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Authors: Christopher Golden

Strangewood

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Strangewoodby Christopher Golden

 

Copyright 1999 by Christopher Golden

 

This book is a work of fiction. All characters, events,dialog, and situations in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to realpeople or events is purely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of thisbook may be used or reproduced in any manner without the written permission ofthe author.

 

Cover Art by Lynne Hansen

Book Design by Lynne Hansen

http://LynneHansen.zenfolio.com

http://www.LynneHansen.com

 

Art graciously contributed by:

Von-Chan - http://von-chan.deviantart.com

Guavon-Stock - http://guavon-stock.deviantart.com

 

For more information, contact:[email protected]

Visithttp://www.ChristopherGolden.com

 

 

PRAISE FOR STRANGEWOOD

"If Clive Barker had goneThrough the Looking Glass,he might have come up with something as imaginative and compelling asStrangewood."— Kevin J. Anderson, author ofDune: House Harkonnen

 

"Strangewoodthe novel is a daring and thoroughlyengrossing blend of wonder and adventure, terror and tenderness. Strangewoodthe place is what Oz might have been if L. Frank Baum had grown up on a steadydiet of Stephen King." — F. Paul Wilson, author ofThe Keep

 

"A fascinating read." —Cemetery DanceMagazine

 

 

DEDICATION

For Connie.

Without you, the sun would never rise.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Introduction by Christopher Golden

Foreword by Graham Joyce

Strangewood

Afterword by Bentley Little

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Connect With Christopher Golden Online

Other Works by Christopher Golden

 

INTRODUCTION BY CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN

 

By now you all know the number one question writers mostdread hearing . . . which is consequently the number one question we are asked.

Where do we get our ideas?

There are two types of people who ask this question: thosewho’d like to find out where the ideas come from so they can go there and pickup a few, and those who think I’m absolutely insane because of the weird shit Iwrite.

Most of the time, I push the question off. The truth is,most ideas are bits of inspiration and information I’ve cobbled together overthe course of months or years, things that are completely unrelated but whichend up revealing themselves as connected, if only I’d work a little harder atfilling in the blanks. These are ideas that are built, not found.

Recently, I’ve actually dreamed a couple of book ideas, butI don’t talk about that much because I think it pisses people off. It means Ididn’t work for them. That’s not precisely true — dreams don’t make a lotof sense and so they have to have the blanks filled in as well — butstill, it makes it sound easy.

Then there’s the “eureka” idea. I’ve had three of thoserevelatory moments thus far in my career and I’ve been very pleased with theresults each time.Strangewoodcame about that way.

I had recently been to a convention where Clive Barker wasurging the writers in the audience not to restrict their own imaginations. Hefelt that the worst thing a writer could do was to have an idea and then reinit back, tell themselves it was too wild.

The timing of this was vital.

Shortly after I returned from that convention I was beinginterviewed for a magazine by my friend and later colleague Hank Wagner. Myson, Nicholas, was perhaps three at the time, and what we’ll call aWinnie-the-Pooh aficionado. Which is to say we had more than two dozen Poohvideo tapes that we watched round the clock.

I love Winnie-the-Pooh. Always have. I read the originalMilne to my kids when they were very small. But good God, there’s only so muchof anything one man can take. I told Hank that I had watched so much Pooh thatI’d reached the point where I’d love to see armed warriors on horseback ridedown into the Hundred Acre Wood, skin the little bastards, and nail their peltsto trees.

Strangewoodwas born in that moment. The whole thing.Certainly there were details that came later, some of them intrinsic to what Iperceive as the success of the story. Also, as I wrote, I was greatlyinfluenced by a wonderful short story I had read years before called “The Powerof the Mandarin,” by the cartoonist, writer and gentleman, Gahan Wilson.

But for all intents and purposes, that was it. The lightbulb. The eureka idea.

So for those of you who ask that question, you now have ananswer, at least where this story is concerned.

What a relief to find that the mad imagery that had comeinto my head at that moment was vivid enough not only to propel me through thebook, but to carry others along with me. I asked a handful of writers I knew tohave a look at it, some of them friends and others friendly acquaintances, andI waited with trepidation for their replies. You can not possibly imagine therelief and elation I felt when the feedback began to arrive from authors whohad always had my deep and abiding respect: Peter Straub, F. Paul Wilson,Graham Joyce, Kevin J. Anderson and others lent their voices in support. I feltblessed and, also, like the luckiest bastard on Earth. I thought I ought tohurry up and get the book out before they changed their minds.

Upon publication, readers embraced the book as well. The oldadage about not being able to please everyone is true, of course, but by andlarge those who ventured intoStrangewoodwith me that first time aroundseemed to have been more deeply affected by it than the readers of anythingelse I had ever written. I received countless e-mails asking for moreadventures in Strangewood . . . and who knows? Perhaps, one day. In fact,there’s a story in my head already, a sort of eureka junior, and I even have atitle . . . but that’s for another time.

Unfortunately, word didn’t get out quickly enough, or widelyenough and as so often happens,Strangewoodslipped out of print. Butthe e-mails kept coming. People continued to ask about it. And my editor, LauraAnne Gilman, continued to champion this odd little story.

So here we are, back again, hopefully for a much longer runthis time.

