I remember reading Dune by Frank Herbert years ago and loving the opening “quotes” he used to begin his chapters. These were all invented quotes from works of literature that Herbert created himself to give his world verisimilitude. Later, I found Lovecraft and his invented Necronomicon, and Robert W. Chambers and his imagined play, The King in Yellow. I saw that Robert E. Howard did this in horror stories such as “The Black Stone.” I read Dean Koontz’s quotes from a “work” he called The Book of Counted Sorrows. I’m not quite sure why this kind of thing thrilled me, except that it suggested a much wider world than that contained within the stories by themselves.
When I wrote Cold in the Light, I decided to do this for myself. Each chapter contains an opening phrase taken from an invented book called In the Memory of Ruins. The piece that follows is one example, but there are also longer pieces from this “book” that begin the larger sections of Cold in the Light.
“Going up the river the explorers saw a raft,and on the raft a corpse's shell. It came down with the current, from the far distant mountains where they were headed. Its passing left them cold with foreboding.”
One thing I did a little differently than I’d seen done by anyone before is that the chapter openings actually tell a story of their own that is separate and largely unrelated to the story of Cold in the Light itself. I tried to arrange for connections between the two parallel stories but wasn’t always able to achieve it. I do think there are places where a kind of resonance bleeds through.
What do you think of “invented” sources and quotes being used in fiction? Do you like it? Does it irritate you? If you read Cold in the Light, did you even notice the chapter opening pieces or did you skip directly to the story itself? And if you haven’t read Cold in the Light, well why not? It’s only $2.84 on Amazon, and $4.99 on Barnes and Noble.
It’s available in print at both places for a bit more.