It was my pleasure to write the introduction to the first short story collection of the talented author and my good friend John F. Allen, released last month. I could tell you why, but I explain it in detail in the introduction. So without any further delay, here is the foreword in full.
I’m pleased and honored to write the foreword in this collection, though also a bit intimidated. For many of you readers, this may be your introduction to the imaginative world of John F. Allen, and introducing you to that is quite a task to take on in a few hundred words. John and I have been through a lot together in the last half decade or so, both as storytellers trading and refining ideas, and as independent authors trying to launch our respective careers and take over the world one book at a time. We have bonded like brothers and have frequently feuded in the same manner. But ultimately it is our love and admiration for each other that keep us together on the journey. I think there’s a 70s song by Captain and Tennille that fits here (Google it, kids).
Old songs frequently come up when hanging out with John. Love songs. Dance songs. Great songs of passion. Because if there’s one word that I would use to describe John, it’s passion. John is passionate about writing, and, as these stories show, he is passionate about life.
…if there’s one word that I would use to describe John, it’s passion.
He’ll discuss with passion the struggles of growing up a black nerd in conservative downtown Indianapolis who preferred watching the Six Million Dollar Man-and reading Star Trek novels over whatever the other kids were doing. Then with the same passion, he’ll tell you why Thor could beat Superman in a fight.
That’s the John I know. And if you’re lucky enough to spend a few minutes to chat with him at a convention or book signing, that’s the John you will meet.
But you’re not here to read ramblings about the person behind the stories, you want some sort of insight about the stories themselves. The passion I’ve described above is also the same passion that infuses every one of John’s stories and, in my not-so-humble opinion, is ultimately what makes them stand above the pack.
John opens the collection with a slice-of-life low key drama about a little boy named Jared and a misadventure with his big brother Niles in “The Chocolate Malt.” As Jared sees and hears things too adult and controversial for his young mind to understand, it’s the reader who connects the dots and comes away understanding the implications of what has taken place, and why it’s important.
…it’s the reader who connects the dots and comes away understanding…
A couple of stories later, you’ll come to an early favorite of mine, where you’ll meet Jaziri, son of Xiambu, the King of Kimbogo Province. John’s warrior prince slays an array of beasts, evil sorcerers, and enemy soldiers as he ventures into the “Forest of Shadows.” Jaziri is cut from the same cloth (or is that loincloth?) as the pulp heroes of decades past, but presented with a new spin. Jaziri is John’s only entry (so far) into the growing genre “sword and soul.” Hopefully it won’t be his last.
Jaziri is cut from the same cloth (or is that loincloth?) as the pulp heroes of decades past…
You’ll then read one of John’s more thrilling, chilling tales, and while the title of this collection insists that the best is always “yet to come,” I must confess that “HoodRatz” is one of my very favorites. (Shhh. Don’t tell him.)
The darker material continues with a holiday twist in “An Ivory Christmas,” a story originally published in Gifts of the Magi, an anthology co-edited by John, E. Chris Garrison and me. If you’re familiar with John’s Ivory Blaque novels, you’ll love to see the trouble she stumbles upon in this tie-in short story. John even works in an appearance by the always-delightful Transit King (the intellectual property of E. Chris Garrison).
And speaking of tie-ins, pay attention or you might miss a cameo by a character straight out of my own head, Rebecca Burton, who shows up in “The Legend of Machemonedo,” a thoroughly enjoyable homage to 80s slasher films, but with a “big” twist.
Just when you think John has plummeted into the dark, he ends the collection on the faster-than-light side, with “The Adventures of Star Blazer,” his acclaimed space opera tale every bit as fun as the title promises.
John can write about melancholy childhood with as much passion as he writes about a demon-slaying barbarian. He writes about trauma and ghostly vengeance with the same passion as he writes about a creature attacking teenagers in the woods. He brings that same passion to the story of an assistant on the set of a 50’s SF TV show who gets transported to the adventure of a lifetime.
It’s John’s passion that makes his work so special. And holding on to this passion is why he will deliver on the promise of this title.
The Best is truly Yet to Come. But what we have right now is pretty damn awesome. Enjoy!
May 16, 2019