How’s everyone doing today? I thought it might be fun to give a little inside information, or a behind the scenes look at my short story, Covert Genesis.
Let’s start with the fact that Covert Genesis was my first major publication. Yes, I was pretty much unknown at the time (still am!). I found an open call for submissions and figured I’d take my chances. Well, apparently a little over 1,100 other writers did too. Eleven mighty stories were plucked from the slush, mine included. That still blows my mind.
So, where did the idea for Covert Genesis come from?
I have a virtual folder full of story ideas. One of those ideas was for a zombie book set on a Naval base. The military aspect was already in place. The concept evolved after I made up my mind to switch from zombies. Let’s be honest, zombies are everywhere. I let the idea marinate in my mind for a while.
Eventually I thought what if I had monsters similar to zombies but weren’t really zombies?
The answer was parasites – worm-like creatures that control their human hosts. Oh, and they’re from outer space. Extraterrestrial parasites sounds so much cooler than zombies, don’t you think?
One of the things I ended up doing was taking Sci-Fi elements and incorporating them into what boils down to a story of survival horror. I’ve always been a big fan of survival horror – video games like Resident Evil, Condemned: Criminal Origins, and Gears of War, films like Dog Soldiers and the Alien franchise. Hopefully I did the genre justice with my short story.
What you’ll find in SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror is actually a prequel of sorts to a planned novel. The novel would cover the parasite’s arrival, discovery, and how they spread to the naval base, as told through a military family’s perspective.
The character of Solomon Watkins is based partly on my military experience. One of my responsibilities as an aircraft mechanic was to go and fix our planes no matter where they broke. I’ve been to Greenland, Qatar, and several cities in the United States chasing fuel leaks. I figured what better alibi than a broken plane to get another Spec-Ops team to the crash site under the radar. Poor Solomon has no idea what he’s getting into. And that’s part of what I think makes the story work. He’s clearly not a hardened soldier, but he isn’t someone to turn his back on his responsibilities, or duty, either. He’s a good guy thrust into the unknown. There is no handbook for what he encounters. How he reacts is a testament to who he is as a person.
Stylistically, I wanted to depict something readers maybe haven’t come across before, but might strike them as vaguely familiar. I play video games. There’s a first person shooter called Serious Sam where these headless guys run at you with bombs, all the while screaming. The closer they get, the louder the screaming. They’re called headless kamikazes and those moments were tense because if you didn’t shoot them before they reached you, BOOM! That’s where I got the idea for the screamers. As if the exploding head wasn’t bad enough, you would have to contend with what came out of it too. Scary stuff.
For me, I wanted this story to be more action oriented. Let’s be honest, short stories have a limited amount of space. I had to pick which aspect of the story to lean more heavily on. Since the anthology called for military horror, it was an easy decision to go action heavy. That’s not to say I abandoned character building altogether, but, rather sprinkled it throughout the story. As the creator it was more important to see how the characters reacted in real time, as they’re thrust into these crazy situations. Hopefully readers appreciate the end result.
I believe there are influences all around us. Whether we know it or not, everything we do has some sort of influence on us. Video games, television shows, movies, comics, books, music, and more all wriggle their influence in our minds. I like to try and bring as many influences to the table as possible when I write. Ideas can come from the unlikeliest of places.
Maybe you’ll see Solomon again. I know I’d love to revisit that world and those characters in book form. There’s a more vast, and broader picture to paint. Who knows what the future holds…
Feel free to ask any other questions you may have about Covert Genesis in the comments below.