Thursday, July 7, 2011

Guest post with Richard Lee Byers

*Anna here. I'll be posting my review for The Q Word next week, and until then I will only say that I am enjoying what I've read so far! I'd also like to thank Richard for his time and for writing such a wonderful post. It was a treat! So leave your comments and show Richard that we Bite Clubbers are more than just romance fans..we like all books with bite!


Richard Lee Byers

World building is a crucial part of writing most
science fiction and fantasy stories, even those
nominally set in the real world. Unless the story
limits itself to a single fantastic yet plausible element
like, say, a new invention that truly does seem like
it might be on the horizon, you’re actually writing
about an imaginary world even if you’re trying to
downplay that fact.

World building presents a special challenge in
short fiction. The form simply doesn’t allow for the
amount of exposition you can manage in a novel. Yet
a story falls flat if the writer fails to create the sense
of a vivid and logically coherent universe. Here’s
how I tried to achieve that in the various tales in The
Q Word and Other Stories.

“The Q Word” is largely a spoof of heroic fantasy,
and as such, it intentionally references many of the
cliches of the genre, including trackless monster-
infested forests, dark lords of hellish lands scheming
to conquer the world, artifacts of great magical
power, and questing heroes. Yet I didn’t want this
particular world to feel like pure parody. I wanted
readers to find it credible for the duration of the tale.
If they do, it’s likely because of the wry, shrewd
voice of the first-person narrator. If he seems real as
he describes his world, the world should seem real as

“Griefer Madness” is a science fiction story set in the
near future. I had very little space to describe any part
of that future other than the high-tech playground
in which most of the yarn occurs, but I wanted to
indicate a world of progress and abundance. To
this end, I mentioned the “Green Tech billionaires”
and implied that most people are world travelers.
This, I think, effectively conveys the idea of a bright
tomorrow and illustrates the principle that you don’t
have to include a zillion details in a story if you pick
the right details. The right details are the ones that
stimulate the reader’s imagination and get him to fill
in the blanks for himself.

“Blood and Limestone” is set in medieval France,
and “Wisdom” is set in the world of Greek
mythology. In stories like this, world building is
partly a matter of research. It provides details that
make the story vivid and coherent. (It also keeps
knowledgeable readers from sending you snarky
emails telling you what you screwed up.) For “Blood
and Limestone,” I read up on the building of the great
cathedrals, and for “Wisdom,” I reviewed the myths
and also archaeological information on Delphi.

“Black” is one of those tales set in the secret
supernatural underbelly of the contemporary world.
As in “Griefer Madness,” I didn’t have space to
provide a great deal of information about this setting,
but I tried to sprinkle in interesting details that imply
more than is actually stated. The references to the
queen of the cats, the devil’s longstanding desire to
subvert the feline race, and the Inquisition are some
examples. Probably the most fully developed aspect
of this particular world is the system of magic my
hero commands, and if that’s intriguing, it should
lend interest and credibility to everything else.

“End of Life” and “Office Space” are stories in which
utterly bizarre things happen to ordinary people going
about their everyday business in what is nominally
the real world. In stories like these, it’s useful to
balance the wild and crazy elements with plenty of
mundane, concrete detail. It helps the reader take
the outrageous stuff seriously, and it’s one reason
the stories contain so many allusions to things like
watching Judge Judy.

“The Things That Crawl” is another tale of the secret
supernatural forces that, unbeknownst to us, infest
the world, and, like some of the other stories, it
strives to be vivid and credible by using a convincing
first-person narrator and including an abundance
of realistic detail. (In this case, it’s detail I didn’t
have to research. I actually live in a small Florida
town like the one in the story, and I was here when
the two hurricanes of 2004 blasted through.) “The
Things That Crawl” differs from the other stories
in the collection, though, in that it’s a tale of H. P.
Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. That may not leap out
at every reader because the story doesn’t contain
any of the standard Lovecraftian buzzwords like
Necronomicon, Yog-Sothoth, Arkham, or what
have you. Some writers who follow in Lovecraft’s
footsteps use these to excellent effect, but when I try
to do the same, I find they give my work a stale, trite
qualtiy. When I dabble in the Mythos, I’m better off
using its essential concepts by making up my own
names for elder gods, eldritch tomes, and what have

And there you have it, a little insight into how I
approached the writing of these particular stories. I
hope it enhances your enjoyment of the collection.

I’m Richard Lee Byers. You can pick up The Q Word and Other Stories for the Kindle and all my other books on Amazon.

You can also pick up The Q Word and Other Stories
in a format suitable for any e-reader at Smashwords.

Watch for The Impostor #0: Suiting Up, available
soon at both Amazon and Smashwords. This is a
preview of my new post-apocalyptic superhero series,
it’s a complete story, and it will be free.

Finally, please feel free to email me here, read my
blog, Friend me on Facebook, and Follow me on

See you next time!

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