From the outset, it was clear that Born in Blood was going to be a different sort of project (for one thing, the stories of Strange Playgrounds weren't so considered or intended to be part of a whole; they were compiled after the fact, from at least a decade's worth of writing); the images Nick had created were so stark, so aggressively nihilistic, the entire tone of the project was set by them; this was always going to be a far more sombre work, without the abstruse hope that often occurs at the conclusion of Strange Playground's tales. Here, blood and pain and despair would become their own Edens; states of extremity that humanity cannot endure, but cannot escape. That sense of the ineluctable; the sheer impossibility of denying despair, became the foundation; the running thread throughout every tale. What transcendences occur here do so only in the most abominable ways, and always, always through a descent into pain and disgrace beyond easy comprehension.
The first tales were largely minor scraps and scribblings; bleakly poetic little notes and nothings that will appear in the final collection amongst the larger tales, as well as featuring in some form or another in the visual volume that Nick himself is compiling (another departure from Strange Playgrounds, in that this project is split across multiple volumes and in various mediums: alongside the short story collection, which will contain the tales in their entirety, a series of visual volumes, including Nick's work alongside select extracts of the stories they inspired). All that was asked, to start with; something inspired by the truly distressing visual work Nick had created (kudos to his models, by the way, who have all proven themselves incredibly game for the experience), but, as is the nature of such beasties, it soon took on a shape and vitality of its own, what were supposed to be little more than sentences and paragraphs swelling to whole short stories, short stories swelling into what might be considered small novellas. Ultimately, the project has proven so fruitful that, not only does Nick have a back catalogue of over a thousand images, I have several folders full of my scribblings; more than enough for several volumes or collections.
Not only that, but, as was the case with Strange Playgrounds, Born in Blood has accrued its own back-mythology and consistent symbolism as the stories have progressed; almost all of its stories involving some form of dissolution; of the self, of the mind; of the body...of entire worlds and states of being, despair and insanity becoming means by which reality can be undermined, terminally ruptured; the notion that not even death can provide release becoming a central one; that there is an "after life," of a sorts, but one not promised or imagined in any of the mythologies of humanity: A condition inspired partially by Lovecraftian nihilism, but also by mythologies such as those underpinning the Shadow Man and Legacy of Kain video game franchises, the state that awaits all souls, no matter the pain, no matter the despair, they have suffered in their waking life, is a wasteland of confusions and encroaching insanity; of inevitable decay, devolution and a descent into mindlessness; a cosmic sewer and insane asylum, a dumping ground that may be one that God left unfinished when He departed this sphere of existence or that He never had a mind to finish; the by-product of some hallucinogenic or fever dream; perhaps little more than a splash of the vomit that follows.
From this condition arises Abarise, a state that comparatively few souls find their way to; a kind of sanctuary against impotence; a place where those born to be the run-off or by-product of whatever diseased engine we call "being" may find some semblance of bleak respite, not to mention the meaning, though it may not be in the manner that they imagine...
This in turn informed the shape and consistency of the stories; not to mention the lay out of the project (though still somewhat tentative, one of the ideas we are currently playing with is having the short stories "cut up" and scattered throughout the collection in the manner of a dismembered body, obliging the reader to piece them together as they go). References to Abarise occur throughout, sometimes tangentially, sometimes overtly; one or two of the stories feed the concept directly, whereas others derive from back-mythologies that run concurrently; far, far older than Abarise itself, deriving from stories that were written years before the project even began:
Elias Kirchner, Nathaniel Roseblade; characters that readers of Strange Playgrounds might recognise; consistent characters that crop up now and again in my work. Here, they have a fair few stories dedicated to them, exploring the bizarre, love/hate, cat and mouse game they play with one another across a string of states and realities, not to mention the effects that their play tends to have upon those they encounter.
It has been one of the most interesting creative experiences of my life, thus far; occassionally so intense, I've been forced to take a break from it; to ensure that I have other projects occurring concurrently that I can skip to when I need a change of tone (the nihilism of Born in Blood is infectious and pervasive), the work itself consuming entire days, my body protesting wildly when I realise it exists and probably requires moving, feeding etc.
I sincerely hope that the finished products prove similarly affecting on their audience, that they feel every black mote of despair, taste every scarlet drop Nick and I have poured into it.