The Auton Muse

I’m not much for self-analysis. Stuff happens, I deal with it. Why it happens is of no real consequence – how I deal with it is all that has ever mattered to me.

Lately I have been forced into self-analysis and frankly, I’m a weirdo. I seem so sweet and harmless and then I write stories of terror and despair. I have occasionally wondered though, why it is that the scariest of my tales have no death in them. Three in particular have characters who don’t even get bruised.

What could have inspired me to put such terror into the mundane?

I have been in discussion with CynaraeStMary about Dr. Who often. She is a recent convert while I have watched since it started in 1963. The Daleks were an early event, I think in the second ever episode and they didn’t scare me at all. Others have told me they hid behind the sofa when the Daleks came on but really? Bumpy talking dustbins armed with a sink plunger and a bent wire coat hanger? Scary?

They were impressive though, and they remain so. The first truly alien monsters. Not just someone in a suit.

Incidentally, all the Dalek problems were caused by the Doctor. When he first found them they were in a city on Skaro and couldn’t leave. They were powered through the floor like Dodgem cars and were quite content to be evil in their own little place. It was the Doctor who let them know there was a universe of time and space to conquer.

But no, they weren’t scary. Neither were the Cybermen. The ones I found scary were the Autons.

The Autons hid as shop window dummies then came to life and started killing, for no apparent reason other than that is what Autons do. They were there, in the high street, when we little kids went shopping with our mothers. They weren’t like the Daleks or Cybermen, fictional things that could not be real. There they were, staring with blank eyes through shop windows. At any moment they might start moving…

I think it was the Autons who inspired the scariest of my tales. The Hand that Feeds, The Beer Monster, One Stop after Marchway, Telephone Pest, A Christmas Contract… the ordinary and everyday made into something more, something monstrous.

Just like those shop dummies coming to life. Give the reader something real to fear, something they see every day, and you have the gateway to some really dark imaginings.

Oh sure, there’ll always be a place for the demons and the ghosts but those are easily laughed off at bedtime. Not so the twists and turns of a half-seen reality.

Look back at that clothed mannequin. Is it in exactly the same position it was when you last looked? Has it turned its head towards you, just a little? Did its hand rise or its arm turn a tiny bit? No?

Are you sure? Really, definitely sure?

It’s not the monsters that are the effective part of the scary story. It’s the uncertainty. The possibility that maybe, just maybe, it could be real.

The tiniest possibility that maybe I’m not making it up.

I am, though. Probably.



23 thoughts on “The Auton Muse

  1. Your shorts are much scarier than your demon novels? Phew! Glad you said so, there was I thinking…

    Frankly, your demons are adorable, Legs; would make a great kidz animated show… A spin off 😉


  2. I was on patrol one night in the local precinct.


    They always had shop dummys in the window. So, one night before the “idiot day,” (Christmas eve, when every one thinks the world is going to end, so buys up everything they can get their hands on to survive the holocaust on the first opening day after the holidays, by which time, of course, there will never be shops again) I was proceeding past Littlewoods when one of these shop dummys launched its self at the window!

    Nearly bloody shit myself, so I did!

    Turns out, the manageress had decided, for “Idiot day” to change the display, and to do this the window dressers were putting in a night shift, complete with, as you would expect, PLENTY of beer and Wodka.

    They had seen me go past, knew I would be back in about an hour, (The precinct was a beat on its own, and pretty small.) So, they got dressed up in the dummys clothes, and waited…..

    After a good barating, they, a little abashed, and I saw the funny side of it, and spent the rest of the shift doing similar to passing drunks, between beers and Wodka, of course.

    A GREAT night, and a few of us are still in touch even now, 30 years later. 😀 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “The first truly alien monsters. Not just someone in a suit.”

    Or worse – like Star Trek – where most alien life forms are humanoids with bad skin conditions . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I visited a friend who had life-size costumes of Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper displayed in her conservatory. It was in the middle of a glorious summer day, I had to shut them out by locking the door and closing the curtains – 65 years old and frightened (almost!) to death…
    Imagination is both a blessing and a curse!

    I do enjoy your stories though – thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hmmm…. can I put pictures here? I hope so. There’s a nice little shop just two doors away from my favorite tobacco shop.

