Tuesday, September 13, 2016

'The Pale Grinner' -- A Story of Stories

Zimbell House Publishing's call for its anthology Nocturnal Natures called for stories of creatures that live in the shadows. Their description offered a lot of scope, and I'm always about treading on the edge of a theme. Which, admittedly, is a dangerous way to play. But it's also very fun.

And sometimes, like in the case of this anthology, it hits home. My story of a creepypasta brought to life will be featured in this anthology, coming soon from Zimbell.

'The Pale Grinner' feeds back into one of my current obsessions: the lore of the Internet, especially children of the Internet. While the Pale Grinner is created accidentally around a campfire, I drew his inspiration from the world of 'creepypasta' -- that is, copypasta (a derogatory term originating on 4chan for an unbelievable, likely fictional and copy-pasted post) written deliberately to unsettle the reader. Slenderman, Jeff the Killer, and other such modern-day bogeymen hail from this genre.

I've always been in love with horror stories of any era, but the folklore of the Internet generation -- emaciated humanoids whose smiles are just a little too wide, people physically warped into eldritch beings by their strange obsessions, surreal discoveries that end in existential crisis -- fascinates me. Societies write stories as coping mechanisms, and the liminal nightmares that have sprung out of recent online fiction really make you wonder what's ticking over in some people's heads. And the spread of them, the way we keep ourselves wide awake with these nightmare scenarios of our own volition, says plenty about us as a species.

One thing I address a lot in this story is that humans crave the macabre and the terrifying. And I do think that's true. The character of the Pale Grinner is a joke, hardly scary at all, but he learns from the best (I won't say who) how and why a scary story lives on. And beyond that... well, he finds his way. And it's how many stories stay with us over the centuries.

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the stories in this anthology, and hope you get a kick out of mine as well. You can order your copy of Nocturnal Natures from the Zimbell House Publishing website.