Hypnotica: A Short Story Discography

“The Yoshira is a dream city, and there are breeds of magicians here that only exist between sunset and sunrise. The most famous ones, the ones only the Yoshira can make, are the dreamwrights, who play their music for the ghosts and the dreamers, carrying their tools in their bones…”

Almost a year since the first draft was completed, my short story “Hypnotica” is going to be serialized on The Fantasy Hive! It’s one of my crazier, fantastic story, and I’m glad I finally get to share it. Here’s the description:

“Hypnotica” revolves around dreamwrights, mages who use music to shape dreams into surreal raves, and the Yoshira, a ghost-city that exists at the boundaries of waking and sleeping. In “Hypnotica,” two dreamwrights are left picking up the pieces of their lives after one of their shows in the Yoshira turns into a nightmare.

The two main characters, GRIN and NO-FOOT, were based off of different electronic artists, while the Yoshira was based on the Yoshiwara, the famous pleasure district in Japan. I wanted an image that conveyed the wonder, mystery, and danger of the story (as well as incorporate triangles), so one of the editors at the Hive, A.Z. Anthony, created this:

hypnotica chris mahon fantasy hive

Since the story is so heavily rooted in music, I’ve made a list of the songs that inspired it to celebrate!

1. Daft Punk, “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”

As I said in my previous post, the idea of the story originally came from the Alive 2007 concert and the 2014 Rolling Stone interview with Daft Punk, the masked electronica artists whose crazy, elaborate light shows turned concerts into dream-like, surround-sound experiences. This was one of my favorite songs in the Alive 2007 set, showing the two of them rocking out atop their pyramid.

2. Aphex Twin, “Come to Daddy”

Aphex Twin was the inspiration for GRIN, the virtuoso composer partner to NO-FOOT. In the story, GRIN wears something akin to a hannya mask, which mimics Aphex’s famously creepy grin. “Come to Daddy” is one of the songs I have on constant repeat, and the signature scream at 2:36 became the inspiration for a key moment in the story.

3. Deadmau5, “I Remember”

When I needed calming, lullaby-like songs while writing, “I Remember” kept coming up. It lulls me into a trance, and its echoes and synthesizers brought to mind pictures of the dreamscapes and slow-motion dances in the Yoshira.

4. Black Midi, “Pi”

At one point in the story, GRIN composes something called a “death waltz,” a piece of music that’s so complicated it’s considered physically impossible to actually play. The original inspiration was a piece of music called “Fairie’s Aire and Death Waltz,” but the Black Midi series helped me visualize what it would sound like.

5. Me!Me!Me!

Besides being one of the most disturbing, sexually charged videos I’ve ever seen, the song is an ultra-catchy mix of something like Vocaloid singing, J-Pop, hardcore EDM, and glitch music. I wanted to capture the energy, vividness, and pure insanity of it all in the dream sequences of the story, especially the final one.

6. Knife Party, “UKF Birthday Set”

Besides Daft Punk’s Alive 2007 show, the  UKF set Knife Party played a few years ago became one of the main soundtracks I listened to while I was sketching out the mechanics of narcomancy and trying to visualize what NO-FOOT and GRIN’s shows would look and sound like.

7. Cowboy Bebop, “Blue”

I wanted the story to be a bit melancholy, something that touched on both the freedom of dreams and the knowledge that you have to wake up and leave it all behind. At heart, though, this song is about transcendence, and as I went through seven drafts, I found that transcendence was at the heart of the story, too.

8. Paprika Soundtrack, “Parade”

Anyone who’s seen Paprika remembers the insane parade scene. This song seemed to sum up the chaos, madness and bursting imagination of the Yoshiwara.

Hypnotica: A Short Story Discography

I’m Going to Have a New Column on Magic at the Fantasy Hive!

Hey all, I’m back to being a freelance writer, and I’ve signed on to be a staff member for the upcoming fantasy website Fantasy Hive, along with Laura Hughes, A.Z. Anthony, Steven Kelliher, and a bunch more!

