Monday, December 19, 2011
"They" (2010) is a short story by Vincent Hobbes, one of the free ones I have picked up for the Kindle – which may someday be meaningful if I ever get a Kindle – and read on the computer. There is not much too it, but that is not to say that it is bad. It is lacking any sense of overall purpose; horror should mean something, I think, and "They" just sort of is.
Taking up approximately thirteen pages, "They" is long enough to have been more fully developed than it is. Hobbes fills it instead with suggestions of conversations and the structures of personal relationships (in this regard, I do like his brand of short hand). The monsters of "They" – it is that kind of horror – go unnamed, but it is relatively clear as to what they are. What is not clear is any broader context for them to exist or have motivations beyond being rapacious monsters.
Hobbes clearly has a better sense of character and tone that I have shown as a writer (note to self – become a much better writer). He comes close to making his undefined characters into people, but for some reason stops short. Likewise, he doesn't give the kind of attention to the gore and violence that one would expect, given that these should be the ultimate payoffs to the story. That is why "They" ends up feeling a little incomplete or somehow rushed.
Were I capable of writing "They", I would like to think I would have worked longer establishing the characters. I have found that it is the audience's (in the case of short stories and novels, the reader) investment in the story is largely related to whether they care – good or ill – about the characters. After that, I would like to think I would have had the presence of mind to build up the natural elements presenting the characters with a daunting challenge (Hobbes does this to some extent, but I found it both rushed and lacking in detail). It would only be after finding a way to mitigate the natural element that they should be introduced and let 'the real horror begin'.
I don't know that I would make much of a recommendation of "They" to the general reader. It is free, so there is no real risk involved. It takes a very short time to read, so there isn't a lengthy investment if one finds they do not like it. And it is readable. But I think the real benefits of "They" are to look upon it as a writing exercise. Could one read it, dissect it, and figure out how to make the general framework into a better story? I think I can do all three, but I certainly don't want to rework the fiction of someone who isn't a writing partner.
I would say that "They" is reminiscent of the kind of teenage horror my friends and I tried to implement into our roleplaying games back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. There is some value in the nostalgia. As someone who is not accustomed to reading much in the way of horror fiction – it took me a decade to realize that I like horror films – I cannot offer ultimate judgment to it. It is not the first thing I would recommend to a friend, but it may satisfy those who are much more familiar with the genre.