Oh! What a Tangled Web (Part 1)

Now that their Kickstarter has funded, time to officially announce my story “Climbing the Motherman” will be published in DreamForge magazine Issue #5, around the middle of this month, available in both print and via the DreamForge web portal.

As mentioned previously, this is the prequel to my story “Witch of the Weave” that appeared in Clarkesworld #159 in December last year. In actual fact, they were written sequentially, with quite some gap between. Once I’d finished “Motherman“, though, I knew I needed to write a sequel involving the characters Percher and Skink. I find those are the best stories, don’t you? Where you wonder what happens next?

If you enjoy “Climbing the Motherman“, you can find out what happens next in “Witch of the Weave“. And if, instead, you’ve read “Witch” first, soon you’ll be able to find out how Skink and Percher first met in “Motherman“.

(A third Skink and Percher story, “Angel Pattern”, a novelette, is due to appear in a future edition of Clarkesworld.)

The original inspiration for “Motherman” is the Willow Man sculpture by Serena de la Hey that stands beside the northbound M5 near Bridgwater in Somerset. We often pass it when travelling to or returning from family holidays in the West Country. One night I dreamt that, rather than birds, humans nested within the sculpture… and the rest, as they say, is history…

Below is a photo taken by yours truly as we passed by, inexpertly processed to remove the huge Morrisson’s supermarket depot and housing estate now built around the original sculpture.

“The Motherman”, photo by Henry Szabranski

The opening paragraph of “Motherman” starts with one of the longest sentences I’ve ever had published, and many thanks to Scot Noel at DreamForge for allowing it to remain intact. It’s unusual for editors (and perhaps readers, too) to tolerate an opening scene that’s not immediately “in media res”, but I hope the relatively languid start here enables the story to breathe and develop resonance later. If there are any more Skink and Percher stories in the future, they’ll all be based upon fulfilling the promise made to the reader in that first sentence.

As a young climbling, I would sit on the edge of wind-torn openings in the Motherman’s chest and stare out at the other giants who stood motionless upon the horizon: the Hunter, huge net flung from outstretched hands, forever seeking his mysterious and elusive prey; the Maiden, slender arms held aloft as if to beseech the callous gods, withy tresses trailing like a stubborn nimbus; and the Hunchback, also known as the Beast, more distant but larger than the rest, leaning forward so that it crouched upon its knuckles and its ridged spine notched the sky. All of them, and others, an entire earthly zodiac, frozen in a landscape blanketed by the ever-swirling mist.

“Climbing the Motherman”

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