    I think Leggy would particularly enjoy shopping there… Here’s their front window:

    Grrr…. OK, I can’t figure it out. I’ll send it to Leg and he can add it himself!


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Although I enjoyed them, the Daleks never really frightened me, either. I don’t remember the Autons; maybe they were post ’67 when I headed off on my travels. One series which did scare me as a kid was ‘Quatermass and the Pit’, broadcast in the late 50s, I think. That had me behind the sofa! Very scary!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Self-analysis is a waste of time and effort – and that’s why good psychologist’s invariably go to others for analysis.

    You have been through a very bad patch – and if what you’ve divulged is even half true (and there are two sides to any story) it has been demeaning and degrading.

    In some respects your stories are an insult to others’ imagination. Stephen King does that extremely well, with the self-repairing, psychopathic Cadillac that went by the name of “Christine”.

    We know perfectly well that the author’s playing with us, testing the boundaries – and unquestionably the very best of the lot has to be Tolkien. He started writing his trilogy for his own children, though WW2 screwed that up and he ended up finishing it for his Grandkids.

    We’ve seen the photos and I always go on the basis that by age 50 you’ve got the face you deserve. It is in no way threatening, just vaguely confused – especially in a kilt!

    Very fortunately CynaraeStMary seems to have sussed that and if she’s a cracking good listener, can do what great partners do, help to heal.

    I sort of hope that when you do become a Grandfather you channel some of that mischief into a daft book for him/her/them. I bet it’s a stonking best seller too.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I agree with everything smokingscot says. I’ve had counselling in the past and once wanted to train as one…came to the conclusion that good friends and good family were just as good, if not better. The only thing is some people don’t have either.

    Keep up the writing. It’s got to be some form of therapy in itself. Perhaps your brain is a little warped because you are a scientist. The few I’ve met do have a different perspective on life. That can’t be a bad thing.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Ditto, Oi. I went through all the training to become one, too (and, in its defence, very interesting it was, too), but it was the people who went on to become “counsellors” who most put me off actually “giving up the day job” and doing it full-time. All that faux “empathy” (a quality much aspired-to by all counsellors, and rarely achievable in reality) and those knowing “I’m a counsellor so I Know About People,” nods. Not to mention the ones who couldn’t resist the inclination to apply their counselling “skills” towards anyone they met, anywhere, the moment anyone struck up a conversation with them, no matter how inappropriate the situation. You name it – parties, social gatherings, casual conversations at work – the moment anyone mentioned anything negative they’d be in there like Flynn, sweeping them off to a quiet corner to sit and smile sagely whilst probing deep into their oppo’s most sensitive secrets as if they could sort out any problem in five minutes. I came to the conclusion that the majority (though, in fairness, not all) counsellors were frustrated housewives who’d given up work in order to raise a family and who, now faced with the “empty nest” syndrome and with no hope of rejuvenating their forgotten careers, wanted something more impressive-sounding to fill their time than flower-arranging.

      Cynical? Maybe. But the very thought of being lumped together with people like that was enough for me to ditch the idea very swiftly. It was a bit like one of the main reasons for my refusal to give up smoking is so that I don’t get thought of as being even potentially like all those awful anti-smoking ex-smokers or anti-smoking activists. I might know I’m not like them at all, but the thought that anyone else might even contemplate that I might be is enough for me to keep right on proving how totally different from them I am by insisting on continuing to smoke!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Get to know almost anyone for a short time and you realise they’re as nuts as you are.

    “Oh sure, there’ll always be a place for the demons and the ghosts but those are easily laughed off at bedtime.”

    Maybe your ones, but what of the others? Serious scientists believe that some UFOs are supernatural, i.e angels and demons? The 4 or 5 million Americans who claim to have been abducted by aliens were possibly messed around by spiritual beings who can enter our world from the fourth (or whatever) spacial dimension.

    I mentioned this on a blog recently. It may have been here.

    The Daleks scared me until I was about 16, but I had dinner in 2001 with Tom Baker and he is far scarier.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I was in my twenties the first time I viewed an episode of this Doctor Who person on the television. I found it to be campy, but I can see it’s appeal. I had no access to television when I was a wee girl back in the Old Country. I do not know how I would have reacted to a Dalek back then.

    Liked by 1 person

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