I am constantly asked about genre, as though it’s a mark of quality, and I find myself wondering about how important such a thing is. Is genre just a title, a category to help us group stories into classes of pre-determined judgment, or is it something more?
Stephen King’s books are widely regarded as horror, but this is also the man who penned such greats as The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Neither of those stories would ever be thought of as horror, unless you’re an idiot. He also wrote The Running Man and the somewhat cult-classic Dark Tower series, both possibly classed as science fiction, and yet somewhat not. I mean, if you really delve into any of his novels, there’s a hell of a lot more there than mere horror, and yet everyone seems to think of him as a horror writer.
My first publisher classed The Dark Path as a horror novel, a genre I would have never imagined when I wrote it, and yet it’s gone on to great success from both people who profess to love and those who detest horror. Since taking things into my own hands, I’ve decided to change its categories to action/adventure and thriller, both of which it slots perfectly into, and yet these do not define it. The same goes for my Prometheus Wars series; both books could be classed as anything from mythology to paranormal, but the heart of the books is adventure, and as such that’s how they’re categorized, much to my chagrin. Tiny boxes make for even smaller windows, and when trying to get readers to notice you, you want the biggest damn Plexiglas window in the world.
Genre is a useful tool, but it’s also a double-edged sword. For instance, I know there are hundreds (possibly thousands) of phenomenal books out there I will probably never read simply because they’re classed as romance novels. No matter how gripping a synopsis reads I doubt I’ll dip my toe into a romance on the off chance it slides into a stereotypical estrogen-fuelled sappy-saga.
No offense to romance fans, but I’d rather put my face in a blender than read about heaving bosoms and engorged loins. And yet I know chances are many of those stories classed as romances are brilliant, and in no way limited to what I perceive a stereotypical romance to be. This is my loss, and all because of my prejudging of the genre, much like another reader might see a book classed as horror and expect to be terrified by ghosts and scary clowns.
So is genre good?
Much like pigeonholing people, typecasting books so blindly is ignorant. And yet we need it. There’s no swifter way to identify subject matter other than genre categorization. It draws the reader in to read more about a book they will hopefully like, and until each author reaches the same heights of popularity as the King, we will continue to class our writing in such a way.
“HE IS COMING!!!”
The words echoed around the room. A small Indian boy’s eyes flared open and he sat bolt-upright in his bed, his throat raw from the scream. Wrenching aside sweat-drenched sheets, he tried to slow down his thundering heart, which seemed to be sitting at the base of his throat. The intense vision had fled, but the memory lingered, its claws retracting but not fully retreating, and the darkness of the night slithered around young Aadesh like a shroud, escalating his fear.
The dream had begun normally; Aadesh had been playing with friends in the marketplace within his home town of Bhinmal. He’d been sprinting between the timber and canvas fruit stalls, focusing on not tripping on the uneven cobbles or crashing into the multitudes of people, when a tall, azure-eyed stranger had stepped in front of him, halting him with his gaze. The man had kneeled down and talked to him seriously, in the way adults spoke to each other. The scene around them had melted away as the stranger spoke, his rich voice drowning out all other noise, becoming the crux of the young boy’s focus. Aadesh couldn’t remember the features of the man, nor could he recall the words he’d spoken, and as such it was a particularly frustrating dream. But he knew something of vast importance had been imparted to him, and he would need to remember it eventually. For the time being, though, the information was gone, lost in the haze of his memory.
Aadesh’s door burst open and he blinked against the light streaming in, barely making out the features of his father.
“What is wrong, Aadesh?” his father demanded in Hindi. “You were yelling in your sleep.”
“I had a bad dream, Papa.”
His father entered the small room and sat on the edge of the bed, holding Aadesh’s hand comfortingly. “Tell me of it.”
Aadesh shrugged. “I don’t remember.”
“Then it can’t have been too bad, can it?”
“I think it was important. I was told to remember something, but I can’t.”
