Those of you who are regular visitors to my site know I usually post something about what inspired a story when it’s published. I’ve fallen a little behind. I was in my writing funk when “Comes the Piper” was published in Plasma Frequency in April, so I never got around to posting my inspiration article here. As I just finished off another story (my fourth in the past few weeks!) I thought I’d take a few minutes to jot down some thoughts on this dark, disturbing (to me at least) story.
“Comes the Piper” is the only story I’ve published that I feel comes close to horror. It was also among the hardest for me to write because of its content. So what inspired such a dark story? I can blame it on my writing group, Hopefull Monsters. A while ago—I can’t remember exactly how long ago—we had a discussion in which we tried to dissect horror to see what made it tick, so to speak. We’ve done this several times with various genres and sub-genres of fiction (we recently did this with “caper” stories), and the discussion generally inspires several of us to take a stab at writing a story from what we learned. “Comes the Piper” was the story I wrote, and it touches on many of the elements of horror that we discussed.
That explains the inspiration for the story in the most general way. For the specifics of the story, I was inspired by two things: (1) old-time evangelicals who traveled early America and would set up tents in small, dusty towns and preach fire and brimstone and maybe conduct faith healings of the sick and infirmed, and (2) hydraulophones, or water organs. Yes, you read that right, hydraulophones. I had never heard of them before, but for some reason I came across a video of one and was entranced by it and knew I had to work one into a story. The hydraulophone didn’t make it into the final story; something better did, but I won’t say more for fear it will give too much away.
These elements were laid onto an oppressive setting and a tense family situation, and what should have been an idyllic place is cast into something horrific enough that it kept me up at night and wouldn’t leave me be until I finished writing it—I even tried to walk away from this one, but I couldn’t.
I’m both proud of and horrified by this story and I want everyone I don’t know to read it (I am afraid it will make those close to me wonder what goes on in my head). I say that only half-seriously. If you haven’t read “Comes the Piper” you’ll need to get the April issue of Plasma Frequency. I hope this one scares you, or at least leaves you feeling . . . uncomfortable. After all, that’s what horror is supposed to do.