Each time that Sirens Call Publications releases an anthology, we like to reach into the recesses of the author’s minds and learn about the inspiration behind their stories. Mental Ward: Stories from the Asylum was recently released, and today we’re going to feature the inspiration behind Tom Howard’s contribution Count Nefario.
Tom Howard is a banking software analyst in Little Rock, Arkansas. He has published over twenty science fiction and fantasy short stories in the last two years, including sales to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Fear and Trembling, Resident Alien, Parabnormal, Epocalypse, and several issues of Crossed Genres. His writing is influenced and inspired by his four children and the Central Arkansas Speculative Fiction Writers’ Group. He invites comments at email@example.com.
The Inspiration Behind Count Nefario
“Dad, Drew’s farting on me!”
“No, I’m not. Dean got in the way. I was aiming at CJ.”
“Don’t make me pull this car over. How about I tell you the next exciting adventure of the Guardians on Superworld?”
So begins my children’s adventures as super-heroes called the Guardians. Stuck in my little 1984 Subaru hatchback for countless miles, I had to think of a way to keep them entertained (and to keep the flatulence aiming to a minimum). So over the years, I told them of their exploits as teenage super-heroes. It was a tried and true tale of aliens crash landing on Earth and transforming them into characters playing on their strengths. I made sketches, I took notes, and didn’t forget a single tale. I even survived the jocularity when I mistakenly suggested they keep their super-suits in special compartments behind their belly buttons. (They still snicker about that.)
After the kids were grown and out of the house and I had a break from work, I gathered up those dusty files and typed up the stories of their adventures. It turned out I had quite a few of them tucked away, so I produced a Guardians’ volume of short stories and illustrations, had it printed up, and gave each kid a copy for Christmas. For the following year, I did it again and so on and so on. I apparently had lots of notes and sketches. I’ve just finished the sixth volume.
Somewhere in there, a kindly soul reminded me that a good plot is a good plot no matter the genre, so I removed the capes from a story and sent it to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. They bought it. I told stories of Amazon’s origin, Alien Lass and Alien Lass’s run-in with a human sociopath, The Witch, The Mage, and The Maid in medieval times, and many others. I took a dozen stories, removed the masks and cloaks, and sold every one. I guess there is something to the plot crossing genre thing.
My first private collections of short stories for the kids were just that, short stories (with capes). Two of the later volumes were entire novels set in Superworld. My last volume was a collection of the stories that I’ve sold that are thinly disguised Superworld stories.
On Superworld, Count Nefario disappeared at the sinking of West America and showed up on our world in a psychiatric ward for this anthology. His is probably one of the few Superworld stories I didn’t transform; he’s pretty transformed already. Bringing him from his world to ours seemed to fit the ‘stranger in a strange land’ sub-genre. I’ve written two other post-Superworld non-disguised stories – another about Count Nefario and one about Shadow Girl – and they’ve both sold. Maybe someday I’ll send those other stories (with capes) to a publisher.
When the Sirens Call came for an anthology about a mental ward, I had what I felt was a perfect match – a super villain from a comic book dimension versus a unscrupulous psychiatrist in an insane asylum on our world.
The Count is not really crazy; he just looks like one to a doctor from our world. He has no trouble returning to his own villainous roots when confronted with an evil adversary in a lab coat. Oh, and there is a published story about Madame Mystic (she’s the woman with the imaginary knitting needles in this story) encountering Death in New Orleans.
This is a collection of stories of bedlam taking place within the padded walls of an institution. Stories of experiments gone wrong, patients revolting against the staff, or even the deranged doings of those charged with giving care. They are sick, depraved, and atrocious – the type of stories that rarely reach the light of day.
Are you brave enough to crawl inside the minds of the thirteen authors who wrote these tales… Or are you afraid you’ll be locked up for peeking?
Featuring the talents of:
Delphine Boswell, Alex Chase, Sean Conway, Megan Dorei, A.A. Garrison, Tom Howard, Russell Linton, Suzie Lockhart and Bruce Lockhart 2nd, Jennifer Loring, Sergio Palumbo, Joseph A. Pinto, and D.M. Smith
Now let’s take a moment to read a little excerpt of Count Nefario by Tom Howard…
“I prefer being called Count Nefario,” said the strange little man with bright yellow hair.
Dr. Imogene Stone smiled, glancing around at the other members of the therapy group, aware everyone was watching her. “We’ve discussed this before, Mr. Doe. Think how disruptive it would be if we all hid behind nicknames.”
“It’s not a nickname,” he said. “It’s the title I took when I became a super-villain to strike terror into the hearts of my enemies.” His voice grew louder and his pale face redder.
“Yes, a super-villain. Please control yourself, Mr. Doe. You don’t want to spend the session in a straitjacket again, do you?”
He slunk down in his chair and didn’t answer.
“Now where were we yesterday? Angela was telling us about her purple teddy bear and Mr. Doe was telling us about the world he was from. Again.” She pointedly opened her notebook, poised her pen, and stared at the strange man expectantly.
He sighed. “It’s not another world,” he said. “It’s this world, only different.”
“Yes, so you’ve said. On your world, you’re from the United States of the Americas and not the United States of America?”
“My country is called the United States of North America and includes what you call Mexico and Canada.”
She looked at her notes, searching his descriptions from the previous sessions for discrepancies. As always, his delusion was pervasive and consistent. “And your parents were from a continent called West America?”
“Yes,” he replied. “That’s where I was before I was dumped here.”
“I was abducted by aliens the last time I was in West America,” said Mrs. Lentz, not looking up from her pretend knitting. Although they’d taken away her potentially harmful needles, she still felt the need to create imaginary and unfinished scarves, hats, and sweaters. “They probed me real good.”
“Thank you, Clara,” said Dr. Stone in her commanding warden voice. “Let’s let Mr. Doe speak now.”
The little man glanced at the old woman. “Why don’t you help her?” he asked. “Isn’t that your job?”
“I thought I was a cave shaman, Mr. Doe, drilling holes in patients’ heads to release evil spirits?” She glanced down at her earlier notes. “Or was I a nefarious member of an organization called the Crime Lords?”
When he didn’t answer, she tried a new approach. “What would a doctor do for her on your world, I mean, your dimension?”
“Not just her,” he said, “all these people – except Angela.”
She looked at a blushing young woman sitting in the circle of plastic chairs. A man was leaning against her. “Mr. O’Hara, do you think it’s a good idea to be sitting beside Miss Atkinson? You know how…excitable you get.”
The middle-aged man grinned sheepishly and moved to an empty seat beside an old man who was busy staring at the ceiling and twitching. Dr. Stone wondered how much longer Mr. Snell’s meds would help his spasms and checked his folder…
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow when we wrap up the series with Russell Linton and his inspiration behind The Doctor’s Session!