Guest Post: John F.D. Taff on “The End in All Beginnings”

Posted: November 20, 2014 in Guest Posts, Uncategorized
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I am excited to announce that today I am hosting a guest post from John F.D. Taff as part of his blog tour for his stellar novella collection, The End in All Beginnings, which is out now through Grey Matter Press . If you are curious to see what I thought of his collection (even though the word “stellar” should give it away) and happened to miss my review, you can check that out here. John is one of my favorite authors and those of you who are longtime readers may know that John was one of the very first authors featured on this blog when it launched. So, it is an honor to have him as a guest poster on The Horror Bookshelf! I want to thank John, Tony and everyone at Grey Matter Press for asking me to take part in the media tour. I hope you enjoy learning about the inspiration behind the stories in this collection and be sure to enter the giveaway for an e-copy of The End in all Beginnings following the guest post!

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I thought I’d wind up this blog tour for The End in All Beginnings here at The Horror Bookshelf by getting a little more personal. Yep, that’s right, by letting you get a little glimpse into the person that wrote the stories.

Anyway, I thought I’d walk through each of the stories and discuss why I wrote them and what they mean to me. I’ll try to make it a bit different than the notes about the stories found at the back of The End in All Beginnings, so that you get a little different insight.

“What Becomes God”

First, I like the title of this story…a lot. I chose it for its ambiguity. It can be read any number of ways, and each of the different meanings it has are all applicable to the story. That makes me smile. I spend a great deal of time on naming stories, because I think that the title (in the best of all possible worlds) should give you some insight into the story. I have my fair share of stories that are titled, simply, “The _______,” but you should view those as defeats, at least in my case. Sometimes my stories don’t come right out and slap you across the face with their meaning, so I like the title to provide a clue.

That said, “What Becomes God” is a tribute not just to my childhood, but childhood in general. My childhood was spent in your average suburban tract house neighborhood, carved out of a gigantic, ancient woods that stretched for miles to the Missouri River. You know the type? Most of the houses on postage-stamp-size lawns. Most of the houses of the ranch variety. Most of the houses look the same. Nary a tree in sight, at least mature ones, because the developers ripped them all down to put up the subdivision. Sure, you know the type.

Lots of young families in that neighborhood, lots of kids my age, and we spent a lot of time together in those woods—hiking, playing, exploring. I had a great group of friends, and I borrowed much of those memories for this story. Particularly I wanted to explore the theme of friendship at that age, because I don’t think we ever have friendships that are that deep or open afterward. No, as we grow older, other forces shape our friendships—puberty, high school, social pressures, jobs, families, etc. But at the age of the characters in the story—you know, around 10-12 years old—it’s a lot less complicated. It’s that uncomplicated friendship I think we’ve all experienced that I wanted to recapture.

And, of course, what you’d do to save that friendship, that friend.

That’s what the whole story hinges on, at least to me. And that’s where its power is. Sure there’s the whole religion/sacrifice thing going on, but to me the heart of the story is simple: friendship. As I grow older, I hang on to my friends all the more closely. It’s a relationship every bit as important to me as spouse or family, and when I realized that I wanted to portray that in the story, that’s when the horror became apparent to me.

What would you do…what would you sacrifice for a friend? And should you?

“Object Permanence”

Here’s the story in the collection that you either get or you don’t. I’m constantly making comparisons between horror writers and comedy writers. We’re similar in that we both want you to “get” it. And if you don’t, there’s no amount of explaining that will help.

“Object Permanence” is a story that sort of carries on the same theme as “What Becomes God,” which is to hang or to let go. All of our decisions in life, it seems to me, can be divided into these two camps. So, obviously, charting a course through life boils down to knowing when to do one or the other. Hanging on too long is problematic, but letting go too soon is no better a choice.

I think memory is a terrific thing. You have, stored up in the great vaults of your head, memories of all the wonderful and awful things that have ever happened to you. Some are great to haul out, dust off and relive every once in a while—birthday parties, first dates, kisses, successes. But I also think that, as we grow older, a certain golden light begins to creep in and make our memories seem a great deal more attractive than how the actual events really were.

That’s when nostalgia becomes that old folks’ whining that times were much better when they were young. Or the old-age belief that the world is going to hell in a hand basket because kids’ hair is too long, skirts are too short, pants are sagging, morals are degenerating or America is going down the dumpster. That’s using memory in a negative, destructive way that I wanted to explore in a story.

“Object Permanence” took that idea and magnified it a thousand-fold. What if there were people who could hold everything in their memory just as it was, keeping everything in the real world set, static, never changing. Sounds great on the surface, but when you really start to think about it, that kind of nostalgia is poisonous. Extrapolating that out, sometimes nostalgia in general is poisonous, because it sometimes prevents you from seeing how good the world has become…or that things weren’t really all that wonderful back in the good old days.

That’s the whole point of the story, to remind us old people that the times, they are a’changing, and we’re better off respecting that.

“Love in the Time of Zombies”

Ok, the funnier story. As I’ve said many times before, I don’t do zombies often. I really don’t do classic horror monsters often, because…well, because who cares, really? I mean, they’re mostly overdone, mostly other people’s ideas. If I can’t bring something new to the table, why bother. So mostly, I leave them alone.

