Temple of the Spider God - an Afterword
I like to include an "afterword" at the end of all my stories. It was inspired by something Stephen King often did. He took it as a chance to include little behind-the-scenes anecdotes ... where the story came from, serious changes that occurred along the lines, fun little notes. It's one thing I wished Michael Crichton would have done. He was more in favor of a scientific afterword. Discussing the science behind the story and his personal notes about the future of the world. "State of Fear" is a spectacular example of this.
But I digress.
In all my stories - maybe except for RESET - I've included something similar to Mr. King's afterword. Not only fun things for my readers to learn but memories that I might have lost track of through the fog of time. I wrestled with the idea of including one at the end of Spider God, and never did. I'm not entirely sure why. I think, realistically, the impetus of the story wasn't anything grand. (shrugs) Maybe I wasn't entirely proud of it. I don't know.
Temple of the Spider God has humble beginnings. Silver Shamrock was running a competitive call for submissions to fill their newest anthology. If I recall correctly, it was going to be a horror collection with a "wild west" bend. I wanted to be a part of it but the word limit was fairly restrictive - something like six thousand words, if I'm not mistaken. Generally a third of the length of a story I usually have in my own annual anthology, "The Event." After some meditation, I came up with two ideas for stories in this vein.
"The Locomotive" was a closed-room horror story in many ways. It would open with a group of travelers converging on a city to take a ride on a vacation train. I can't remember if it was the train itself or the destination, but the idea was that these people had won some sort of sweepstakes and were given this vacation as a prize. They would be loaded onto the locomotive and then the horror would begin. People would start disappearing. People would start to be found dead. We would eventually find out that the train was going to reach its destination, not for the benefit of the contest winners, but for the main bad guy riding at the back. The train, you see, ran on human souls ...
"Angel Island Mining Company" was another horror story, but this was going to end up being a zombie-ish tale. The mining company working in southern Peru was going to happen upon a temple buried inside a mountain. They were going to unleash some sort of green ooze that would infect the inhabitants of the town below. Everyone would turn into flesh-eating zombies. A group of travelers would happen upon the town the very next day and would battle the zombies to the end.
You might recognize some of that plot.
Silver Shamrock imploded. There was a controversy that I can't fully remember and don't care to research right now. I'm sure you can get there with a little digging. I seem to recall it had something to do with them publishing a novel written by an unsavory character and it had something akin to a racist or eugenics-based plotline. I remember the plot was generally similar to Matthew Reilly's "Area 7," but the controversy spun way out of control. The press shuttered.
I had also worked with Raven Tale Publishing on a contract for three horror stories that I had started prepping. They, unfortunately, did an about-face and tore up the contract. I still never got a great explanation of why that decision was made, so I decided I'd keep wading around the deep end of the horror pool and see if I could come up with something. I have been working with Gary Lucas at Severed Press for several years and he confided in me that "cryptid" stories were gaining steam in popularity, and I should consider something in that vein.
Trusting his advice, I dusted off the "Angel Island" intro and shuffled the premise a bit. What if the miners didn't wake up a zombie apocalypse but the embodiment of punishment from an ancient religion? The Decapitator. The Spider God. There was an actual basis in reality ... the Moche civilization did in fact have a chief deity in this form. Details, even with extensive research, became blurry at best and contradictory at worst. I chose to create a sort of historical fiction and couched it in "this region's religious beliefs were an amalgamation of several regions'." It worked.
So here we are. That's the history of the story. The truth of the matter is that this story, also, wasn't easy to write. Some portions came naturally - the fight at the beginning, the nightmare with the giant spider, etc. Some sections wrote themselves. The story at large, though, was kind of no fun to write. It was a bit of a struggle. Writing, for me, is a joy. An escape. A time to share the weirdness that exists inside my mind with those kind enough to read it. This story, however, fought me nearly every step of the way.
To put some punctuation on it ... I was simply happy when it was over.
That's not to say that I don't like Spider God. I love how it turned out. I could probably have explained some things better - lengthened some aspects of it. Not a ton changed from the original plot to the final version. Aside from Dario's team. Originally, the soldiers were absolutely going to find the temple and slaughter all the students. I softened that a bit. There, originally, was a group of campers the party came across while making their way to San Pietro and Javier was going to kill them all. I clumsily changed this moment to him killing a wild boar. Also, I don't know if the students were going to be murdered in the temple ... they really didn't have time for that. The Spider God took care of it all on its own.
So, there you go. The official Afterword to the story. If you've read it, I hope you've enjoyed it. If you haven't read it, please do. It's fun. Maybe not as fun as the dinosaur stories ... but it's self-contained and a quick-moving affair. If you can make it through the first chapter, you're in for quite a ride.
Take care. Happy reading.