Story behind Bullettime by Nick Mamatas

The genesis of Bullettime was a dream I had during a nap. Back in the days when I worked at home, I often indulged in afternoon naps while listening to my clock radio. I was living in Jersey City, across from a high school, when I had a dream one afternoon.

In my dream, there was an alleyway in Manhattan’s Lower East Side (which actually doesn’t have many alleyways) and a high-school boy was in it. He wore a long coat. And he lifted his right leg and then his left and sat in the lotus position, a few feet off the garbage-strewed ground. On the radio, “Down” by 311 played. As the video for the song, which my unconscious mind remembered from when the song was a hit in the mid-1990s, features a similar image (a sumo wrestler or someone similar floating) clearly that’s where it came from.

The coat and the age of the kid suggested Columbine to me. The usual lunchtime squawking of the high school students I could observe simply by rolling over in bed and looking out the window of my first-floor apartment gave me the germ of a story. Somehow a school shooter has a supernatural or reality-warping experience.

I’m Greek-American, so I threw in a Greek theme. Eris, the goddess of discord. She’s always good to spark up some drama. And then I began to write. I get bored easily, so three storylines at once seemed the way to go. The kid can shoot a lot, not shoot at all, or shoot just a little bit and then run away. Then what happened to him happened to him happened to him. 

Then, of course, in the real world there were more school shootings. Bullying became an issue, and then a cause, but nobody wanted to acquire a book about a jerk who gets bullied. Only the sweet and innocent need apply. Whenever my agent would clear that hurdle and get close to placing the book, another rampage shooting would erupt and we’d get a nervous-sounding rejection letter. Finally, on my own, I sent the first fifty pages to ChiZine Publications, who promptly filed it and forgot about it. When I met Brett and Sandra at the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus a year later, they were moved to check out the book in their files, read it, and ultimately acquire it.

Bullettime finally came out in 2012, only nine years after my dream. I’d moved from Jersey City to Long Island to California to Vermont to Massachusetts and then back to California. Two of the imprints that rejected Bullettime themselves folded in the interim, though the lineal descendent of one of them has since published two of my other novels. Now the (and audio version, read by the gifted horror novelist Brandon Massey, has been released. The school shootings continue as well, tragically.

I still like “Down” by 311, and napping, though I rarely get the chance to snooze in the midafternoons anymore. I do strongly recommend naps for every aspiring and emerging writer.

Nick Mamatas
Order "Bullettime" here:

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Upcoming4me is a literary magazine featuring best content from leading quality publishers and independent authors. Our notable features include "Story Behind the Story" essays, "Cover art history" galleries, book reviews, cover art reveals, giveaways, and other noteworthy news. We are completely non-profit.