An Exercise for the Reader

I love fiction, but I really love speculative fiction. Horror, sci-fi, fantasy: the best of any of these poses complex questions about the nature of humanity, what it means to be alive, and who (and how) we want to be, both as a species and as individuals. The otherworldliness of speculative fiction encounters makes it possible to delve into topics normally too uncomfortable or shameful to broach. You need look no further than Caprica, Dollhouse, or Star Trek to experience the deft interweaving of difficult moral and ethical questions into the fabric of science fiction. I was introduced to this pseudo-magical ability of sci-fi to address topical issues by  Arthur C. Clark and Issac Asmimov; much later, Elizabeth Hand showed me the same can be done with dark fantasy. I am thankful to those authors, to the public library, and to my Mom who, although not specfic fan herself, never batted an eye at her strange, strange little girl.

Decades and media delivery formats later, and the strange little reader has become a writer. My debut novel is strictly horror, but my work in progress is a horror/sci-fi hybrid. It’s just about the coolest thing my brain has ever thought, and I’m already working hard to get it written so I can share it with all of your brains. Just make sure you pay your power bill before you read it, because it’s scaring the bleep out of me to write it and, if I do my job right, that scary is gonna make its way to you. You’ll want the lights on – yes, even you!

Fiction can ask serious, humanity-sized questions. It can also ask more mundane, choose-your-own-adventure type of questions. In Stolen Climates, there’s a mix of both, but for this post, I’m going to pose one of the latter. Here’s the situation:

You and your spouse are moving away from the strain of urban life because your spouse has been unstable, and possibly close to accidentally harming herself or your kid. Your remote, not-quite idyllic destination is Breaker, Texas. There are some houses for sale, but all of them have obvious, unlivable defects. Then your realtor shows you one that isn’t as flawed; in fact, it seems just about perfect, if a little odd, what with all the extra shutters on the windows. Still, you’re in a bit of a rush to get the family settled because the office has called. There is a Class-A cluster that you, as manager, need to handle. You’ll have to leave your wife and kid, but you’d like to get them set up in the house first. Your realtor has one more surprise: a condition imposed by the seller. You need to read and notarize that you received the following message:

Potential Buyer –

The house is as good as it seems. The walls are straight, the floor well plumed, the windows sealed against the winter winds and screened against the summer sunlight. The house won’t be your problem.

At first, you will probably love it the way my wife and I did. We were outdoor enthusiasts: hiking, biking, camping. We spent weeks carving trails out of the woods, but the trails we found never seemed to be the ones we made. That was part of the problem. The rest of it, the real crux, are the woods themselves. I’d explain, but it would be a waste of time because you’re either from Breaker or you’re not. Someone in the first category already knows. Someone from the second: buyer beware.


The Lowells

Your assignment is to answer this question: Would you buy the house?

If you choose NO, go to page 73.

If you choose YES, go with whatever gods you have.

Mother Nature isn’t just a metaphor. Stolen Climates / 02.2012


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8 thoughts on “An Exercise for the Reader

  1. I wouldn’t notarize until I talked with someone from the first category, but I’m not much of a gambler 🙂

    I like this teaser, as well. Looking forward to reading the book.

    Just a quick, nitpicky note. I’m not sure if this is actually in your book or if you’ve just used it for this post. Having worked construction for many years, the walls are “plumb,” the floors are “level.” Of course, the previous owners may not be familiar with this terminology (nor may the majority of your readers). Just wanted to leave it up to you to decide what to do with this knowledge.

    It was like when my sister-in-law pointed out I had omitted a word on the first page of The Imaginings after I had already gone through the various formats and submitted to all the sites. DAMMIT!

    Paul D. Dail A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog


    • Paul, thanks for the information. More importantly, a gigantic thanks for making the most horrible thing in the world happen and thereby proving that the “most horrible thing” isn’t even all that bad. Someone found something wrong, and I didn’t die! That’s huge for my ability to handle publishing Stolen Climates. It means even more that I respect your writing and your opinion, and …. I didn’t die when you saw a nitpick!


      And, haha, missing word on the first page! Doh! But, not end of the world, right?

      I worry with every minor edit that I’m fixing one issue, adding five more….


      • After I wrote it, I was reminded me of Gary Larson (of The Far Side fame) saying he got all sorts of letters from etymologists after publishing a comic showing a mosquito coming home, doffing his hat and coat and saying what a long day he’d had spreading malaria. The etymologists were quick to point out that it was actually the female that does the biting, to which Larson said, “Of course, it’s perfectly acceptable that they live in houses, wear clothes, speak English, etc…” 🙂

        Paul D. Dail A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog


      • Mosquitoes don’t live in houses?! Then who’s been paying me rent for the condos in Bugville? Hmmmm….

        Seriously, though, some people love to find flaw. Others love to be helpful. Others want to be vicious. There will always be a detail that won’t please someone. They’ll have an unlimited amount of motivating factors to point out the mistakes, and that’s just one of the things that makes us such an interesting species!


    • Just for you, Page 73 recounts a happy day for the family. They move into a good house in a normal town where there are lots of kids and some cool parents to be friends with our family. They have a BBQ and I am pretty sure they adopt a big, fuzzy dog!



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