Hello, again, and good morning, again, and welcome once again to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.
It’s the second Thursday of the month, and at one time it would have been the occasion for an edition of “My heroes have always been villains,” but that’s long since been abandoned due to lack of reader interest. Oh, well, I probably would quickly have run out of interesting villains to discuss. There are plenty of fictional baddies out there, of course, but there aren’t all that many that really merit exploration and discussion. Villains are a necessary part of nearly any fictional adventure, and often of other kinds of tales as well, but they frequently have little depth.
One villain, however, retains acute pertinence and interest for me, and that is the title character of The Vagabond. I’m within fifty pages of finishing the final edit of the book, and then will come the remaining layout and finishing of the cover design before publication. That should all happen by the end of March, so that’s something to look forward to, for those of you who like horror stories with well-fleshed-out supernatural villains. For the Vagabond is no merely supernatural force, something elemental and impersonal, though those can be wonderful antagonists in horror stories.
Essentially all of H. P. Lovecraft’s dark entities (for instance) are not characters so much as ideas, physical representations of forces of nature (and unnature). If they have character, it is beyond human comprehension. This can make them exceptionally frightening. It’s bad enough to face an entity that hates you and wants to hurt you, but at least you matter to such villains. Hate is just the opposite side of the coin of love, after all, and is a form of attachment and connection, though it’s one that’s well worth avoiding. But Lovecraft’s beings don’t really care or think much about humans, much like Terry Pratchett’s creatures from the “dungeon dimensions”. To them, humans are not much more than ants or cockroaches…and they are decidedly not entomologist types, so they have no affection for humans, even as subjects of study.
But the Vagabond is a character. In fact, he’s the second character we meet in the book. I don’t think I’m giving away any spoilers by saying that. It’s pretty obvious within seconds of encountering him that he’s not quite…right, as it were. For him (he identifies as male, as they say), humans do very much matter, but only because he really, really dislikes us. It would be far better for us if he didn’t care at all.
I’ve had no success in hunting down the scanned version of my old, favorite drawing of the Vagabond (which I know I scanned at some point, and which I could swear I’ve seen sometime in the last eight years, but for the life of me I don’t know where). I’m very disappointed. I wanted to at least base my cover on that drawing, though I would probably embellish and alter it in some ways. I can see the picture clearly in my mind’s eye—I’m the one who drew it, after all. But that doesn’t mean I could reproduce it. I’m out of practice with drawing, and practice really does make a difference. Also, that drawing captured something that I don’t think I could mimic readily. I’ve tried sketching some version of it from time to time, but I haven’t liked any of the results.
So, I’m pursuing other means of making the imagery I want. I’ve done a sort of “sketch” if you will (though it’s not a drawing) of the impression he gives, and I’ll include it in this post, below. It’s not the final form of the cover by any means—there are ways it doesn’t quite match his overall look, though it’s very close. Still, it gives something of a taste of what I recall capturing in the drawing, and the impression I have of him in my mind.
Take a look. See if he’s someone you would want to pick up if you saw him hitchhiking along the interstate. I’m guessing you wouldn’t—not that you would have any choice, if he decided he wanted a ride from you.
So anyway, that’s fairly exciting, for me, and I hope that some of you are at least interested or intrigued. It’s been more than thirty years since I first started this novel, and to see it finally published is something for which I had given up hope. Thanks be to my ex-wife for discovering and sending it to me (and for many other things besides)! It was dedicated to her from the start*, and so it shall stay, departing from my usual practice of dedicating my stories to my children. I hope, quite fervently, that she will read it (again) when it’s published. I know she liked it, once upon a time.
And with that ironic phrase, I’ll begin drawing this post to a close. I’m still having trouble getting into fiction reading—or even watching—and frankly, even nonfiction is getting harder to find engaging. But my passion for writing stories (and blog posts) remains, and I hope those of you not currently suffering from my peculiar literary ailment will enjoy reading them. And, of course, I hope that you are and will remain well and happy.
*This may seem a strange form of honor, but trust me, it was never meant or taken negatively. Horror fiction was one of the things that brought us together, though it was not the primary one. I even wrote my short story Solitaire while keeping her company as she worked on a project overnight for a summer job. She read it soon after, but it was a bit dark even for her. If I remember correctly, she said something along the lines of, “It’s a great story…but where the hell did that come from?” I couldn’t say. I was in quite a good mood, since I was spending time with the woman with whom I was very much in love. I did tend to play a lot of solitaire at the time (with real cards), so obviously that was a trigger, but as for the substance of the admittedly quite horrific story…who knows?