I’m going to be writing a column on magic called “Magic and Mayhem,” which will explore building magic systems, magic in fantasy, and magic in history/mythology. I’ll still be doing my column on worldbuilding for Fantasy Faction, too.

The Fantasy Hive launches on January 1st at Fantasy-Hive.co.uk!

 

I’m Going to Have a New Column on Magic at the Fantasy Hive!

My New Post on Magic and Kung-Fu is Up on Fantasy Faction!

After doing a lot of research and resigning myself to the fact that the number of kung fu duels I fight will be increasing exponentially in the next few years, I turned in my article on magic and qi to Fantasy Faction. You can read it here!

The article includes a basic overview of qi (aka chi or ki), its history and relationship to Daoism, its use in the training of the Shaolin monks, and the introduction of the Monk class into D&D, which became an archetype for fantasy martial artists in the Western fantasy genre.

This is the second column I’ve done focusing on a specific type of mage and magic, the first being my column “Old Grey Beards.” If you haven’t read my Worlds Within Worlds columns on Fantasy Faction, here they are:

THE NECRONOMICON TO THE NOKIZI: CREATING TEXTS FOR SECONDARY WORLDS

EXPLORING VVARDENFELL: HOW MORROWIND CREATED AN IMMERSIVE SECONDARY WORLD

WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS – PART TWO: MAGIC WARFARE

WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS – PART THREE: OLD GREY BEARDS

WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS – PART FOUR: QI AND FANTASY

The next spotlight on mages and magic will (hopefully) be necromancers and necromancy!

My New Post on Magic and Kung-Fu is Up on Fantasy Faction!

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Has Accepted My Short Story “Old No-Eyes”!

After seven years and a lot of rejections, I’ve made my first professional short story sale to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, my favorite fantasy magazine!

Two of the major reasons BCS is my favorite is because they focus on worldbuilding and “literary adventure fantasy,” the latter of which encourages strong characters and well-crafted prose. That’s what go for when I write, so BCS has quietly sat at the top of my list of places I’d like to be published for a while.

“Old No-Eyes” tells the story of a hermit-like scholar named Yute, who gets a letter from an old colleague that backstabbed him out of their shared tutelage in the art of immortality years ago. His old colleague needs Yute’s help to decipher a little black book that claims to undermine everything they learned about life, death, and immortality, but Yute has his own plans. The story has some elements of horror and suspense, and gives a good idea of what necromancy looks like in my world.

The “little black book” in the story is The Nokizi, which I actually wrote up in five parts (the full text is up on Medium, starting here). It’s a necromantic manifesto that draws on Zen, mathematics, and the occult, and fleshes out my world almost as much as the story.

For those keeping track at home, all of my stories take place in the same world, meaning that references to characters, places, and events in past or future stories will pop up.

It’s really exciting to finally get a story of mine published. I don’t do this for the cash, money, or fame. I write stories so I can share them with people. On that note, thanks to all the people that read early drafts of Old No-Eyes (including the folks at Brooklyn Science Fiction Writers), thanks to Scott Andrews for working with me on revisions, and thanks to everyone who gave me encouragement over the years.

Old No-Eyes does not have an official release date yet, but BCS is tentatively shooting for next summer.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Has Accepted My Short Story “Old No-Eyes”!

Worldbuilding: Martial Arts, Magic, and ‘An Account of the Dyer’

I’m working on a new story about a character I’ve had in mind for several years, called ‘the Dyer’. He’s meant to be a mage who mixes martial arts with magic, and he gets his name from the bruising he leaves behind on his opponents, which is actually subcutaneous bleeding. The bleeding is so dark and persistent that it ends up ‘dyeing’ the skin black.

I wanted to write a non-fiction piece about the Dyer, sort of like Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings, but told from the point of view of another martial arts master. I came up with the character of Ryu-Ito, who interacts with the Dyer and writes down observations about him.

