A big welcome to Tom Doyle who is here counting down the Top 10 Classic American Stories of the Fantastic or Uncanny and celebrating the release of American Craftsmen, (published on May 6, 2014 by Tor Books). Want to win a copy? Enter via the widget below.
Tom Doyle’s Top 10 Classic American Stories of the Fantastic or Uncanny
In my debut novel, American Craftsmen, Captain Dale Morton is a magician soldier, a “craftsman”, fighting against a treasonous cabal at the heart of the Pentagon. American Craftsmen has also been called “a book haunted by other books” because I’ve created a backstory from the early American stories of the fantastic. For my list, here (in no precise order) are my top ten American stories of the fantastic or the uncanny. I’ve limited the selections to one per author, or Poe might occupy half of the list.
“The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman
In this early feminist story, a woman is confined to a room for her “health” and descends into madness. I have yellow wallpaper decorating one of the rooms in the House of Morton.
The Turn of the Screw, Henry James
If one takes this story at face value, it’s about ghosts possessing children. In my novel, such possession is a skill of certain evil ancestral Mortons.
The King in Yellow (first four stories), Robert W. Chambers
These stories form a link between Poe, with their king inspired by the Red Death, and H.P. Lovecraft, with their otherworldly evil. They’ve gained some recent noticed through their use in HBO’s True Detective.
Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
Melville’s whale may be much more than an animal. Is he a stand-in for nature? Evil? In my novel, the black ops section of the Pentagon’s craft command is color coded with the whale’s ironic white.
“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” Ambrose Bierce
This story is famous for its representation of how subjective consciousness can stretch time. This sort of stretching was later used in such diverse works as Jacob’s Ladder and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. My craftspeople are able to enter an accelerated mode for combat.
The Mysterious Stranger, Mark Twain
Satan visits Earth and exercises a power of command over friend and foe alike while declaring that nothing is real. Some of my craftspeople have such a power of command.
“The Legend of Sleep Hollow” Washington Irving
I’m not sure if Irving would have laughed or cried at hearing that Ichabod Crane has been re-imagined as a hero of anything. Due perhaps to its retellings for children, this is a frequently misinterpreted story. The greedy Crane is the villain of the piece, and the town was right to drive him out. In my world, Ichabod would be one of the evil Morton ancestors.
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, H.P. Lovecraft
Here’s a funny one: when I wrote American Craftsmen, I was only familiar with other works in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. This saga of a New England family with an evil sorcerer ancestor might have scared me away from the topic altogether. But reading it after I’d finished writing my novel just convinced me that I’d been on the right track.
The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hawthorne was an excellent chronicler of the darker side of the Puritans’ story. In my novel, one of the Morton powers is to see sins as glowing letters radiating from a person’s body.
“The Masque of the Red Death,” Edgar Allan Poe
I could have picked any number of Poe stories, but I picked this one because it’s about how the Decameron fails–storytelling falters when we attempt to isolate it from the negative aspects of the world. In American Craftsmen, one of the Morton evil ancestors wore the garb of the Red Death during rituals and killings.
Tom Doyle’s debut novel, American Craftsmen, is the first in a three-book contemporary fantasy series from Tor. His collection from Paper Golem Press, The Wizard of Macatawa and Other Stories, features short fiction winners of the WSFA Small Press Award and Writers of the Future Award. Two of his recent stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction and Buzzy Mag. Tom writes in a spooky turret in Washington DC. The text and audio of many of his stories are available at www.tomdoylewriter.com.
Two copies of American Craftsmen by Tom Doyle
Available on May 6, 2014 by Tor Books
In modern America, two soldiers will fight their way through the magical legacies of Poe and Hawthorne to destroy an undying evil—if they don’t kill each other first.
US Army Captain Dale Morton is a magician soldier—a “craftsman.” After a black-ops mission gone wrong, Dale is cursed by a Persian sorcerer and haunted by his good and evil ancestors. Major Michael Endicott, a Puritan craftsman, finds gruesome evidence that the evil Mortons, formerly led by the twins Roderick and Madeline, have returned, and that Dale might be one of them.
Dale uncovers treason in the Pentagon’s highest covert ranks. He hunts for his enemies before they can murder him and Scherie, a new friend who knows nothing of his magic.
Endicott pursues Dale, divided between his duty to capture a rogue soldier and his desire to protect Dale from his would-be assassins. They will discover that the demonic horrors that have corrupted American magic are not bound by family or even death itself.
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