These Strange Worlds: Fourteen Dark Tales

Introduction to my debut collection of speculative short stories, These Strange Worlds:

I was a fortunate child.

In our home, there was odd in abundance. We had a wealth of weird, a plenitude of peculiar and a storeroom of strange.

My parents, bless their hearts, were such great Star Trek fans that we had “WARP 5” on the license plates of our old Dodge minivan for a lot of years. I doubt we ever hit warp factor five in that burly space cruiser, but that’s beside the point.

The point was that our folks were into fantasy and science fiction, and it trickled down to Beth and Emily and me. For that gift (among many others), I’ll always be thankful.

My mom read a lot of Anne McCaffrey back then and, while I didn’t share her enthusiasm for those books, I did read a couple of them. They were pretty neat—interesting and fun, and unlike the other stuff I was into back then. Those books encouraged me to explore the world of speculative fiction. I made quick work of Tolkien’s catalogue before plunging into Madeleine L’Engle and John Bellairs and Roald Dahl and Ray Bradbury and C.S. Lewis.

Then, one year for Christmas, I received a couple of paperback novels from my Aunt Kelley: Stephen King’s The Shining and Salem’s Lot. I was nine or ten years old.

Sheesh, those books left a bruise!

The Shining frightened me far beyond anything I’d read up to that point. King’s influence on my tastes in fiction (and, eventually, my writing) was immediate and intense. I developed an appreciation for mundane horror that informs my narrative leanings to this day.

I have vivid memories of watching Don Siegel’s 1956 classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers with my mom on Halloween night. I think I was about eight years old. Shortly after that one, I developed some pretty healthy misgivings about adults.


I remember all of us gathering in the living room to watch the 1980s rendition of The Twilight Zone. They were so good we sought out the original series and I had my first exposure to the great Rod Serling. “To Serve Man” still gets me every time (“It’s…it’s a cookbook!”).

I remember watching Monsters and Tales from the Darkside on Sunday evenings on WGN. Emily and I never missed them. They’re running the old Darkside episodes on Chiller now, and my daughter and I enjoy one almost every morning together while we have our cereal.

Our whole family gathered for the underrated Steven Spielberg series Amazing Stories. It’s a shame that one didn’t have better traction.

E.T.. Gremlins. Jaws. It was a great time to be both a kid and a fan of weird stories. I’ll never forget going to the drive-in back in Pueblo, Colorado, and feeling a sense of deep and pervasive dread when Superman trapped those villains in the glass and sent them whisking off to another dimension.

What happened to them, anyway? Poor bastards.

At any rate, I’m thankful to my folks for making room for speculative storytelling in our home. They encouraged us to read widely. They took us to the movies. They even paid us for our writing.

These early influences are why I wrote these stories. The fourteen tales collected here are culled primarily from my first forays into writing fiction (I began to write with an eye toward publication in the fall of 2006). I understand if the efforts are viewed as uneven.

That’s fair.

But I wanted to collect them because they represent the efforts of an important time in my development as a storyteller. A few are melancholy. Some of them are humorous. All of them are dark.

Thank you for taking the time to read them. I hope they provide an entertaining escape.

~ Jacksonville, Florida, April 2011

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