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  • Writer's pictureCJ Halbard

If a Goldfish Wrote a Horror Story

How do you find your way through creative uncertainty? This is where Project Tempest began.

If a goldfish wrote a horror story, would it be about drowning?

Project Tempest comes from two main emotional places. There are many influences and inspirations and such-like - I'll talk more about The Wicker Man and Nick Cave and Deadwood and H.P. Lovecraft in other posts - but the real starting points are a pair of feelings. The world as I've experienced it.

First, I grew up in small town New Zealand, in places that for most of the last two centuries were the literal end of the earth. The estuary that slugs its way to the Pacific ocean past the town of Whitianga on the Coromandel peninsula. The ruins of a 19th century storeship torn apart in a storm on Buffalo Beach. The local dairy store with a single half-broke arcade machine, Frogger, in a lean-to past the ice cream freezer. People whose faces loom out of the past unreadable. As close to Antarctica as you can get without being a penguin.

Tempest Bay, the town I’ve built, was born there. Small towns are probably small towns the world over, but that very particular Kiwi flavour of them shaped me down to the marrow of my bones. I didn't hate it, or love it. I just lived it, and the taste slithers up inside me whenever I’m not watching.

The second thing is harder to convey but it’s always there, more fundamental, primordial even. I remember the feeling of being 4 years old, wriggling impatiently on a mat in kindergarten. Feeling waves of light and heat and noise and emotion washing over me like salt water on a shoreline. People, connections, words all around me, my brain grinding like a tiny tractor engine trying to interpret them but somehow, on some basic level, failing to comprehend. This feeling that everyone gets it but me. A tangled forest hiding everybody else’s reality.

That feeling has many labels but the best thing to do might be to ignore all of them and start right back from scratch. That’s where Project Tempest began, that’s the way I found through the creative challenge of getting it off the ground.

Small New Zealand towns and being off-centre with the world. That's what I was given. In the end, maybe it’s my job to be the goldfish who writes about drowning. So here we flapping go.

C J Halbard is the lead creator of Project Tempest, a growing story world of New Zealand folk horror and emotional climate change. Explore the town, listen to podcast conversations, and get the acclaimed novella 1862 free for a limited time by subscribing for updates.


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