So, the zombies in this story aren’t what the story’s about. They’re background noise; something for the two main characters to play against. The story is about unrequited love. As with the universal theme of childhood friendship I explored in “What Becomes God,” I thought that most people have gone through a bout or two of unrequited love in their lives. Remember that Dan Fogelberg song, “Auld Lang Syne?” (Sorry for putting that earworm in your head…and that’s a hint about an upcoming story of mine in another Grey Matter Press collection.) If the line “Just for a moment I was back in school/And felt that old, familiar pain” doesn’t cause your breathing to hitch a little, then you, sir or madam, are dead beyond reviving.

Who among us hasn’t loved someone where that love wasn’t returned at the same level or at all? That’s a pain that is unique in its feeling, but universal in its application. And why wouldn’t it be? I mean, for all the serious studying and researching, we’re no closer to understanding love than was Bill

Shakespeare or the cavemen. So we think we can control it? Yeah, right.

“Love in the Time of Zombies,” despite its undead setting, is really all about that single problem. How do we control with whom we fall in love? Answer: despite how troubling it is, we can’t.

“The Long, Long Breakdown”

More of the holding on/letting go argument, this time between a father and a daughter at the end of the world. And despite the apocalyptic setting, the story’s not about the flooding or the mass extinction of mankind. Nope, it’s the smaller-scale story, the tug-of-war between a father trying to hold on and a daughter desperately wanting to be let go.

You have kids? I do. As they grow older you begin to think, quite seriously, about the world they’ll be inheriting. You think of all of the bad things that are out there, all of the seemingly worse on the horizon. And you worry…you worry about this broken world you’re set to give them.

But, and here’s the thing, they’re not looking at the world like that at all. They’re probably eager to get to it, anxious to get out there and explore and experience. They see the horizon, the same horizon that you do, and in their world, the sun’s coming up, not going down.

The appealing part of this story, to an older gentleman like me, is the fact that we senior citizens don’t necessarily have to relegate ourselves to the trash heap in order to step aside and let our children retain their wide-eyed engagement with the world. We serve a purpose, if we’ll just get out of our own way and accept it. And that purpose is to act as a bridge for our children, from the old world to the new. That kind of thought gives me some comfort in my old age.

“Visitation”

This one’s a sort of quasi-sci-fi, quasi-ghost story. Here’s where I get to share my love of science fiction with you. I started reading the usual sources—Seuss, the Berenstain Bears, Scholastic books—but progressed from there in this manner: comic books to science fiction to fantasy to horror. But I spent a lot of time in science fiction, reading everything from Heinlein to Asimov, from Bradbury to Clarke.

Along the way, I read a lot of science fiction that crossed the boundaries between sci-fi and fantasy. My two favorites are Jack Vance and Robert Silverberg, especially Vance’s The Dying Planet and The Demon Princes, and Silverberg’s Majipoor series. I like the ’50s gee-whiz, aww-shucks patina these two authors’ stories have. A lot of science fiction these days has kind of lost that feeling, and that’s too bad. I wanted this story to harken back to those old science fiction tales, to have that feeling that science fiction can still evoke an innocent kind of awe, at least on some level.

I still love science fiction, though mainly on TV or in movies. I’m a big Star Trek fan, though not quite so much of the two newest movies. Loved the darker incarnation of Battlestar Galactica. But reading science fiction has lost something for me. I think all of the darker, dystopian sci-fi is great, but I still long for those earlier, rosier styles of science fiction where we looked out on the great unknown with more wonder and a little less weariness.

And that’s it. Stop by and see me sometime at johnfdtaff.com or follow me on Twitter @johnfdtaff. And you haven’t gotten a copy of The End in All Beginnings yet, why are you waiting? Pick up a copy today.

John F.D. Taff

ENTER TO WIN A COPY OF THE END IN ALL BEGINNINGS!

I am giving away a free e-copy of John’s novella collection to one lucky winner courtesy of the awesome people over at Grey Matter Press. All you have to do is enter at the Rafflecopter page and a winner will be announced on the 27th!

About John F.D. Taff

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John F.D. Taff has published more than 70 short stories in markets that include Cemetery Dance, Deathrealm, Big Pulp, Postscripts to Darkness, Hot Blood: Fear the Fever, Hot Blood: Seeds of Fear  and Shock Rock II.   Over the years, six of his short stories have been named honorable mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror.

His first collection, Little Deaths,  was published in 2012 and has been well-reviewed by critics and readers alike. The collection appeared on the Bram Stoker Reading List, has been the No. 1 Bestseller at Amazon in the Horror/Short Stories category and was named the No. 1 Horror Collection of 2012 by HorrorTalk.   Taff’s The Bell Witch  is a historical novel inspired by the events of a real-life haunting and was released in August 2013. His thriller Kill/Off  was published in December 2013.

Taff’s short story “Show Me” is featured in the Bram Stoker Award-nominated anthology from Grey Matter Press, DARK VISIONS: A Collection of Modern Horror – Volume One.   His tale that breathes new life into the zombie apocalypse, “Angie,” appears in the Grey Matter Press volume OMINOUS REALITIES: The Anthology of Dark Speculative Horrors.   His “Some Other Day” will be published inDEATH’S REALM,  coming from Grey Matter Press in October.

More information about John F.D. Taff is available at http://www.johnfdtaff.com.

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Comments
  1. […] the great John F.D. Taff blog tour ends today, as the train pulls into the station at The Horror Bookshelf.  If you’re not completely sick of hearing and reading about me, and who could blame you, […]

  2. hookofabook says:

    I would love to feature John on my own blog sometime. Now, it’s your turn to hook your favorite lady up! 🙂 His writing sounds amazing.

  3. […] Read as Taff Shares the Inspiration for his Latest Collection […]

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