‘Terminal’ by Michaelbrent Collings feature article by Azam Gill, Contributing Editor, The Big Thrill

‘The Big Thrill’ is the publication of The International Thriller Writers Association 

http://www.thebigthrill.org/2019/05/terminal-by-michaelbrent-collings/

Internationally bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award finalist, and produced screenwriter Michaelbrent Collings’ latest thriller is set to receive the critical acclaim his last novel, Predators, inspired: “Parts of this book will replay in your head over and over again. The scenes will stick in your brain, and reach out to you in the middle of the night when you least expect it…a fantastic exploration of the human condition…”

TERMINAL is structured around an employee, a cop, a prisoner, a stowaway, and a madman waiting at the Lawton bus terminal—mostly late-night travelers and employees lumping the graveyard shift.

But when a strange, otherworldly fog rolls in, the night changes to nightmare. Something hides in the fog. Something powerful. Something strange. Something…inhuman.

Soon, those in the terminal are cut off from the rest of the world. No phones, no computers. Just ten strangers in the terminal…and The Other.

The Other is the force in the mist. The Other is the thing that has captured them. And The Other wants to play a game.

The rules are simple:

1) The people in the terminal must choose a single person from among them. That person will live. The rest will die.
2) Anyone who attempts to leave the terminal before the final vote will die.
3) The final vote must be unanimous.

A living nightmare. And it’s getting worse, because the best way to make a vote unanimous…is to kill the other voters.

Welcome to the end of the line.

Welcome to the Terminal.

Author of more than 25 books under his own name, Collings’ fertile plume offers bestsellers in fantasy, sci-fi, young adult, middle grade, urban fantasy, thrillers, and more. He acknowledges the influence of “craftspeople” like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Orson Scott Card, whose books “have shifted the genre in which they write…and my father…my first and best writing teacher…”

Collings literally started learning his craft at his father’s knee, who taught creative writing at Pepperdine University. The benefits of an early start show in his handling of narrative, structure, and character, and the ability to choose the right setting for his magic. As usual, at mid-point during the writing of TERMINAL, he looked down from the high point of a roller coaster with bated breath. Then he whooshed down the exhilarating descent to tie up the social and emotion management within the artistic framework.

“…the goal is simple: a dozen strangers in a bus terminal are cut off from the rest of the world and informed that one of them will be allowed to leave—and live—and the rest will die,” he says. “They have to vote on who that one will be, and the vote must be unanimous. Things go from bad to worse when they realize the best way to ensure a unanimous vote is to kill all the other voters.

“Given that head-butting scenario, I did my best to create characters who were instantly accessible on some level, and the heroes of their own stories. The book has some villains—and a few that (are) simply vile—but all of them …on some level, think of themselves as ‘the good guy.’ They matter to themselves and, hopefully, that makes them matter to the readers.

“Then I turn them loose and see what happens.”

And about his social management in TERMINAL, Collings says, “Again, it’s a matter of talking about people like they matter. I approach everyone—regardless of race, creed, color, or any other denominating factor—as people. The books I write—especially horror—are all couched in a moral universe, where right and wrong matter. Respect (for the characters) keeps me from … undermining someone for no good reason… but it also demands that I point out problems with the way they’re doing things. I genuinely like people … and that really informs the way I approach social constructs and interactions in my work.”

In TERMINAL, The Other is the malignant force within the mist “that is not understood until the very final pages—and even then, it’s something that (hopefully) repulses any person with a sense of that right and wrong to which I alluded earlier.

“Additionally, the ‘other’ is the archetypical enemy. We rarely war with our own tribes—we fear things we don’t understand, or understand wrongly, or understand primarily only under the rubric of ‘hostile to my way of life.’ So The Other was the easiest way to bring in that fear of others, of outsiders—which is a theme that winds itself throughout the story.”

While the choice of The Other is not a premeditated continuity of Albert Camus’ Otherness or Alterity, Michaelbrent Collings admits to his own allegorical strains.

“I can’t avoid a bit of pedagogy, and horror is particularly well-suited to talking not just about a plot, but about how that plot relates to the moral elements of our world—or, sometimes, the immorality of it. Scares rely on a sense that something has gone radically, dreadfully wrong, which in turn implies that there is a ‘rightness’ to the universe.

“But the mortar that holds it together is a theme that asks a question about our attitudes and viewpoints, and points out whether that attitude is destructive or beneficial.”

Hope running through Collings’ writing is not far off from the hope built in the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe. Collings believes that horror is “the genre of hope … at its best… the most redemptive of all genres…the horror I most love is the horror that tosses its characters (and by extension its readers) into a deep, dark hole. It strips everything away from them but their core selves… then shows that those core selves are powerful enough to rise back to the light. Horror can kick you into the gutter and leave you there. But when it soars—when it’s truly magical—it leaves you in the dark only and exactly long enough for you to find and really appreciate the light.”

Collings’ wizardry flourishes “anywhere with wifi and a refillable Diet Coke policy.”

Undemanding, though original, to say the least—like the rest!

Collings has practiced several martial arts, majoring in hapkido, teaches Sunday School, is “madly” in love with his wife, was once recruited as a spy, and also writes Western Romance under the pen name Angelica Hart.

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