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Authors: Gene O'Neill

In Dark Corners

BOOK: In Dark Corners
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In Dark Corners

 

 

Gene O'Neill

 

In Dark Corners by Gene O'Neill
Copyright © 2012
Cover Art © 2011 M. Wayne Miller
Editor, Norman L. Rubenstein
Genius Book Publishing
PO Box 17752
Encino, CA 91416
Follow us on Twitter: @GeniusBooks
Note: All copyrights are © 2012 to the author, Gene O'Neill, unless otherwise noted.
Introduction – First Appeared in
The Grand Struggle
© 2004, Scott Edelman
Groundling Dancer – First appeared in
Science Fiction Age
, © July,1997.
Flange Turner – First appeared in
Darkness Rising
#2 © 2001.
Case #005036 – First appeared in
FoxFire
#1 © January, 2001.
Make a Face, Billy-boy – First appeared in
Random Acts Of Weirdness
© August, 2002.
In the Big Window – First appeared in
Eldritch Tales
#29 © 1993.
Metempsychosis – First appeared in
Dark Lurkers
© May, 2004.
Live Oak – First appeared in
Men & Women Of Letters
© 1998.
With Grace – First appeared in
Tales of the Unanticipated
© September, 1990.
10th St. Wolfpack is Bad – First appeared in
The Grand Struggle
© 2004.
The Ishikawa Proliferation – First appeared in
Tomorrow Science Fiction
© October, 1995.
Counting Backwards – First appeared in
Cemetery Sonata II
© October, 2000.
Funkytown – First appeared in
Rockers, Shamans, Mannikins & Thanathespians
© June, 2001.
300 S. Montgomery – First appeared in
Fantasy & Science Fiction
© July, 1984.
Return of the Ice Man – First appeared in
Sinister Element Magazine
© October, 2000.
Alchemy – First appeared in
Fantasy & Science Fiction
© May, 1993.
Jackie – First appeared in
Darkness Rising
#5 © 2002.
The Great Wall – First appeared in
The Grand Struggle
© 2004.
Masquerade – First appeared in
Bare Bones
#6 © 2004.
A Fine Day at the Zoo – First appeared in
Goblin Muse
© 2002.
When Legends Die – First appeared in
Decadence
© 2002.
The Affective Connection –
Pulpsmith
© 1982.
Wind of Steel – First appeared in
Fantasybook
© December, 1983.
Them Boys – story original to
In Dark Corners
© 2012.
Shadow of the Dark Angel – story original to
In Dark Corners
© 2012.
The Hitchhiking Effect – First appeared in
Science Fiction Age
© May, 1998.
Afterword – original to
In Dark Corners
© John Little 2012.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
This book is dedicated to two new readers. Welcome to the extended clan:
Jacqueline Satoyo DeGracia
Haiden Neil Patel
Acknowledgments
A few shout-outs:
It's been a pleasure working with the folks at Genius Publishing. Norm Rubenstein has edited several projects for me in the recent past. This is my first time working with publisher Steven Booth. Both are efficient, thorough, and writer-friendly.
Wayne Miller is an incredible artist. I appreciate his work because it catches the essence of a book, but most importantly for the writer, doesn't give the punch line away.
I'd like to thank my three first readers who went over everything of mine for minimal pay ($0.00): Mike McBride (an excellent writer himself), Gord Rollo (another excellent writer), and Gavin O'Neill (who benefits from nepotism, but with an MFA in writing brings something to the table).
Last I'd like to thank all you readers for sharing an intimacy with me (Damon Knight once told me that you will be a good writer when you can dance naked in front of your readers—he didn't say anything about revealing your shortcomings, but it was implied).
—Gene O'Neill
December 2011
INTRODUCTION
The Iceman Perspireth
By Scott Edelman
I've known Gene O'Neill for a quarter of a century, which from this vantage point seems like an awfully long time, particularly considering the fact that I wasn't even a quarter of a century old myself at the time we first met. That was way back in the prehistoric days of 1979, when writers still etched their stories onto stone tablets, back when we were enrolled as students at Michigan State University's famed Clarion Writing Workshop.
We had each gone there in search of an epiphany.
We came from different places, with different histories, and so brought along with us different goals. I lived in New York, had worked with words all of my (then-brief) life, mostly in the comic book field, and though I knew how lucky I was, I felt pot-bound. I was anxious to start delivering my stories to readers without the intermediary of artists interpreting my vision. Gene (who continually reminds me that regardless of how skewed my math was at the time, he was
not
old enough to be my father) was a Californian, and had spent his life avoiding being penned by cubicle walls. He had grown up on mean streets and worked primarily blue-collar jobs. He had shown up at Clarion to test himself—to find out whether, if he finally put his mind and full effort to it, he could make a go of this writing business.
So yes, we were different. But the things we had in common were stronger than those differences. And so twenty-five years down the road he's the only Clarion classmate with whom I've kept in constant contact. Blame that partially on Thomas Edison who famously said that, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." Beneath our superficial differences, Gene and I each had a similar willingness to perspire, recognizing it as not only necessary, but to be desired as well.
The stubbornness that we had in common was on display the first time I leapt from East Coast to West, visiting Gene in Napa Valley. One of the things on our agenda was a trip to the Valley of the Moon to see the home of famed writer Jack London. But as impressive as the home was, it was not to be the highlight of the visit.