Here’s what I have so for her book, An Account of the Dyer:

Introduction by RyU-Ito

I write an account of a figure who has no need for words, whose style transcends description, and whose genius demands firsthand experience, not ink on pages. He has read this tract with bemusement and forgotten it as quickly as he was told of it. He never learned his movements from books, and regards scholarship with bewilderment; why would one write about a style, instead of practicing it?
When putting this account to pen, I was faced with these questions and more. But I am committed to the belief that while words cannot bring us to the summation of understanding, they can help us take the first steps. Where words’ usefulness end, experience takes us by the hand and leads us on down the path, which I have learned has no end.

The hand that can break bones moves with strength and speed; the hand that can split the sky does not move at all.

Chapter 1

The first time I met the Dyer, I was taken aback. I had heard of his strange appearance, but I was not prepared to find a man like a scarecrow in the meeting-room. What struck me were his long fingers, wrapped in bandages, and his white porcelain mask, which is unsettling to anyone who is not familiar with his gentle nature.

The Dyer is notoriously shy, but it is well-known that he has a special discomfort for being alone with women. In our meeting, he kept his gaze rooted firmly on the floor, only raising his head when one of the students knelt to fill our cups. It was at that point that I decided to dispense with all the trappings of a formal meeting and challenge the Dyer to a duel.
The cups were cleared away and I shed my outer robes, leaving only my gi. I took my stance and waited. The Dyer stood up abruptly and stood awkwardly for a moment or two, then bowed. I practiced the breathing my masters had taught me and prepared to advance. A thousand subconscious thoughts ran through my head like fish below the surface of the water, gauging his reach, his inertia, his movements. I led with my right hand, leaving my left to block in the wu position, and moved into his range.

And then I stopped. The Dyer, at some point that I had not noticed, had completely relaxed. He was leaving himself completely open to attack from any angle, but seemed absolutely untroubled by it. Gazing at his mask, I searched for a trace of his eyes to give me insight into his thoughts or emotions, but I found myself hypnotized. The harder I tried to look past his mask, the more I saw myself through his eyes. I found myself cycling through a thousand different potential mindsets to explain his serenity, a thousand different images of the Dyer behind the mask, but all of them fell away in the face of him. Suddenly, his great height seemed to grow even taller, and his presence filled my world. He was simultaneously everything I could imagine and none of it, at once peaceful and overwhelming. I knew in that moment, while I stared into the twin eyes of his mask, that I could never defeat this man.

And then he did something surprising: he raised his right arm and held it in the same position I had mine, so that our wrists crossed. He mirrored my stance, and he gently pushed his wrist against mine, so that my arm rotated a little. I instinctively pushed back, and his arm gave way, at which point I ceased applying pressure. He repeated the gesture, and we went back and forth like that for a long time. Slowly, he brought his other arm around, and I met it with mine. We began pushing with both our hands, and I began taking steps forward, which he mirrored, until we were dancing.

It was then that I understood the heart of the Dyer’s style and the secret to his invincibility: no one fights the Dyer himself—his opponents only fight themselves.

Worldbuilding: Martial Arts, Magic, and ‘An Account of the Dyer’

Fictional Reading Lists: Yute and Samal

I recently saw an exercise online where authors wrote up lists of real-life books that they thought their characters would like to read if they were brought into our world. I thought it’d be fun to write up lists for two of my characters: Yute, a psychopathic immortality-seeker who disarms people with his wit and charm, and Samal, a sea-wizard and vagabond who has devoted his life to becoming a selfless, benevolent survivor.

Yute

Yute, as I’ve explained in detail in a previous post, is meant to be a charismatic psychopath. He’s charming, worldly, well-read, self-reflective, inquisitive, intelligent, and deeply egocentric. As I was building his list, I realized that it was really a syllabus for a bizarre kind of self-education: Yute doesn’t read for pleasure, he reads to learn things, hence the large amount of non-fiction titles. His choices in Western philosophy reveal a strong interest into the nature of being and self, which connects to his obsession with the soul and immortality.

