I was honored to write the introduction to C. Dennis Moore_'s story collection WHAT THE BLIND MAN SAW. You can read it here!
Leave it to C. Dennis Moore, writer of some the sharpest short horror fiction around. _What the Blind Man Saw is the perfect title for a collection of short stories.
Because every writer goes into every story totally blind, no idea where they’re going, no idea of the exact size or shape of the thing directly in front of them. This might change very quickly - on the best writing days the entire structure and scope of the tale might present themselves to you in a flash. But you still have to sit down and write the thing, flailing until you find the specific keys, groping around until you can finally make out and choose the specific words, feeling your way until the overall pattern of the thing emerges, fingering your way into and pulling your way through the story and caressing every inch of the outer edges until it will not reveal even one more nuance.
And even then you, the writer, have only your experience of the story, your take on it, a mental image of the piece. You’re still blind, after all.
Because then, like the blind men in the fable about the elephant, others will come along and read your tale and their experience of the thing will also be unique despite the image you hold in your mind’s eye - they’re all reading the exact same words on the page, but some reviewers will give your story five stars and others will lament that they have to give it even one. We’re all blind when it comes to fiction, and no two minds’ eyes will ever see exactly the same story.
There’s another reason I think What the Blind Man Saw is a perfect title for a short story collection - and a particularly perfect title for a C. Dennis Moore collection.
So many writers - especially horror writers - never grow or expand in their vision. It’s like they sit down to their keyboard on the first day they ever write a story, and they pick their favorite horror movie poster and tack it up on the wall nearby. And then they write about that poster for their entire career. It’s fresh at first, maybe, but eventually it gets predictable and safe - both for the writer themselves and for their readers.
And it’s worth noting that many hacks have scribbled their way into very comfortable incomes by writing about that one single poster for decade upon decade.
For writers like Dennis, on the other hand, there’s no poster. Or, rather, there’s a different poster for each and every story, one that they themselves write into existence. They approach each story as a blind man might approach a new and unfamiliar object.
For me, this is the joy in writing - and in reading short stories.
I don’t want safe.
I don’t want predictable.
I want stories of the richness, variety, depth and range crafted by Moore and others who see the way the blind see.
But why do short stories at all?
I mean, Moore has several novels under his belt - and they sell far better than the shorts! So, why, dammit, does he continue to waste his time on the things!
I could say something like “Well, Dennis is a true artiste; he’s blind to the almighty dollar!” Except that’s bullshit - the part about him being blind to money, I mean. Not the part about him being an artist.
And yet maybe it’s not bullshit. Maybe money and sales aren’t everything. I’ll tell you this: I don’t fully trust any writer who doesn’t do short stories.
Make that: any writer who doesn’t routinely do short stories.
As in any writer who doesn’t routinely have a short story going in addition to any novel-in-progress.
And I’ll also say this: I fully trust C. Dennis Moore as a writer.
Here’s a bit of news for every Amazon wannabe critic who has ever left a one star review because they “really loved the story, but it was only twenty pages long! Thank God I got it for a borrow/free/99 cents!”
The regular production of quality short stories requires more discipline, more craft, more confidence and more blood, sweat and tears than a novel. 80,000 words of short stories - like the volume you now hold in your hand - are generally the result of much more effort than an 80,000-word novel.
It’s unfortunate that most readers are blind to these facts. I think the general reader sees “short” and thinks it’s the equivalent of a banal television sit-com, and they see “long” and think it must be an Oscar-worthy epic blockbuster. Not so. Not even close.
A writer who regularly produces stories of the quality you’ll see in What the Blind Man Saw is a writer you’re lucky to be reading - they’ll provide you with more visions in a few sentences than you might encounter in eight entire volumes of cranked-out full-length Kindle serial novels.
Here’s what I love about short stories. You go into them blind, usually not knowing at all what to expect, and the best of them fill your head with a novel’s worth of visions in under an hour of reading. A novel is like keeping watch, like keeping a lookout, like continuously scanning between here and the horizon - and don’t get me wrong, I do love novels, staying with a vision, a vista, for the long haul, unblinking, seeing what wonders might pop up in the larger landscape. But the best short stories give you insights, truth, surprise and revelation in short order, each piece filling a formerly dark, empty space with an awe and amazement that you can look back on and return to for a lifetime.
I hope C. Dennis Moore keeps writing novels for a long time. But I especially hope he never gives up on the short stories.
And, most of all, I hope he continues seeing like the blind man sees.
The book is available in Kindle and paperback editions at Amazon, with an audiobook coming soon.