The Long, Twisted History of the World’s Most Unusual Wizard…The Rainbow Man

It usually starts with the question, “Did you get the name from the Pogues’ song?” The answer is yes. The Rainbow Man is a collection of forty-three Fantasy flash fiction pieces revolving around the titular character. But wait, let’s start at the beginning.

It started around 1990. I was hitting my stride as a writer and I was obsessing over flash fiction. I wrote stories while sitting in the doctor’s office, in meetings (dull ones), at the airport, any spare second I could find. First they were horror stories, then Science Fiction. It was just a matter of time before I got to Fantasy.

I drew a lot then too. And one of my doodles began as a drawing of my left hand. (I’m right-handed.) Then I drew another pose and then another and finally ended up with four views of my left hand. Some snaky arms and I connected them all to a weird looking wizard. Voila, the birth of the Rainbow Man. The Pogues “Hell’s Ditch” album came out in 1990. Very likely I was listening to the album when… The song and the character don’t have anything to do with each other besides their names. But Rainbow Man he was. His cloak would change color through out each story. (I did this only once in “The Prophecy” then dropped it.)

After this I created a clay sculpture of this odd wizard (now lost) and went on writing story after story. The earliest story was a rewrite that I brought into the fold. “Idols” which became “New Gods”. The first stories are quaint little trick tales. The later ones became increasingly political or philosophical, like “The Secret” which expressed a philosophy I hold about the things we do. Des Lewis published it in Nemonymous. Of all the stories, my favorite was and remains “The Torch”. “Cheated” I wrote shortly after my father died. “The Last Vote” was written while sitting in on the annual AGM of my professional association. “Sports Day” expresses my lack of love for Canada’s greatest obsession, as does “The Obvious Choice”.

Anyway, there’s a story behind each and every story. Too many to get into here. Let’s get on. The first version of the book was a self-published chapbook with illustrations by Cathy Buburuz, whose art style I adore. This was 1997. I was so proud of this little bundle of tales. I had actually convinced myself that I had invented something new. The Fantasy Flash. Until someone far more on-the-ball than I said, “That’s just a fable.” And right they were. Such is hubris! But it was also a fortunate lead into the next stage.

The Internet was going great guns by now and I wanted to sell my stories all in a bunch to one editor. Marion Zimmer Bradley (or one of her slush flunkies) read and rejected all the stories I sent in. I wasn’t sure anyone was going to get my little fables. Until 1999 when I came across Megan Powell’s website, Fables. Megan ended up buying the majority of them and that is why the book is dedicated to her.

Well, all this feels like a million years ago. I mean can you remember when people still published saddle-stapled booklets? Now it’s Amazon and Lulu and such. The reach is so much farther but I miss drawing those old black & white illos for chapbooks. Sigh. I kind of miss writing Rainbow Man stories too, but I won’t write any more. I’ve tried. And the magic is gone.

This is a bit of an over-simple explanation. The real reason is that after The Rainbow Man and flash fiction, I discovered micro-fiction, 100 word stories. And began Flashshot, a daily platform for short-short-short stories. Ten years later, I was done with short stuff. Now I write longer works, with 20,000 words being the sweet spot.