Fantasy author Ken Scholes—whose highly-anticipated novel debut Lamentation hits bookstores Feb. 17—told Tor.com that although Lamentation is his novel debut, his first book came out recently from Fairwood Press, a collection of his short fiction called Long Walks, Last Flights and Other Strange Journeys.
“[It] pulls together seventeen of my short pieces representing a pretty good sampling of a decade’s work,” Scholes said in an interview. “I was surprised at how broad the range of tales was when putting the collection together. … Some of the tales are more literary, some are humorous, some are tragic and some are more traditional. All are explorations—strange journeys if you will—into my ‘Imagination Forest.’ Many deal with atonement and salvation.”
Scholes isn’t sure how to describe the kind of stories he writes; typically, he said he finds a character or a problem that intrigues him and then just runs with it. “Many times, I find myself working with a character out of literature or history or mythology because I enjoy playing ‘what if’ and ‘what next’ with them,” he said. “Often, the details work themselves out while I’m typing or while I’m pausing to think about my typing.”
To illustrate the range of the collection, consider the following three stories. In “The Santaman Cycle,” a wrathful Santa Claus shows up in the midst of apocalypse to save humanity and find them a new home. In “Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk,” [read | listen] a toy bear is asked to stretch far beyond his programming in a colony effort gone wrong. And “Last Flight of the Goddess,” explores the laughter and tears of a life-long love affair between two D&D-type characters.
Like all writers, Scholes said he loves all his “paper children,” but when pressed, he offered up a few favorites. “I’m very partial to ‘Into the Blank Where Life is Hurled’ (my Writers of the Future story) because I wrote it at a time when I was on a similar journey through a hellish season in my life…and found my way from wasteland to home,” he said. “And certainly ‘Last Flight of the Goddess’ is my all-time favorite—it encapsulates the things that I think are most important in my life and was written as a Christmas gift for my wife and partner, Jen West Scholes. I think my best story in the collection—maybe the best I’ll ever write—is ‘Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky,’ exploring a familiar monster from history to see if a different life in a different world might’ve brought about a different outcome.”
And because he loves all his fictional creations, all of them are personal to him. “I really never just write a story,” Scholes said. “It’s nearly always some internal dream out of my subconscious that I’m working out with props of character, problem, setting. Of course, those things may not be visible to the reader’s eye—they’re not often even visible to my eye. But still, my hope is that as [readers] join me in the stories, they find themselves entertained, moved to think or feel, laugh or even cry with me as we hold up some part of life to see it through the lens of Story.”
In addition to those mentioned above, the collection also includes Scholes’s story, “Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise,” the short story that eventually evolved into the Psalms of Isaak series, which begins with the aforementioned Lamentation later this month.