Some tourists go in search of the world's largest ball of twine, while others hit the road for a look at the greatest tree stump. But we were writers, brothers in the arts, bound together by a more spiritual goal—to catch a glimpse of evidence of a writer who never gave up.
And did we ever find it.
The high point of the visit for me was the moment when we stood, wide-eyed, in front of a glass case containing (what I remember to be) the world's tallest stack of rejection slips. My memory may be muddied after all these years, but I recall it as standing taller than Gene and almost as tall me. The dispiriting pieces of paper, similar to ones that Gene and I had already possessed (things change over the decades, but rejection always remains the same), had all been earned by a man who shrugged it off and went on to write classic novels such as
The Call of the Wild
and the much-anthologized and taught short story "To Build a Fire." Here was the physical proof of the overwhelming rejection a writer had to overcome before achieving that success, proof that such rejection could be overcome.
Gene and I stood there, hungry, not just for London's success, but—get this—for the sea of rejections that we knew had to inevitably come before. Others might have looked at such a mound of rejection and taken away a different lesson, decided the stack represented too high a hurdle to even attempt to jump. I've met many writers just like that, who after a single rejection have tossed stories into the back of desk drawers, and never attempted to send them out again. But instead, we saw it as a challenge. We knew we had to hunker down and work all the harder, and be prepared to collect as many rejection slips as Jack London did if we wanted the fruits that waited on the other side.
If I could hijack a time machine and take back to the Gene O'Neill I first met as a writing student in a college dorm twenty-five years ago a copy of this massive retrospective, I wonder—would he have been stunned by its eventual existence? Or would he have believed it, easily accepting it as fact? Knowing Gene, I think he would have nodded his head and taken it as an obvious eventuality. I think he knew in his heart what waited down the road. And I think I knew it too, even then, after six weeks locked in the pressure cooker of Clarion. Because Gene is someone who is easy to believe in. Not only personally (I can think of no one I'd rather have watching my back as I walked down a dark alley), but professionally as well.
And once you read the stories that follow, you'll believe in him as well.
There are many virtues to Gene's fiction—the swift-moving river of his plots, the clear readability of his prose, the dark sense of humor that populates his world view—but I've always felt that the most important is character. The people who populate his stories are real. Real in the way that John Steinbeck's are real. Real in the way Robert Frost's are real. And yes, also real in the way that Jack London's are real. In his hands they have all of the dimensions of humanity, and walk the grey area that we all inhabit, down in the crooked valley between black and white. There are no heroes or villains here—just people, the men and women in the mirror.
Which is why, as soon as I was in a position to buy fiction, I picked up one of his stories for the first issue of
Science Fiction Age
, and many more thereafter. One of the sadnesses of no longer editing
Science Fiction Age
is that I can no longer put before the public new fiction by Gene O'Neill.
I have been lucky, in that I've been privileged to see Gene blossom and mature. He has grown into his writerly role, even becoming an inspiring presence to younger writers in the field. He has become the self that he was always meant to be. Gene is a born storyteller who has finally gotten the chance to share those stories he was born to tell.
When my parents were recently remarried in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary, after they exchanged the vows they had so carefully written, their rabbi spoke of an earlier time when he was in a similar situation. He was approached after that ceremony by one of the guests, who cheerily told him, "Rabbi, you were absolutely
superfluous
." Which, to be honest, is how I feel now. Compared to what is to follow, all I can offer is dithering and delay you from discovering (or reacquainting yourself with) the short stories of Gene O'Neill.
Enjoy.
And look forward along with me to what the
next
twenty-five years will bring.
Of course this story was generated by the famed: What if?
What if everyone could fly...but then you suddenly lost this ability.
Making you different and strange...
Groundling Dancer
Mikel awakened wingless.
He shivered, standing naked in the early morning chill of the bedroom in their cliffapt, feeling numb and distant, staring down incredulously at the pair of dried, withered, brown husks on the bed. Tentatively, he reached out and touched them, brushing the wrinkled, dead things with the tips of his fingers, the texture like old, dry parchment; and he remembered long ago, when he was a boy and finding the shed skin of a dragonette up on the canyon rim—it too had been wrinkled, dry, paper like, dead.
Still feeling as if he were partially tranquilized, he called out hoarsely, "Aylin, please come see this."
BOOK: In Dark Corners
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