Ragnar's Saga

The Story Behind the Story

Fairground Attraction

Posted by Christopher Hivner on January 6, 2012 at 10:10 PM

Sometimes its starts with a title.


In the mid-90s there was an alternative band named Fairground Attraction who had a minor hit with a song called “Perfect”. I really liked “Perfect” and bought the band’s CD. One day while listening to it I was reading the liner notes and studying the cover art when I focused on the name of the band. This is a very subjective thing, but I thought Fairground Attraction was a cool name and the longer I thought about it, it struck me it would also be a good title for a story.


I spent the next few days thinking back to all the carnivals and fairs I had been to, to see where it would take me. I eventually focused on the games and the cheap prizes you would win. Stuffed animals were always popular but too trite for a modern horror story unless I could come up with a really weird, never-done-before twist which I couldn’t. A lot of the prizes were just cheap pieces of plastic that you lost 5 minutes after you paid $5 dollars to win them. The one that I focused on is one you don’t see much anymore: the kaleidoscope.


It’s a metal tube with mirrors inside and colored beads or pebbles. When you look into one end of it the beads form a vibrant pattern. Then as you turn the tube in your hand, the patterns and colors change. For such a simple toy I always found them fascinating. I haven’t actually seen one since I was a kid so as I thought about my story I had to remember what it was like to peer through that tube at the shifting vista the pebbles created. Over and over in my mind I saw a new pattern and the colors change from blue to red to green. Then an idea crept in. What if, as you were turning the kaleidoscope, you saw something other than the pebbles, something that frightened you, like a human face?


Since most of the carnies at the fairs I’ve been to were male I made my central character an attractive woman. And no offense to carnies, but that meant mine was the evil one that captures her. But the girl and her carnie were minor partners in the story. The kaleidoscope was the star and I did a lot of re-writes to get the description and mood right when the face first appears inside and the girl’s reaction.


Fairground Attraction is still one of my favorites and first found a home in a zine called The Edge before appearing in my book.


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