Friday, February 7, 2014

Headhunting and Short-Story Writing: Two Nearly-Lost Arts

As an anthropologist who spends a great deal of time thinking about culture, I’m always on the lookout for professions that appear to be vanishing from our world.  Alchemists are few and far between.  Shamans are having a hard time making a living.  Conjurers, shape-shifters, taxidermists, and jesters have all been hit hard by recent economic downturns. 

But nobody is currently experiencing more economic and social woe than the headhunter and the short-story writer.  Vilified, feared, and loved by none, the short-story writer lurks at the edge of polite society, practicing dark unsavory arts, choosing words carefully, willfully ignoring the lack of audience.  The tribal headhunter, though somewhat more respected and appreciated, must also become something of an outcast in order to thrive.  The market for shrunken heads, about as robust as the market for short stories, gives constant reminder that these labors are no longer appreciated.

So I decided to write a short story about headhunters.  I began with Robert James Waller’s masterful tome “The Bridges of Madison County.”  Weighing in at a whopping 38,000 words, this book was a massive hit, inspiring a movie and scores of action figures.  I enjoyed the book, but found it lacking.  Waller had the perfect set-up for headhunting, and every time I turned the page, I thought it was coming.  But it never did.   I had to do something about that.

My short-story “The Cannibals of Madison County” is a cannibal-laden homage to Waller’s vision.  And being a short story, it has no home in the modern world unless one can be crafted. 

I put the story up as a Kindle short story, because let’s face it, there’s nowhere else to publish these days except Highlights for Children, and they’re cagey when it comes to headhunting.  I intend this as an experiment.  The story is only 18 pages long, and you can download it free today.  If you get a moment, you could help out by reading the story and then, if you like it, give a short review.  If I can get 15 good reviews, I can blast the story on all the sharing pages and get thousands of readers.

In any case, this has been a fun project, and I plan to keep you posted as to the results.  Thanks for reading.

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Charles Gramlich said...

yeah, the cannibal in the title might be a bit much for Highlights! sounds pretty interesting as a tale, though

William Doonan said...

Thanks, Charles!

Liane Spicer said...

I thoroughly enjoyed it, William. Sweet satire of a story I also enjoyed but couldn't for the life of me figure out why it became such a huge phenomenon. Off to leave you a review now.

William Doonan said...

Thanks for the wonderful review, Liane. You made my day!

Liane Spicer said...

You're welcome, William. Thanks for the story!

Unknown said...

Short stories can do well as anthologies when grouped with similar themed stories. So maybe after you've written a few, you may want to group them together, or better yet, invite like-minded authors to share in a head-hunter (or other) themed anthology.

I do love short stories.

William Doonan said...

That's an interesting idea, Jewel. I have to do some thinking on that.