From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

I Think of Stories as Mosaics: Gary Kloster

What inspired “And the Blood of Dead Gods Will Mark the Score”?

A glass paperweight, Hollywood in August, and sleep deprivation.

I was a winner in last year’s Writers of the Future Contest. So last August I got to fly to Hollywood and spend a week in a writing workshop with K.D. Wentworth and Tim Powers (and a lot of other great authors). One of the traditional assignments at that workshop is the 24 hour story. Each writer is given a random object, told to go strike up a conversation with a stranger, and is then allowed some library time for research. Using those three things, you have to write a story in one day.

This is the story I wrote. Mostly. I did run it through a few more drafts to clean it up.

Tattoos are an integral symbol throughout your narrative. In the story, people gain the essence and power of dead gods through having the blood tattooed into their skin. Why tattoos?

Because I’m an introvert. The part of the 24-hour assignment that freaked me out the most was the stranger interview. I’m not very good at socializing with random people on the street. Especially not random people in Hollywood during a massive heat wave. So I cheated a little. There are a bunch of tattoo shops on Hollywood Boulevard, catering to the tourists. I went in to a few and chatted up the artists who weren’t busy, asking them about the trade, looking through their samples. It ended up being pretty fun. And tempting. . . but I still can’t decide what kind of tattoo I would want.

The protagonist of your story, Woody, seems to be transgendered. What kind of research did you do prior to writing to prepare for writing from the perspective of this character?

My biggest help for that was from an author friend of mine, Keffy R. M. Kehrli (who had a story with Fantasy in May). He read “Blood” and gave me some great advice about Woody. Along with a nice idea about smoothing out the sacrifice scene.

Woody wants the blood of the Australian shape-shifting god, Ungud. This is fitting for several reasons. Where did you first hear about Ungud?

Well, I’ve covered the object I was given, and the interview. Now here’s the research.

My original idea, looking at the paperweight K.D. gave me, was doing some kind of story about a black market trade in mythological animals. For some reason, I thought of centering it around a Bunyip, so I tried to research them. Problem was, the neighborhood library we went to didn’t have very much about Bunyips. But it did have some things about spirits and gods. So I started thinking along those lines, and back at the hotel I hit the internet and found Ungud, who turned out to be perfect for the story that was shaping up in my head.

When Woody remembers the first time she saw a goddess led to the slaughter, the goddess remained unnamed. Who was this unnamed goddess?

Ah, a very important one. The goddess of convenient plot devices. I wish I had a better answer, but while I had that specific scene in mind, I didn’t have a specific god.

It’s funny thinking back on writing “Blood.” Normally, it’s not easy for me to remember all the sources of a story. But because of the circumstances surrounding this one, I can remember a lot of the things that inspired it. A paperweight, a tattoo artist, and some googling. And more. The sharp dressed guy in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The city, with its crowds and heat. The person with the perfect goatee and the amazing cleavage laughing with friends outside the nightclub at the Roosevelt Hotel. The pall of smoke over the whole valley from the wild fires in the hills.

It makes my writing process sound so prosaic—take a few random things, mix them together, make a story. But I think of stories as mosaics, made up of all the little things I find around me. People, places, bits of conversation, half-thought out ideas, other stories. It all comes in and I carry it around until some of those pieces start to fit together, making a pattern, making a story. That’s what happened with Blood. It just happened a bit more quickly.

What’s next for Gary Kloster?

Professionally, I have another story out right now called “Mayfly.” It appears in the Warrior Wisewoman 3 anthology, and it’s about life extension, fairness, and terrorism. This fall, my story “Sympathy of a Gun” will appear online in the Intergalactic Medicine Show. That one’s about alien invasions, unwanted pregnancies, and Florida.

Non-professionally, I’m currently trying to survive an interstate move involving two young children and high humidity. And as long as I don’t lose the laptop in the chaos, more writing.

T.J. McIntyre has seen his short fiction and poetry published in numerous publications including recent appearances in Everyday Weirdness, Ruthless Peoples Magazine, and Scifaikuest. He is a member of various writing organizations, including the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA), and serves as a moderator for the Lobo Luna and Western Writers writing communities on LiveJournal. Until earlier this year, he published Southern Fried Weirdness, an anthology and web zine celebrating speculative fiction and poetry with a Southern perspective. He lives in a busy household in the muggy heart of rural Alabama with his wife, two young sons, an aging Doberman mix, five tiger barbs, and three salt-and-pepper catfish.