I’ve often referred toStrangewoodas the book withwhich I “grew up” as a writer. Sort of ironic, I think, given that it concernschildren’s literature and the sorts of characters that populate the landscapesof such works. Nevertheless, I still think of it that way. The dark fantasynovels I’d previously written were about action and ideas. Don’t get me wrong,there’s something to be said for that.The Shadow Sagawill always benear and dear to my heart and I intend to keep visiting that world. But I foundwithStrangewoodthat I had other types of stories in me.

Instead of action and ideas,Strangewoodis aboutcharacters and situations. While working on it, I began to think of it — andto refer to it — as a domestic dark fantasy. To me, that meant that itwas about the people first, about an ordinary group of people with ordinaryproblems. In this case, about Thomas and Emily Randall, recently divorced, andtheir troubled son Nathan. It was about extraordinary things happening to theseordinary people, and the consequences that resulted from that. It was aboutfatherhood and divorce, about creation and neglect, and about how we have tonegotiate emotionally when love falters.

See, and you thought it was just about talking crows andpissed off saber-toothed tiger men.

Strangewoodremains my favorite of all my books.

I hope you enjoy your journey there.

Forgive me, please, if I also hope that you don’t emergeentirely unscathed.

 

Christopher Golden

Bradford, Massachusetts

 

FOREWORD BY GRAHAM JOYCE

 

In the traditions of the Fantastic, the motif of the Woodslooms large. Christopher Golden’sStrangewoodemerges, trailing cloudsof glory, from those very traditions. The Woods is a place of archetypal force.The writer who invokes the power of the greenwoods knows that the stakes arehigh and the list of antecedents long. In fact it would take a book on its ownto chart the treatment of the theme and the antecedents are too rich tocatalogue here.

In fact I ought to write it, though I know I won’t becauseit would take too long. But if I did I could talk about how fairy taletradition locates so many of its glorious stories —Hansel and Gretel,Babes In The Wood,Red Riding Hood, just to name three — inthe Woods for very particular reasons. Or whyA Midsummer Nights Dreamby ol’ Will Whatsisname has to be located in the Forest of Arden; or about Kipling’sMan-Cub, just like Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan, being raised in the jungle byanimals.

In their brilliant cataloguing of Fantasy motifs theencyclopaediasts Clute & Grant generated the phraseInto the woodsto denote the process of transformation or passage into a new world signaled byentering woods and forests. It is very often that, but it’s actually even morespecific, and certainly more than the usual fantasy portal to transformation. Forthe Woods is a very literal place of both dark and light. Of beaten pathwaysand uncharted zones. Of twists and turns. A place where you may encounterstrange allies or enemies masquerading as friends. It is the primal locus offear and wonder. In other words, in the fiction of the Fantastic, the Woods isso often the psychic correlative to the condition of Childhood.

The Woods stands in for the budding consciousness of thechild, the individuation of character, and the ultimate emergence from thewoods represents the passage out of childhood. Or to put it another way, thepassage out of unconsciousness and into self-consciousness. For example, CSLewis launches the children of hisNarniasequence into the woods beforehaving them emerge as heroes. But — and it’s a big but — theprotagonists do not have to be children. More recently and in works morecomplex, varied (and dare I say superior to Lewis), Charles De Lint (Greenmantle),Rob Holdstock (Mythago Wood) and Ramsey Campbell (The Darkest part ofThe Woods) — just to name a few — explore the awe-inducing presenceof the Greenwood and its role in the human psyche.

Christopher Golden takes this rich tradition and braids itbeautifully with another pattern recognisable to the connoisseur of theFantastic concern: that of the artist (in this case a writer) haunted by hisown creations, Stephen King’sThe Dark Halfand Peter Straub’s morerecent InThe Night Roombeing too very fine examples of the species. Allwriters work with antecedent forms. What separates the mere copyist from thecreator (and Christopher Golden along with all the authors mentioned above is asuperb creator from antecedent form) is the originality of vision that makes astory worth recasting in a persuasive new form.

In the case ofStrangewood, what Christopher Goldendoes is to complicate all of the above by positing the question of therelationship between Childhood, Creativity and the Imagination. These areindeed haunting themes for all writers, especially authors of the Fantastic. Thereis, after all, a relationship between vulnerability and the imagination. Whatcan be more vulnerable than the image of a small child in the woods? And whatcan be more clever than that device by which Christopher Golden brilliantlycontrives to have not only the child, Nathan, at risk in the woods; but also torender the adult hero of the narrative, Thomas, as simultaneously theresponsible father and the original child, the “Our Boy” of Strangewood.

It’s a master-stroke of story-telling, and one whichelevatesStrangewood, pushing it into that prized place in which thestory is mysteriously larger than itself.

So there is inStrangewoodan exploration of thecomplex relationship between a writer’s family dynamics, childhood,imagination, creativity and children. All of this is offered in a fascinatingdouble narrative, where Strangewood reaches out, root and branch, to impactupon the world of its creator.

Thomas, the protagonist of the story, is an author whosuffers an extreme responsibility for the things he has created in thechildren’s novels he writes. A terrible revenge is visited on his own child. Thenovel links a disintegrated marriage, which of course threatens the happinessof the child Nathan, with the internal collapse of the Fantasy world — Strangewood— created by the author Thomas. The question is whether the crisis isprecipitated by the flawed nature of Thomas, or by the crisis of his marriage;but whichever it is, in this case “the sins of the father are visited on theirsons.”

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