“If you are meant to know, it will come back in time,” replied his father, smoothing his hair as Aadesh lay back down. “But for now you must get some sleep.”
“Thank you, Papa.”
“It seems your studies are going well, at least,” said his father, rising to leave.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, when you called out, your English was perfect.” His father paused. “But I thought you weren’t to start learning that until next year.”
“We haven’t started, Papa.”
His father stared down at Aadesh quizzically. “That is strange, I could have sworn you yelled out ‘He is coming’ in English before I came in. I must have been mistaken, or perhaps it is just all those American movies you watch. Maybe they’re already corrupting your mind.” He smiled gently.
“I don’t know. I just remember the man in my dreams talking to me, he said it was very important that I remember what he was saying, but I can’t now. Will I be in trouble?” His chest tightened at the prospect.
Aadesh’s father chuckled in the semi-darkness. “It will come back to you when the time is right, my son. If it is truly important, the words are merely waiting within you for the time when they must emerge once more. But for now you need to get some sleep, because tomorrow is another day of school.”
Rolling over, Aadesh groaned, “Yes, Papa.”
His father left the room and Aadesh pulled his blanket up to his chin once more, staring hard into the darkness, attempting to free his mind from worrying about the message. The man had been so persuasive, adamant about the need for Aadesh to remember what he’d been saying, but all the boy could think of were his eyes. They had been like ice, burning coldly within the sockets of the man’s face. But unlike ice they had not seemed devoid of emotion. On the contrary, they had seemed charged, especially when he’d spoken the name.
What was the name? It was a strange name, a western one like out of the movies his father chastised Aadesh for watching so often, the unfamiliar language generally ignored as the action blasted across their small television.
What had the name been?
It was on the tip of his tongue. So foreign, and yet something that felt comfortable within his mind, as though it bypassed language barriers, becoming much more than merely a moniker.
Christine? That wasn’t it either.
And then it came to him and Aadesh smiled, knowing he could finally get back to sleep. He rolled over on his side and closed his eyes, breathing deeply and evenly.
The name was Christ.
Corpus Christi is scheduled for release in early 2013. Stay tuned to @LukeRomyn on Twitter for updates.
His collar was crisply folded and perfectly pressed. The four stars affixed upon the lapels of his jacket denoted his rank, but it was his steely gaze that proclaimed his power.
Workstations loaded with computers buzzed all around him, technicians working furiously at their posts, but the general didn’t even glance at them. His entire focus lay on the task at hand. Everything they’d been working toward had led to this point, and he would not allow anything to go wrong. Too much depended upon this.
“General,” requested one of the many scientists, interrupting his thoughts. “We are almost ready to power up the mechanism. Do we have permission to proceed?”
The general nodded slightly, his features not betraying his inner excitement in the slightest. The scientist scurried away.
“I have to voice my protestations again, General,” said the man beside him, an academic-looking figure in his early thirties, his hair short and dark, and his white lab coat creased from long wear. “This machine hasn’t been operated in centuries. We have no idea what it might do. The writings –”
“The writings don’t mean shit to me, Professor,” growled the general. “I want to see what this device does. This could be the greatest discovery mankind has ever known, and you’re here pissing in your britches when you should be over the moon to even be involved. You might go down in history as the one to unlock the instrument which led humanity to the next level of technology.”
“It might destroy the planet.”
The general stared at him blankly. “I have faith in our defenses, Professor. I think you should as well.”
“This machinery was shut down for a reason,” protested the professor, waving his hand in a sweep toward the enormous stone structures standing around the room, beyond the scientific equipment. “There is no clear reference as to what will happen in any of the writings. For all we know it might be a doomsday device, God knows they had the technology.”
“That is exactly why we must activate it. We need to know what it does and how to combat it. Can you imagine if there are more of these scattered around the planet? What if our country’s enemies found one and learned how to use it? How long do you think it would be until they turned it on us?”