The 48 Laws of Power would be one of his bibles. Because Yute is an inherently manipulative and egocentric person, he views others as tools for his own advancement. He has a strong desire to control others, and he accomplishes this through his glib charm and charisma. Everything he does around other people is part of a performance, meant to advance his own ends, and 48 Laws reflects this mindset. The handbook on interrogations characterizes his intent when it comes to conversations and manipulation–instead of reading a book on clear communication, he goes instead for a book on how to provoke confessions and guide discussion through deception and coercion.

With his need of a ‘mask of sanity’ to hide his intentions, I realized Yute would be drawn to Montaigne and David Sedaris in order to familiarize himself with popular commentators’ wide-ranging views on daily life and experience–as a hermit and scholar, he needs to fill gaps in his knowledge of the world outside scholarship and be able to relate to more common folk. At the same time, he’s interested in the extreme ends of human experience, from enlightenment (there are two Zen titles, by Alan Watts and Lin Chi respectively) to absolute depravity and cruelty (120 Days of Sodom).

  • The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers
  • The Psychology of Interrogations and Confessions by Gisli Gudjonsson
  • Sein Und Zeit by Hegel
  • A Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
  • The Complete Essays by Michel de Montaigne
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day
  • The Way of Zen by Alan Watts
  • Three Hundred Mile Tiger by Lin Chi, translated by Soke-an
  • H.P Lovecraft: the Great Tales by H.P. Lovecraft
  • 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade
  • The Fractal Form of Nature by Benoit Mandelbrot
  • Fractals: Form, Chance, and Dimension by Benoit Mandelbrot
  • The Secret Teachings of All the Ages by Manly P. Hall
  • The Mystical Qabbalah by Dion Fortune

Samal

I was surprised when I composed this list–I didn’t expect Samal, a sea-wizard, to lean so heavily towards tales of survival, but the more I thought about his interests and aspirations, I realized that what draws him towards books like Into Thin Air and Endurance is the idea of individuals overcoming death through sheer force of will (or being conquered themselves). Samal is influenced heavily by his belief that a wizard is meant to be a pillar that holds up the rest of the world, and as such, must be able to survive anything. Despite his well-developed sense of humor and tendency toward being an extrovert, I found that his personal reading would reflect his constant quest to become a bona-fide sea-wizard.

I added two books related to martial arts: The Art of Peace, which informs Samal’s approach toward conflict and his interest in a fighting style that is benevolent and effective, and Vagabond, which parallels his journey to understand what it means to be a bona-fide wizard. Like Samal, Inoue’s Miyamoto Musashi meets old masters and struggles to understand them. One of the most relevant parts of Vagabond is probably the scene where I’nei and Sekishusai meet Ise No Kami, who tells them that “his sword is one with heaven and earth.” Embedded in this scene is the essence of Samal’s quest to understand the true meaning of being a wizard, just as Musashi searches for the meaning of invincibility.

Samal’s choice of fiction reflects his interest in sea tales and adventure (Robinson Crusoe and Monte Cristo), but Ficciones speaks to his sense of imagination and wonder. As a sailor, his travels take him to unimaginable and exotic places that expand his mind, and I thought he would be interested in Borges’ explorations of the bizarre and wondrous. Lord of the Flies, on the other hand, speaks to Samal’s deepest fears: the betrayal of one’s own humanity and one’s inherent kinship with other human beings. The fact that it takes place on a deserted island makes it even more relatable to him, as a sailor. I imagine Samal having nightmares of his own pig-head, telling him to despair and abandon his desire to save others.

  • The Encyclopedia of Russian Prison Tattoos, Vol 1 and 2 by Damon Murray
  • Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  • The Art of Peace by Morihei Ueshiba
  • Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue Inoue
  • Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose
  • Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Journey by Alfred Lansing
  • Bushcraft 101 by Dave Canterbury
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
Fictional Reading Lists: Yute and Samal