter Northwest Smith and warrior woman Jirel of Joiry were undeniably influential on me when thinking up this one.

I wanted to write a story in the sort of frame she created here. Of all the classic writers I went through during my pulp reading binge a few years ago, Moore was one of the ones that gave me the biggest dose of thunder and lightning. That s because she isn't quite what you would expect, especially if you believe the lies about what the pulps were from those who followed inferior traditions. There is much under the surface.

What she would do was what looked like a simple trick to many "scholar" types, many who write her off even now, but was recognizable (maybe even subconsciously) by readers. She was popular for a reason. As a consequence of her unique flair she is a bit of an acquired taste these days, but I acquired said taste rather quickly.

So how did she do it?

First she would take a character who is strong and mighty on the surface and put them up against a threat that would attack a core weakness of their soul. With gritty and tough Northwest Smith it was his weakness for women and a longing for a touch of something more than the hard life of a bounty hunter. With noble and poised Jirel of Joiry it was her feminine softness the lingered below her stubbornness and arrogance. They would have to deal with more than someone with a bigger sword or gun. Moore's approach was a very Gothic approach to an adventure story, and it was one I admired greatly. No one did it like C.L. Moore.

In my case I also wanted to add a wrinkle when it came to the setting. It is meant to add much atmosphere to the proceedings.

So while my setting might seem like a plain fantasy setting, there is a back story behind it all that I hope to explore in future entries in this world. I can say that there was an event a long time ago that brought this kingdom through endless waves, under the sea, and into a whole new world where the formerly worshiped demons are now in control of it all. You should probably understand just what it is supposed to be now. That said, the legend it is based on is well known. Or it was well known. You don't hear so much about it these days. Nonetheless, there are hints as to what the inspiration is for it via some of the references to said myth in the story.

I'm not much of a reader of modern fantasy, so I couldn't tell you if it is like anything much out there. That's not meant to be an insult, it's just the way it is. Not even what I was listening to when writing it was much like any fantasy I'm aware of.

The sort of atmosphere I pictured

The main character, Gallus, is a lone explorer, wandering the Black Lands to find a flower that will help someone important to him. However, these lands are haunted by darker things, and if one is not clean enough he might find himself susceptible to what lays out there. Especially if their motive isn't quite as pure as they believe it to be.

This is his story as he attempts to find his way out of the web he has landed into. Will he make it out of the Black Lands, or is he doomed to be consumed by his quest? Is there any escape in a world where sin rules the land? Read on to find out. It's just yet another story from inside the demon's eye.

So you can tell just how C.L. Moore's Gothic stories inspired this one to come to fruition. I wouldn't have been able to write this without her.

As for the knight in the story? Sir Dynas is meant to be a counterpoint to Gallus. I can say I was reading Sir Thomas Mallory at the time, and I wanted a knight as intimidating as Sir Palamedes was to show just what sort of inner and outer strength one needs to roam the Black Lands without succumbing to it. There is no better example of the ultimate paragon of light and good than the classic knight.

Most fantasy in the modern age treats knights as nothing more than either hypocritical curs or naive weaklings because said writers are unable to write one properly. My goal here was to show a fearsome warrior who gives his life to Christ and the innocent above all, but is no soft-gut coward. There is no one better prepared to face down evil of both external and internal evils than a true knight. That modern fantasy gets this wrong is one of many reason I don't care for it.

Sir Dynas' personality is needed to show the difference between our main character and him to emphasize just how over his head in all this Gallus is. The reason there are no multiple POVs in this story is because the knight's quest is incidental. He is not the main drive to the story, just the anchor for our main, and needed to balance out the two. We are not meant to see from his perspective. This entire story is about Gallus and his quest.

And if you're wondering about the Christianity portrayed in the story and why it is not quite what we know of in the modern day as normal, well, it has to do with lore reasons as to what the Demon's Eye is and how isolated the kingdom is. Since that's not the point of the story, it isn't explained here. Perhaps in a future story.

Since this was so challenging for me to write, I enlisted the services of ace editor and Dragon Award Winning author, Brian Niemeier, to edit my story. His suggestions allowed me to sharpen and prune the tale into the piece you see before you. If there's anyone who knows anything about weird fantastical adventures in demon-haunted worlds, it is Brian Niemeier. As an aside, his first book of space pirates meets Dante's Inferno, Nethereal, is on sale for $0.99. Be sure to read it for yourself, it is quite worth your time and unlike anything else out there.

But that's all I have to say on Inside the Demon's Eye, the rest can speak for itself. It is still the most out there story I've written. For now.

I wanted a story of intrigue, adventure, horror, and wonder, all at once, and this is what I delivered with Inside the Demon's Eye. It still holds up. You can read it for yourself in StoryHack #3 with seven other great action and adventure stories!

Once again, thank you for reading, and I will see you for the next entry. We've got more places still to explore!

Find it Here!