The Hiking Writer and Speculative Fiction
By Sara Codair
Even though a majority of my stories are speculative in some way, they are often inspired by reality. Sometimes it’s a question begging for an answer, sometimes it’s a piece of news too dark to keep inside me, and often, the seed for the story was found somewhere on a hiking trail.
On Labor Day weekend of 2016, my spouse and I went on a hike in New Hampshire’s Belknap Range. I hate crowds, and the parking lots for the better-known trails were overflowing onto the road. Thankfully, we had done our research and located a more “off the beaten path” trail.
The directions took us down a handful of side roads, the last of which wasn’t paved. I thought we hit a dead end and were in someone’s driveway when Adam rounded a corner and pulled into a tiny dirt parking lot with a trailhead.
Happy that we found a way to avoid mobs of tourists, we checked our gear, traded out sandals for boots and started walking up a steep, rocky fire road.
“I’m not sure any fire truck could actually drive on this,” said Adam.
His words were like a horn starting a race. As the hill got steeper, my legs and lungs burned with effort, and my mind was running, making up histories for the road and stories that could happen on it.
When we reached the secluded mountain pond at the top of the road, my mind was racing faster than my pulse. This lake would be a perfect home for a wizard in a fantasy novel, a hide out for the demon hunters in my YA novel, a good hike for my parents to do with their puppy, and a place to pump water if a flock of phoenix’s or an angry mother earth started a forest fire.
We took a break. Adam consulted his map while I devoured cookies and made up stories. The next part of the trail was a loop, but I was too lost in imagination to pick which way we would do it, so he choose, and soon, we were making our way up Mack Mountain.
Just shy of the summit, we reached a scenic overlooked where two trails merged. A large cairn, painted in the colors of the trail blazes, marked it. For some reason, there was a fork balanced atop the cairn, and there was literally a keyhole on the fork’s handle.
My mind went crazy, and by the time we were done the hike, I had mentally written a complete story. After a swim and dinner, when I finally got home, I sat down and wrote my first draft. Over the next few months, it endured a cycle of revision, rejection, shortening and expansion. Finally, it found a home on Theme of Absence.
Stories, no matter how realistic or surreal, are everywhere. We just have to keep our minds, hearts, and eyes open, so that when we find them, we can catch them.
Here is an excerpt from my story, “At The Fork.” Just click on it if you want to read more – it is hyperlinked to Theme of Absence.
The way to the alternate world isn’t through a wardrobe, rabbit hole or a non-existent train platform. You won’t get carried to it by a tornado or by falling through the “gap” you must mind when using the London Tube.
©2017 Sara Codair