Welcome to this week’s installment of The Scariest Part, a recurring feature in which authors, comic book writers, filmmakers, and game creators tell us what scares them in their latest works of horror, dark fantasy, dark science fiction, and suspense. (If you’d like to be featured on The Scariest Part, check out the guidelines here.)
My guest is Alex Bledsoe, who is the author of several book series, including the Eddie Lacrosse novels and the Memphis Vampires novels. He also writes the Firefly Witch series of e-book chapbooks featuring stories about blind, contemporary Pagan princess Dr. Tanna Tully, the latest of which is Sight for Sore Eyes. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Tanna Tully, the Firefly Witch, encounters three people with extraordinary abilities that rival her own: a woman who opens a channel to the end of the world, someone capable of murdering a witch’s magic, and an old friend who now sees horrors that may or may not exist. Will Tanna have to help them, stop them, or destroy them?
And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Alex Bledsoe:
I’ve written four previous Firefly Witch ebook chapbooks, each with three stories in them. I’ve gotten good feedback from readers who enjoyed the depiction of modern Paganism, the elements of horror and fantasy, and the occasional side trip into the absurd (the most-mentioned story remains the giant-frog tale, “Croaked”).
So with that many stories already behind me, what could scare me about this next one, “Sight for Sore Eyes”?
Well, some stories come to you whole, in one big burst, while others require more thought and effort. The title story for this collection, though, did something I’ve never had a story do before. It bifurcated.
Essentially, what happened is that I reached the story’s climax, and could have taken it in one of two diametrically opposed ways. Both worked perfectly with the first part of the story, both gave it thematic weight, and both were (I believed) pretty darn interesting. But I couldn’t use both.
And for the longest time, I couldn’t decide.
In high school, we had to read an infuriating short story called, “The Lady, or the Tiger?” by Frank Stockton (you can read it here). Basically, the climax involved a prisoner standing before two doors, behind one of which was a beautiful woman he had to marry, behind the other a man-eating tiger. The princess, secretly his true love, knew which was which, and signaled him to pick a particular door. But…and this is the kicker…the story never tells you what came out, the tiger or the lady. In fact, it coyly pretends the question is unanswerable.
That’s pretty much the dilemma I found myself in. My two opposite endings were the equivalent of the lady or the tiger. I couldn’t use them both (the Firefly Witch stories are too linear to support that kind of metatextual David Foster Wallace-ing). So, much like the guy standing before the doors, I eventually had to pick. And I had no semi-barbaric princess to give me a clue.
I’m happy with the final result. It’s solid, it fits in with the other stories, and I think it says something about perception and belief that’s interesting. And perhaps somewhere in an alternate universe, I chose the other ending and was just as happy with it. But that dilemma was the scariest part of writing “Sight for Sore Eyes.”
Sight for Sore Eyes: Amazon / Join the Facebook release party on Thursday, May 29th.
Alex Bledsoe grew up in west Tennessee, an hour north of Graceland (home of Elvis) and twenty minutes from Nutbush (birthplace of Tina Turner). He now lives in a big yellow house in Wisconsin, writes before six in the morning, and tries to teach his three kids to act like they’ve been to town before. His books include the Eddie LaCrosse series (He Drank, and Saw the Spider is the most recent), the Tufa novels (The Hum and the Shiver and Wisp of a Thing), and two novels about vampires in Memphis in the Seventies (Blood Groove and The Girls with Games of Blood).