By L.S. Johnson (https://traversingz.com/)
Ken Hueler teaches kung fu in the San Francisco Bay Area and, with fellow members of the Horror Writers Association’s local chapter, gets up to all sorts of adventures (only some involving margaritas). His work has appeared in Weirdbook, Stupefying Stories, Black Petals, and Strangely Funny III.
Tell us a little about your story, “River Twice.”
A friend of mine once told me he would take a bullet in the knees for his daughters. Having observed him with his family for years, I truly believe he would have (though I never tested it). But one of the horrors of life is betrayal by people you should trust—friends, lovers, family—which is matched only by the horror they feel when you betray them. So I decided to write about that.
Kame begins the story by gently testing the sincerity of her boyfriend, and then she discovers that her father has a secret from her childhood. Investigating it puts her in a similar jeopardy to the one that endangered her so long ago. Will she be rescued this second time? Will either man come through for her?
Your story draws upon Japanese folklore, especially tales of kappas. What inspired you to choose the kappa specifically for your story?
Cunning. I saw a posting for an anthology of cryptid stories, and since only one story on each cryptid would be included, I narrowed my competition by picking an unusual one. I like anime and Japanese movies, so I knew about yokai, and I decided on kappas because they are wonderfully odd. I discovered a lot more interesting facts researching them, some of which are only alluded to in the story (look up how kappa get shirikodma to find out how one character actually died).
The anthology had a deadline, and knowing the speed at which I write, I decided against researching much about Japan and just moved the kappa to the US. Isn’t that inspirationally lazy? Still, I submitted the story in two minutes to midnight on the deadline, so I was right. And no one complained about the transplant.
What is your relationship to California, and does California influence your work?
I’ve lived in San Francisco for 25 years, and I find the variety of cultures and people and ideas inspiring. So many unusual and delightful things just seem to appear, and I think that adds a sense of anything-can-happen wonder to how I write.
Geographically, it doesn’t show up much. My locations are almost never specific, and for the same reason writers aren’t supposed to base characters on actual people (besides the lawsuits): it limits me. I like story and setting to blend.
As writers, we constantly use our imaginations, sometimes in terrifying ways. But can you imagine a hopeful future for California? What might that future look like?
The people of California are very aware and innovative, and the culture encourages that. I believe we will be a part of the needed solutions.
Where can readers find more of your work?
I have a list of where I’ve been published on my website: kenhueler.wordpress.com. You will also find a link to stories under my humor pseudonym, Nathan Cromwell, the most recent of which, “The Very Last Time I Will Ever Have Sex with a Tree”, appears in Stupefying Stories magazine. Go ahead—who doesn’t like a rollicking tale of consensual arboreal canoodling? No one will judge you.