Things in the Dark, Out Now!

Things in the DarkAnother short by yours truly is available in Fox Spirit’s latest release, Things in the Dark, now available in print at Amazon.

There’s a bit of history behind “Selachiamorpha Caesar,” my addition to this anthology. Originally, I wrote a fairly different story to submit to Fox Spirit’s Under the Waves. That tale was a simple one about a boy who enjoys diving, having learned from his now-missing aunt. Originally I envisioned a two or three part mystery for inclusion in a few of the themed Fox Pocket anthologies.

That idea first came about more than two years ago, just before a trip to Australia. During that vacation, I (as an American) had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. The experience was my first time diving, overwhelming as I tried to take pictures, learn the art of breathing carefully, maneuver in a rubber suit and try not to touch anything.

All of this at the same time. It was quite a juggling act.

Before I boarded the plane however, I did a fair amount of research into scuba diving to get a grasp of the basics and the theory. That knowledge formed the basis of “Bottom Dwellers” which I submitted to Under the Waves.

Even as I clicked the send button to deliver that submission to Fox Spirit, I doubted it. Ultimately, there’s a point where knowing a good story from an uninteresting one becomes rather instinctive (although being able to explain why is an incredibly valuable skill). Despite knowing this, I submitted “Bottom Dwellers” anyway, in order to tell myself that I truly tried and failed rather than didn’t try.

The plot of “Bottom Dwellers” started by establishing the boy’s love of diving, then flows into a trip to Sydney to celebrate his birthday. His mother helps him dive in an area his aunt loved to explore, where he finds a long decomposed body. The police autopsy confirms the corpse is not his aunt, but was meant to add an element of mystery to be unraveled later.

Though I trusted that the technical details were there, I suspected the plot just didn’t have as much punch as I’d hope. It was one of those situations where the ending was probably the most interesting part, and everything that led to the climax seemed… perhaps a bit cookie cutter. If I rewrote it, I might have begun with the discovery of the body, filled in the emotions and details after the fact, and concluded by definitively connecting the corpse to the aunt in some way.

However, it was not a wasted exercise. The story itself was excellent practice. And I took the research and combined it with two different ideas into a completely new and unrelated tale which found its way into this anthology.

Spoilers follow. 

The first was a concept I guess we can call “Protagonistic Projection.” Using the first person perspective, I carefully avoided any hints as to the main character’s sex and race. Although I’m pretty confident others have used this idea before in writing, my inspiration for it came from various sandbox games such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, where the player can create their own hero from scratch. Because the story is told directly to the reader, and the narrator has almost no interaction with other folks, I feel the concept works quite well.

And the second was the Selachiamorpha Caesar, Selachiamorpha meaning shark, and Caesar for king or even emperor. The shark of sharks. I did not know at the time about the “colossal cannibal great white shark” that the news would report around June of the following year (I double checked my Gmail records; the story was submitted on May of 2013.) The fictional and non-fictional sharks aren’t exactly the same. My version was perfectly willing to eat other sharks but whether or not it would eat its own wasn’t specified. However I cannot say the coincidence is really a surprise to anyone, however.

No matter how much we learn, the ocean always seems to have more secrets for us to discover

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