“But General –”
“But nothing,” countered the general. “I need to ascertain if this device is a threat to the United States, and if so, we will either destroy it or relocate it to a more secure location. You have your orders, Professor. Turn the damn thing on.”
Muttering something under his breath, the professor moved compliantly to the enormous stone tablet, its inlaid inscriptions seeming to pulse with anticipation. They had determined months beforehand that this functioned as the equivalent of a control panel. One by one, he began brushing his fingers over the carvings, each glowing slightly as he did. He continued with this for several minutes, pressing different combinations until finally a low groan emitted from an area surrounded by monoliths similar to those located at Stonehenge. These stood nearly twice as large as the circle in Europe which had evoked so much conjecture over the decades.
The ground rumbled heavily and dust began to drift from the ceiling of the cavern. With a thunderous crack the monolithic circle erupted and flooded the area with light so bright all the surrounding personnel – including the forty heavily-armed marines ringing the outer wall – instinctively turned away, shielding their eyes.
And the circle began to rotate.
The light dulled enough for the workers to return their awed gazes to it, witnessing the breathtaking spectacle. The entire platform, including the monoliths, had begun to spin, slowly at first, but gradually picking up speed, starting to buzz with a high pitched whine which echoed from the walls. More than one scientist appeared to cower slightly, but all held steady. This was what they’d worked so long for.
The stone monoliths soundlessly flashed out of existence in an instant, no trace of them left, not even a grain of sand, replaced by an inky blackness which seemingly sucked the very illumination from the massive floodlights. Visibility dropped immediately, a cloak of gloom descending over everyone in a heartbeat.
“Secure this room!” ordered the general. Huge steel doors slammed into the ground from overhead crevices, blocking the ancient entrances. The external ring of marines snapped into action, stepping forward and taking up defensive positions, primed weapons aimed at the swirling darkness. The general noticed the annoying Australian soldier step in close to the professor, but for once he remained silent, all his attention seemingly centered on the swirling blackness.
An eerie silence descended upon the area, breaths held in anticipation. The professor moved swiftly back to the general’s side.
“What’s going on here, Professor?”
His question met with silence, and the general glanced away from the swirling black curtain, staring down at the smaller man. Sweat beaded upon the professor’s brow, and his hands were trembling, absolute terror etched across his features.
“Speak up, man!” barked the general.
The professor tore his gaze away from the scene before them, turning haunted eyes toward the general. “I-It can’t be,” he whispered.
“What is it?”
The professor swallowed. “It’s a doorway. A rift.”
“A doorway? A doorway to where?”
“I didn’t think it was possible,” he replied, his voice trembling so erratically it seemed he might choke on the words. “I thought I’d misinterpreted what the runes said. It can’t be true.”
“Will you tell me what the hell is going on here? Where does this doorway lead?”
“We’ve opened a temporal split, General,” answered the professor. “It’s a gateway between dimensions.”
“What are you talking about, man? I need to know exactly where this thing goes.”
“The writings spoke of the machinery we’ve just started. They told of a power so immense it would unleash absolute evil upon the world if ever it were restarted. I assumed they were being metaphorical, that it was merely a weapon. I had trouble with a section which told exactly what would happen when the machinery restarted. The wording seemed open to a great many interpretations, but now I see it was, in fact, literal.”
“What did it say?”
“It told of the machinery’s ability to unleash something so horrible nothing on this planet could stand against it.”
An ominous lamentation sounded from the rift, echoing around the room, the flood lamps flickering in unison as though a surge of power followed the noise.
The professor assumed an expression of total resignation. “This machine is designed for one purpose,” he said, his tone neutral. “It opens a doorway into a place men were never supposed to go.”
“Where?” demanded the general. “Tell me where this thing goes.”
Bestial howling roared through the cavernous room. The lights exploded, thrusting them into the bowels of darkness….
BEYOND HADES will be unleashed worldwide on kindle
Monday, 16th April, 2012.
Print version will follow very soon after .
