Putting Some Groove in the Ghouls: One Author’s Perspective
by Roland Allnach
Any story that involves a sense of mystery revolves around the embodiment of said mystery. In main stream fiction, it’s usually a dirty secret. In genre fiction, it can be a dirty secret with ten inch claws and glowing eyes.
Writing stories that dabble in horror, paranormal, or the supernatural allow authors like me the distinct pleasure of letting our imaginations fly. With all those open possibilities, though, we authors have to put some serious thought into the ghouls we create. Unlike a ‘secret’, a creature has a definitive visual aspect, something that when executed well can leave an indelible stamp on the imagination of an audience. In terms of visual aspects, I’ll mention a few cinematic visuals that stand out in my impressions: the lurking menace of ‘Nosferatu’ with its spindly fingers, the malevolent anarchy of mutating flesh gone mad in John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’, the unnerving empty shadows of ‘The Blair Witch Project’, and, of course, Giger’s biomechanical perversion of ‘Alien’.
In the written medium, descriptive elements don’t have the opportunity of the instant visual punch that cinema exploits. Rather, an author has to rely on more subtle, and therefore more penetrating, elements to build the fear and menace into a creature. For me, I like to let my creatures exist within their own perception, that is, I like to let them act in the manner they might perceive themselves. We as humans might not find ourselves too terrifying, but to ants we’re probably pretty scary. Likewise, I prefer to impart fear or disgust regarding a creature through the way the presence of a creature changes the perceptions of characters. Not only does this help build the substance of a character, but it helps build the interaction between a character and the creature in question. As the saying goes, people reveal their true nature when pushed against a wall.
It’s this interaction that gives creatures their groove. I’ve depicted creatures across the spectrum, from outright monsters, to more whimsical creatures, to the insidious evil that hides within our human minds. Across that spectrum, though, I’ve found the best way to unnerve readers is not by letting the creatures run amuck, but by letting the reader experience the effect the creatures have on the involved characters. I look at creatures as entities from other interpretations of existence that happen to intersect with our everyday world, and from that crossing of paths come the things that give creatures their teeth, so to speak. They follow their own rules, have their own needs, but we as humans try to make sense of that within our standards of morality. Compromise is inevitable, and it’s that change in a character that defines the creature.
A monster can be scary, but a monster that compels a human to monstrous acts is terrifying, because the motivations of the monster then take root in the world we share. It’s only when the humans go at each other in their efforts to reckon the reality of a monster that the monster becomes a force to propel a story. Otherwise, a monster is just a shock, a whoopee cushion instead of a wildfire. Start a wildfire with a monster that has a good groove, and people will be thrilled to let their imaginations bake – at least for a little while.
About the Author:
Roland Allnach has been writing since his early teens, first as a hobby, but as the years passed, more as a serious creative pursuit. He is an avid reader, with his main interests residing in history, mythology, and literary classics, along with some fantasy and science fiction in his earlier years. Although his college years were focused on a technical education, he always fostered his interest in literature, and has sought to fill every gap on his bookshelves.
By nature a do-it-yourself type of personality, his creative inclinations started with art and evolved to the written word. The process of creativity is a source of fascination for him, and the notion of bringing something to being that would not exist without personal effort and commitment serves not only as inspiration but as fulfillment as well. So whether it is writing, woodwork, or landscaping, his hands and mind are not often at rest.
Over the years he accumulated a dust laden catalog of his written works, with his reading audience limited to family and friends. After deciding to approach his writing as a profession, and not a hobby, the first glimmers of success came along. Since making the decision to move forward, he has secured publication for a number of short stories, has received a nomination for inclusion in the Pushcart Anthology, built his own website, and in November 2010 realized publication for an anthology of three novellas, titled Remnant, from All Things That Matter Press. Remnant has gone on to favorable critical review and placed as Finalist/Sci-fi, 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards; Bronze Medalist, Sci-Fi, 2012 Readers Favorite Book of the Year Awards; and Award Winner-Finalist, Sci-Fi, 2012 USA Book News Best Book Awards. Roland’s second publication, Oddities & Entities, also from All Things That Matter Press, followed in March 2012. It, too, has received favorable critical review, and is the recipient of four awards: Bronze Medalist, Horror, and Finalist, Paranormal, 2012 Readers Favorite Book of the Year Awards; Award Winner-Finalist, Fiction/Horror and Fiction/Anthologies, 2012 USA Book News Best Book Awards.
His writing can best be described as depicting strange people involved in perhaps stranger situations. He is not devoted to any one genre of writing. Instead, he prefers to let his stories follow their own path. Classification can follow after the fact, but if one is looking for labels, one would find his stories in several categories. Sometimes speculative, other times supernatural, at times horror, with journeys into mainstream fiction, and even some humor- or perhaps the bizarre. Despite the category, he aims to depict characters as real on the page as they are in his head, with prose of literary quality. His literary inspirations are as eclectic as his written works- from Poe to Kate Chopin, from Homer to Tolkien, from Flaubert to William Gibson, from Shakespeare to Tolstoy, as long as a piece is true to itself, he is willing to go along for the ride. He hopes to bring the same to his own fiction.
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Synopsis: Oddities & Entities’ is a surreal, provocative anthology of six tales within the supernatural/ paranormal/horror genres, exploring a definition of life beyond the fragile vessel of the human body. The stories are: ‘Boneview’, in which a young woman struggles to balance her ability to see through people with the presence of a supernatural creature in her life; ‘Shift/Change’, in which a hospital worker struggles to regain his memory as he is confronted by a series of desperate people; ‘My Other Me’, in which a lonely college student finds himself displaced from his body by his alter ego; ‘Gray’, in which a frustrated man is stunned to discover a little creature has been living in his head; ‘Elmer Phelps’, in which a brother and sister find themselves linked in a strange reality by a bat bite in their youth; and lastly, ‘Appendage’, in which a cynical mercenary is hired by his son to protect a research lab on the verge of a stunning discovery.
Praise for Oddities & Entities:
“Oddities & Entities” by Roland Allnach, categorized as horror fiction, is unlike any other horror fiction I have ever encountered. The book is comprised of six stories, each of which is written a cut above the norm. There are no recognizable monsters in these stories, no sophomoric zombies, no evil ancient vampires, and none of the standard fare I have become accustomed to in the horror genre. I do like the usual run of the horror genre, but this book is written with thoughtful intelligence, for an intelligent adult reader. I do not mean to imply sexual situations or coarse language. What I mean is, any intelligent reader, capable of deep thought, will find this book irresistible. The six individual stories are as unlike as any six stories can be, yet each one is so sufficiently well-written that, if sold as individual short stories, I wouldn’t hesitate to award 5 stars to each of them.
To say I like this book is a crass understatement. Each story drew me in and evoked my empathy for various characters. These stories forced me to actually think beyond what I was reading. Each premise was unique, at least in my experience; I have never encountered any other stories that even approach the situations these present with authority and authenticity. If I could boil down my perception of this book into a single word, that word would be WOW! Roland Allnach’s first anthology, “Remnant”, which I have also read, was placed as a finalist in the Science Fiction category in the 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards. I absolutely expect “Oddities & Entities” to follow suit. If you read only one book this year, make it this one. Be prepared to have your comfort zone challenged.
– Readers Favorite (ReadersFavorite.com)
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