It’s been a while since a new story of my has been published, so I haven’t had much opportunity to continue my series of inspiration posts. I often get asked what inspired a particular story. Sometimes I don’t know the answer—it’s like I simply channeled the story out of the void—but usually I can trace the germ of a story to a particular thing, be it something I saw or did or heard or read. “Sinking Holes” is no exception, except in this case, I can trace it to two different things.
“Sinking Holes” traces its origin back to 2013 (yes, that long ago) and a contest run through my Codex writing group called “Setting the Stage.” For that writing contest, I was sent a couple of paragraphs describing a setting, and from that I was to write a story. I received a few paragraphs that included this:
Silver threads snake through the murky water, some separate, some entangled with each other but still managing some form of movement as a group, and some wound around and through the wilting dull green and pale beige reeds that cluster in forlorn clumps along the mucky bank, chaining the reeds to each other but also to themselves, at once jailer and jailed. There should be clouds of insects buzzing about, but there are not.
There was more, but this is really the part that caught my eye, and with a little modification, it gave me the bog setting for “Sinking Holes.”
With the setting in hand, the next piece of inspiration actually came from my day job, which for me is unusual. As part of my day job, I had spent some time on Palmyra Atoll, a remote and uninhabited Pacific Island. Part of the reason I was there was to help develop a treatment method for an invasive animal that was overgrowing and killing Palmyra’s coral reefs. That animal was something called a corallimorph, which looks like a fleshy teacup saucer with a ring of stinging tentacles. It’s a relative of corals, jellyfish, and sea anemones. You can see it in the accompanying picture—those fleshy looking donuts that cover the entire bottom where coral and other things should be living. If you’ve read “Sinking Holes” already, you can see how the story’s mysterious “creep” came from what is actually a real-life “creep,” and it goes to show that truth can be as strange as (and often stranger than) fiction. You can learn more about this corallimorph at Palmyra, and the extraordinary efforts being used to combat it here.
“Sinking Holes” is now available in Perihelion. I hope you’ll take the time to check it out—it’s free, so you have no excuse.