I work alongside a sixteen year old girl who is having a difficult time in her personal life. She left school this year, and this is her first job. She is currently caught up in a situation that no teenager shoud have to experience – hell, no adult should either.
I say this because it is her story (for want of a better phrase) that has passively inspired the last couple of days of writing. I didn’t even know I wanted to write something about it… but 1300 words on a document on my phone later, and I realised I had something to say. It started out as stuff that I wasn’t sure I had a place for, but over the course of that feverish flurry I managed to come up with a structure and glue the tale together, so less than forty-eight hours after I started writing, what I have so far is a fairly cohesive narrative that won’t take long to close off.
So, while I do sympathise with this girl in the real world, her distress has allowed my imagination to wander and perhaps gifted me a pretty good (dark) short story in the process.
I wanted to add a little fun into the proposal, so I wrote twelve (not too difficult) treasure hunt style rhyming clues that led all around the house and eventuallly back to me, where I was waiting for her so that I could pop the question. You know, the usual hiding places – in a book, zipped inside a sofa cushion, tucked inside a bag of frozen peas…
I can’t recall what I said twenty minutes later once all twelve clues had been deciphered, but after a speech which I decided not to write down beforehand for fear it would sound rehearsed, she gave me an answer to the only part of the moment that I can actually remember.
We have spoken quite openly in the last couple of months about getting engaged, and with our holiday to Croatia next weekend almost upon us I know she was convinced it was going to be happening on a sandy beach on the Dalmatian coast. However, I decided I had heard about that happening far too often and I didn’t want to be someone else who did it that way.
So now we can both relax in the Croatian sunshine, and enjoy the first steps of this new chapter together.
Night Surf is set in a post-apocalyptic world, and centres around a few young characters who have made a life for themselves on a beach. I know, the post-apocalyptic landscape is one of those genre tropes that every horror writer has to go through at some point. Yes, even me.
We find out that most of the global population has been wiped out by a particularly aggressive strain of flu, and we meet a handful of the teenagers who are left behind as a result of their immunity to the virus. And we don’t really get much else, but that’s all right.
This is an easy read, at least partly because it doesn’t try to do anything outside its wheelhouse. As with many of King’s earlier stories, it is very thin on plot and depth, but in a strange way it is refreshing to read something from him that is this… sparse. It’s short, so there is simply no space to get crazy with any extraneous details.
This is another one I can say yes to, and the best story in Night Shift so far.
We’re now into the final third of the year, and it’s about this time on the calendar that I begin to reflect on what I’ve done since this twelve month period began…
… but it makes for a depressing read, so I’ll leave that alone for a while.
I spent one afternoon this week sending stories out for (potential) publication. And while it’s true that one of them came back as a rejection before I had even finished up for the day, I still see every attempt to get my work out there as a positive one.
I never send a story out into the wild just to make up the numbers, because the only person who is really interested in those numbers is me. So, on the other end, when that response comes in, I’m always hopeful for good news, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve had an acceptance. And yes, it has been a while.
My standards are (admittedly) quite high and, although my recent output probably doesn’t justify that bar, I have had many pieces published in non-paying markets over the years, and I think I deserve to be a little further along the food chain by now. As a result I have neglected to even look at a lot of markets that may want to carry my stuff simply because they aren’t going to pay me. Occasionally there is a non-paying market that grabs my attention, but not very often.
Anyway, I’m going to have a soft reboot of my writing to give things a shake-up. I was going to wait until the turn of the year, but that is such an arbitrary time for resolutions, so I’m just going to do it now instead.
I don’t exactly know what I mean by that, or how this soft reboot is going to manifest itself, but I am going to do something.
Things have changed a little these days, but I am old enough to have grown up in a time when having female friends at school meant you had to be gay, although I’m not and I did. Still do. In fact, I don’t have any male friends left from my days in the classroom, just a few girls that I still count amongst those close to my heart.
Over the weekend one of those girls got engaged, and I could not be happier for her and her husband-to-be. I have known her for the best part of three decades and I have not seen her smile more than I have these last few years. She has found someone special, and we should all be so lucky as to find the same.
True friendships are rare – certainly much less common than movies and television woud have you believe. I’m not talking about the rejects you hung about with as a teenager, or the kids you played hide and seek with before that. I mean your adult friendships. These are not the people who like your selfies on Facebook or Instagram, or the ones you share a cigarette or coffee with at work: they are not your friends.
A friend is there for you when you need someone to listen, or when you need a shoulder to cry on. A friend will have your back when others will not. A friend has money for you if you find yourself without. A friend will have the guts to tell you you’re being an idiot, when you are. And a friend will stand by your side when nobody else will, through the sadness as well as the laughter.
And you will be that person for them should the need arise.
All that being said, you likely have fewer friends in your world than you think you do. But if the people in your life tick most of those boxes, you’re on to a winner, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few.
Spielberg, kids, aliens. Back in the eighties that was a three-pronged recipe for blockbuster success. A couple of decades later, and although Spielberg may have fallen from his lofty perch, his name continues to hold cache, and he still knows how to produce a compelling tale.
The kids in Super 8 may not be as entertaining, and the story here may not be as effectively told as anything from Spielberg’s heyday, but it’s still a pretty good yarn… just not as good as it could have been.
There’s a fantastically realised train crash to set things up, but other than that, Super 8 is not particularly memorable.
Although Graveyard Shift certainly feels like an early King story it does have several touchstones that would go on to become hallmarks of his longer and more lauded works – the quick, back and forth dialogue, the grisly descriptions, and the creatures hiding in the darkness.
Not only that, but the style and production of the writing here instantly makes this a more successful excursion than Jerusalem’s Lot, the story that began Night Shift. It’s much shorter as well. Here, King tells the story and gets out… something he does not do as often as he probably should.
Yes, Graveyard Shift is little more than a basic tale of mutated killer rats surviving in the depths of a textile mill – there really isn’t any more to it than that – but when this was originally published King was barely twenty-three years old, so I’ll cut him some slack for the crudity of the writing and the under-developed characters, because I know that he will go on to improve greatly on both of these things.
A much better entry to the collection, and one that I am happy to give the thumbs up to.