Here it is, the cover of my next rampant action-thriller, Beyond Hades, due out early in 2012. Hot on the heels of the highly popular Blacklisted, this story is sure to blow more than a few minds.
What if mythology isn’t myth? The ancient Greeks told fabulously detailed stories involving unbelievable creatures – monsters dominating all tales from that time. Were they just highly imaginative, or was their inspiration from somewhere else?
Doctor Talbot Harrison, a professor in archeology, receives a phone call one day which will destroy everything he perceives as reality. His brother has been mysteriously killed and within moments the United States Military appear at his door, literally dragging him from his home. Thrown into a helicopter under intense armed guard, it doesn’t take long until they are attacked by something which cannot possibly exist, something drawn to destroy the one man who can stop the beasts from a land beyond Hades….
“Port side! Port side! Incoming!” he heard one of the marines call through his headphones.
A massive torrent of flames poured over the entire left side of the Super Stallion, licking and probing, tilting the huge helicopter to the right. Most of the marines had heard the warning and taken cover, but the port-side gunner was engulfed in a green liquid which rapidly burst into flames – a blaze which burned a sickly blue-green. His howls filled the cabin along with the stench of burning flesh. One of his fellows crashed the marine to the floor and tried to smother the conflagration, but only succeeded in transmitting the inferno to himself. A more sensible marine stepped up and used a small extinguisher to put out the flames on both men, but Talbot could see the body of the gunner, and it was crispy. The second man’s screams echoed through the enclosed chopper.
“It’s coming around to starboard!” one of the pilots called over the internal radio. The XM218 machine gun on the right hand side of the Super Stallion instantly erupted, firing thousands of rounds out at an incredible rate.
Talbot snapped his gaze around fearfully and saw something… something incredible!
It soared gracefully, gliding through the air against any reason of logic which said a creature of such size could not be so incredibly maneuverable or swift. It had the tail of a snake, body of a lion and head and wings of an eagle. The creature calmly weaving between the tracer rounds held no place in reality; it was something out of myth – Greek mythology to be exact, the same subject Talbot’s brother had been an expert in.
It was a gryphon.
It was impossible. There was no way the thing Talbot was seeing could be real, but there it was before him, majestic wings stretching for at least the equivalent length of the Super Stallion – about one hundred feet! The beast’s body was enormous too, slightly larger than an African bull elephant. There was no way it could possibly exist. No way.
Then the thing which couldn’t possibly exist hit them with another eruption of green liquid which immediately turned into blue-green flame once it mixed with the oxygen in the air. This time it struck the starboard side of the aircraft. Nobody made the same mistake as the gunner had the last time, every single marine finding secure cover as the horrendous blaze struck.
The Super Stallion was smashed sideways in the air by the strength of the attack. Talbot heard orders being screamed through his headphones and the methodical pounding sound of the rear gun trying vainly to take down the target.
“Well it’s about goddam time!” he heard Colonel Wilson yell.
Wondering what he was talking about, Talbot followed his gaze out the port-side window. Darting towards them were four AV-8B Harrier II jet fighters – more commonly known as Harrier Jump-Jets. Talbot would have whooped with joy… if he didn’t feel like he was about to crap his pants.
The fighter planes sped in and Talbot saw them all unanimously fire missiles –AIM-9 side-winders, he guessed. All four missiles shot in curving lines towards the gryphon, smoke trails blazing out behind them.
Simultaneous contact and detonation. Flames erupted from the enormous explosion and the gryphon was gone….
Only to emerge, charred and shaken, but otherwise unscathed. The huge beast beat its wings several times, seeming to consider another attack on the Super Stallion, but instead peeling away from the conflict and rapidly disappearing towards the horizon.
“Call off the fighters, we can’t afford to lose any more,” Talbot heard Colonel Wilson call over the headset. Talbot sat back on the bench seat and stared down at his shaking hands.
“Welcome to our nightmare, Dr. Harrison,” said Colonel Wilson grimly.
Stay tuned for updates.