Today’s blog post is written by Tom Adams. I first met Tom online on the writer’s workshop site Scribophile.com. I’ve enjoyed Tom’s fiction, which delves into the horror/dark fantasy genre as well as his own blog tomghadams.uk where you can get a free ebook copy of his horror story collection Defiled Earth. I encourage you to check out Tom’s blog, he always has some great content up there.
Don’t Hold Back Your Curiosity
Being a teacher as I am, one of the rewards is witnessing the unbridled curiosity of youngsters when it’s triggered by something I’ve said or a resource I’ve used. Science is my specialism and I couldn’t be luckier in terms of having a subject that lends itself to wonder and speculation. Every day there’s a new breakthrough in scientific research, or a new planet discovered. Sometimes it’s a new idea that turns previous ideas on their heads. So, there’s no shortage of excitement.
It’s usually in my lower school classes that some bright young spark will put up their hand and ask such questions as: What if you were born colour blind and were taught that a colour you saw as grey was really green? You’d never know what colour green was. Or: What if you biotechnologically engineered a clone of yourself? You could steal the Crown Jewels and blame it on the clone. Or you could harvest its organs in case you needed a liver or kidney transplant. Young people overflow with curiosity.
I’m quite a fan of Internet memes. Curiosity sends me drifting from one digital outpost to another, collecting cool or humorous sayings.
One of my favourites is the character, Morpheus from the Matrix films. These memes always begin with ‘What if I told you ….’ In fact he never actually says this, either in the blue/red pill scene or elsewhere. But these things sprout legs and start running until they’re light years ahead of the truth. Morpheus memes serve to poke fun at trending fads and fashions. For example, ‘What if I told you that you don’t have to dump ice on your head to donate to charity?’ (Remember the Ice bucket challenge anyone?)
Stephen King’s usual answer to the perennial ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ is what if …’ The origins of his vampire novel, Salem’s Lot lie in a dinner conversation he had with friends. The scenario of Dracula returning in the late 20th Century came up. King thought that if Dracula appeared in modern times he would be quickly discovered by the FBI. One friend, however, thought Dracula could go virtually unnoticed in a rural setting. King said: There are so many small towns in Maine, towns which remain so isolated that almost anything could happen there. People could drop out of sight, disappear, perhaps even come back as the living dead. I began to turn the idea over in my mind, and it began to coalesce into a possible novel.
The idea for my first novel, The Psychonaut, began with the premise: What if a sceptical atheist actually possessed a paranormal power, but was in denial about it? I think I experienced something of King’s coalescing when the notion ballooned into a dark fantasy novel.
A skill common to science and storytelling, is that of observation. Sir Isaac Newton is described as someone who saw what everyone saw, yet thought what no one had hitherto thought. The same could be said of authors. One day, when writing in a Carlisle coffee shop (a city in the northern UK kingdom of Middleland), I noticed a woman walking down the middle of the pedestrianised zone with five huskies. She cut a swathe through the crowds as they took the strain on their harnesses and pulled her onward. I thought to myself Those dogs look very obedient, but what if something possessed them, caused them to turn on her? Thankfully, the unsuspecting lady had no idea of the doom I was plotting for her fictional counterpart, but it formed the basis for a chapter in my third novel (as yet incomplete), Mycophoria.
It was a sad day last year when we said good-buy to Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld books. But every lead balloon has its lustre, and I came across a real doozie when I read a Pratchett tribute by Neil Gaiman. He recalled passing many an hour talking with the master of comedy-fantasy about Brewer’s dictionary of phrase and fable. I’d never heard of the book, but the more I read about it, the more interested I became. I had an Amazon voucher spare, so I took a punt and ordered the latest edition. What a treasure trove it turned out to be. It’s not quite a dictionary and not quite an encyclopaedia, but the result of research spanning decades by a certain Reverend Brewer. Fuelled by his simple curiosity, the book contains a myriad of obscure but linked subjects. For example, I opened the book randomly on an entry about peculiar British place names and their origins in the ancient Celtic, Viking and Saxon languages. One such place was Crackpot. Not an epithet for a lunatic, but old English for Crow’s hole. It got me thinking about the sort of place that would be inhabited by masses of corvids – another story, or at least its title, was born. If you want to see more of my interest in crows, ravens and other obsidian-winged birds, then you need look no further than the January postings on my Facebook page.
Brewer was a man obviously obsessed, yet the fruits of his passion have directly or indirectly enriched the lives of thousands, if not millions.
Curiosity, you see, that’s what I blame it on. The oldest story of all (supposedly) features this most heinous of sins – that of Adam and Eve. The first woman gave in to her curiosity and ate of the tree of life. She wanted to know the difference between good and evil, and in so doing cursed the whole human race – curiosity killed the cat indeed. Maybe every writer is cursed in this respect.
Tom Adams sometimes swims in the clean, fresh rills of wholesome, life-affirming authors. But most of the time he can be found in the gloopy, silt-laden waters of that dark lake called horror. He’s down there with the pike, the rat-tailed maggot and the water louse. They may be scuzzballs but they’re his friends.
Check out Tom’s blog, ‘Writing in Starlight’ at http://tomghadams.uk and receive a free download of horror tales entitled ‘Defiled Earth.’