Halloween was just the beginning.

I was raised on Tolkien. Every year around Christmas, in addition to reading Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, my family would also read a few of the Letters from Father Christmas that Tolkien wrote for his own children. For those who aren’t aware, Tolkien wrote a series of letters to his children claiming to be from Father Christmas. The letters contain all sorts of stories and illustrations about the goings-on at the North Pole, the antics of the North Polar Bear (the official one), what the elves that worked for him were up to, and so on.

It was these letters, more than The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, that formed my view of goblins. The ones that Father Christmas dealt with were similar to the goblins of The Hobbit, but smaller, and in my opinion a bit stranger. I couldn’t make myself watch more than one of the new Hobbit movies, but the goblins shown in the first one were one of my favorite parts of all of Peter Jackson’s interpretations of Middle Earth. The creatures shown were all goblins, but they ranged in size from the massive king, to the little cackling messenger on a zipline. They were spooky and menacing and above all, they were downright weird!

For me, goblins are like aliens that come from below, rather than above. They’re as much a part of our world as we are, but just as we are at home in the light of day, they are at home in the darkest places of the Earth. Maybe that’s why I see them as embodying strangeness. To be a goblin is to be at home in a world that fills humans with the terror of the unknown. They come from that parallel Earth that gave birth to bats, goblin sharks, and glowworms.

All of these things have familiar elements. Bats are rather like ordinary furry creatures in many ways, but they’re also radically different. The elongated fingers, strange faces and ears might be similar to those of our relatives the aye-aye or the tarsier (both good examples of goblins), but the skin webbing and ability to fly set them apart. They’re at home in a world that is pretty alien to us, and they look like it:

Image shows a Little Brown Bat hanging upside down from a cave ceiling. Its wings cover most of its body with its ears poking out past them.

Goblin sharks seem like normal sharks until they bite, and become something utterly different. They simultaneously seem more human, with a more defined chin and mouth under that long nose, and less like anything we’re used to :

GIF shows a goblin shark biting the armored arm of a diver. For an instant, the shark is a normal-looking, streamlined shark, and then the jaws distort, and lunge out of the shark's face, shooting forward to grab the arm in front of the shark's nose, as the rest of its body remains in place.

And then there are cave glow worms – in the light of day, they’re fairly normal insect larvae. Not pleasant to look at (for most of us), but not terribly interesting either. At home in the darkness, however, they form a glowing constellation across the ceilings of their caves, beautiful, but deadly for any insects that wander too close to the slimy strands hanging down below the lights. If they get caught, they’re reeled in by the worm, and devoured. Image shows a cave ceiling with blue glowing spots on it. Glowing, semi-transparent strands of silk hang down, diffusing the light and creating a beautiful effect, that is also deadly to any flying insects that wander too close.

In the world of goblins, light is dangerous. It lures you to death, or reveals you to predators. Autumn is the time when our world begins to be more like their world, for a little while.

As Halloween arrives, the trees are losing their leaves, and the birds are flying south, and the light that we value so much is fading day by day. October 31st has come and gone, and America will now be obsessed with Christmas for the next couple months (with a passing nod to Thanksgiving), but that is just a distraction from the truth.

As the last glow of the sunset fades, night is only just beginning. Halloween has passed, and now night is really coming. The long darkness and cold has driven the goblins with which we have become familiar into hiding. Now is the time for the goblins that we don’t know about – the ones that revel in the cold darkness beyond the edge of our fire light.

Halloween was just the beginning.

Image shows snowy ground fading into darkness. Just beyond the edge of the light, several pairs of glowing eyes can be seen, with the faintest suggestion of a wolf's muzzle under the largest pair.

Exits and Entrances is now available!

I’m pleased to announce that my first novel, Exits and Entrances is now available in paperback and e-book formats on Amazon.com! This is the culmination of years of writing, learning, and re-writing, and I’m delighted to have it out!

My publisher described the book as a metaphysical fantasy, and I think that’s a good fit for it. This novel is the first of a trilogy, with book two well underway. I invite you all to read it, and to tell your friends about it.

He had once climbed the stairs of the Empire State Building, and that didn’t take half the time he was spending on these. Anthony was also fairly certain that he knew of no buildings with black marble stairs of such great width. He couldn’t see the walls on either side of him now, just darkness.

Wisps of pale green mist gathered around him, glowing faintly without lending any light to their surroundings. Anthony paused to look back. The stairs behind him were a well of darkness out of which reached faint tendrils of the luminous fog.

After what seemed like hours, he reached a door. It was unquestionably a door. Anthony was utterly certain that it was a door, but he couldn’t tell if it was a normal roof exit door, or a huge wooden door with wrought-iron hinges, or a house door, or a gate. It seemed to be all doors at once. Not flickering exactly, but not remaining in one guise either. Anthony realized that all the doors he had ever seen in his life were merely imitations or reflections of this door. Leaving such a door closed was not an option. Mouth dry and hands sweating, he opened it and stepped through.

Preview

Cover art description: A theater with the front two rows of seats visible. There are three stage doors, with a strip of thick blue curtain above them, forming a top frame for the stage. The one on the left opens not to backstage, but to a seascape, with a few seaweed-covered rocks, and a couple flying seagulls. There are some clouds in the sky. The waves are sloshing through the doorway onto the stage, and the water is running down the left side of the stage into the audience. There is one seagull standing on the stage, looking across it. The middle door opens to a hot desert, with distant mountains beyond the dunes. Some of the sand has blown through the doorway onto the stage, extending one of the dunes through the doorway. The third door, on the left, opens to a field at night, with a few flowers in the grass. Not far from the door, the grass meets a body of water, with moonlight reflecting off of it. Beyond the water, is more grass, and a few trees. The night sky in the lefthand door has a moon and clouds, with stars above them. The stars climb up the side of the picture, fading over the strip of curtain, and into a space-scape over the whole picture. Sheets of green aurora light mingle with the stars on the right, and toward the left there are two spiral galaxies, and a glowing nebula.
Cover art by Darcy Drayton (Abe’s mother)

When Shakespeare wrote “all the world’s a stage”, nobody took it literally.

Anthony Ballrain knows that as well as anybody, but when his walk home from work takes him past a door he’s been dreaming about, he feels like it’s his cue to exit. Stepping through, he finds himself in a seemingly uninhabited world that has only a casual relationship with reality. When he finally finds other people, they’ve already met him, and what’s more, they really, really don’t like him.

In a world where the impossible happens on a regular basis, Anthony is forced to confront a darker side of himself. Unfortunately, it’s getting harder for him to figure out just which side that is.

Publisher: Wandering in the Words Press