“The way I see it, life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.” ~ Doctor Who
As an unapologetic, unsuccessful fiction writer I’m proud to say that I often rub shoulders with the people who rub shoulders with the people who rub shoulders with the writers who write in the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe and Ambrose Bierce. Down through the years I’ve been drawn to the hauntingly compelling fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, Ray Bradbury and Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King. So when my family sat down to watch the award-winning episode “The Doctor’s Wife” — and the opening credits popped up on our barn-size television set — I yelled out like the damn food I am: “Neil Gaiman! Neil Gaiman! It was written by Neil Gaiman!”
My wife and kids stared at me like I was speaking Serbo-Croatian.
But then I remembered the good Doctor’s quote, that bad things don’t spoil the good. So instead of simply leaving it at that, and enjoying a stunning piece of drama — wherein Doctor Who melds science fiction, fantasy and horror with the aplomb of a good bartender mixing a mojito — I paused TiVo to explain that Neil is one of the über-talented writers who’ve inherited the mantle of Lovecraft and Poe, who’ve become the newest generation of fantasists. And their blank stares reminded me of Christmas dinner twenty-years-ago, when a friend of the family asked what kind of fiction I wrote. When I allowed that I was a fantasy writer, he said he loved — just loved — a book with good, steamy sex. So do I, for what it’s worth, but that’s not the point.
When I say fantasy, I don’t mean Fifty Shades of Gray or late-night Cinemax. I’m not a prude; it’s just not my genre. In fact, I am not even referring to The Lord of the Rings or A Game of Thrones. Again, not my thing. You see, my foot is firmly planted in that land of shadow and substance, of things and ideas, and so when people ask what I write, I simply smile and say that I write Twilight Zone stories. At which point some teen or tween will say, “Ooh, I just love Stephenie Meyers.”
And that’s when I go to the bar and order another scotch.
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