Behave, or the Syk’m will come and take you away.
That was the threat hanging over my childhood, the terrifying punishment that made us all obedient.
As children, we were told that the Syk’m watched over us. Should we misbehave, they could do unimaginable things.
Because we were young and knew no better, the mere mention of their name was enough to control us. We went to bed, minded our manners, stopped our shouting. Although the Syk’m were mythical creatures, never seen, we all believed in their power over us.
Now that I’m older and wiser, I thought that I had outgrown the unseen terrors of my childhood. I thought that I no longer believed in the power of the Syk’m.
Then the day came when I discovered that the Syk’m were real. The day they found me. Their message was clear. Despite everything I had imagined, they needed my help.
It was the day I discovered that they were not the monsters we had all believed them to be. There were others in the universe.
How the story was devised and written.
It all started with a memory, my grandmother used to tell me that if I was bad, a creature that she called the bogeyman would come and take me away. It scared me when I was younger, because of the way she said it and the threat that it implied. Whether it improved my behaviour is another matter.
Anyhow, fast forward to a couple of years ago, when my wife and I were talking about aspects of our childhood. I mentioned the bogeyman and we laughed about the effect things like that had on children. And how we grew out of such fears as we got older and learned more about the world.
Then I had a thought. What if the bogeyman was real, what might happen if you met one? What would be the truth behind the stories, the basis of the legend?
My mind went into overdrive, perhaps the bogeymen were members of an alien race, watching us and occasionally taking someone for research? Maybe they had been more active in years past, hence the old tales. It could be that they had since turned their minds to other things and had decided to leave us alone. If that were true, then how, and for what reason, might the first new contact in ages develop?
I realised that there were enough possibilities in that paragraph alone to build a story.
The Syk’m grew from that premise. I decided to write it as a sword and sorcery fantasy adventure, given the origins of the tale in folklore. I thought it would be the most fitting genre for it. I invented a world, Skander, with a medieval society. These were the people who would be held in thrall to their own version of the bogeyman, who they called the Syk’m. The story would concern what happened when the people of Skander finally learned the truth.
I made some brief notes and let the story stew in my mind. The whole story came to me, just in time to be my project for NaNoWriMo 2020. I wrote most of it in November 2020 and sent it off to my editor, as well as a few trusted friends. I got positive feedback and completed the final version in April 2021.
As a writer of Sci-fi and Steampunk, building the world was fairly straightforward. Incorporating magic and primitive technology was a bit more of a challenge. I had to forgo all the usual tricks and the freedom that writing about the future gives you, go right back to basics. The aim was to make it as plausible and integrated a society as I could. A place like our history suggests, yet not ours
Apart from the action and adventure that such a tale demands, I also wanted to examine the emotional aspects of meeting people whose existence had only ever been hinted at and feared. I thought that it would be fun to explore the relationships that might develop between the two races, the similarities and differences that such an event might expose.
Beta readers comments,
I loved it. The characters are amazing and the plot just flows. Channing Schneider
Everything I love about High Fantasy. Dixie Messing
Richard Dee has crafted a fantastical fantasy filled with fun, adventure and danger all in equal measure. Steven Smith
A short excerpt,
She passed the last stalls and turned off the street into a narrow alley between two high brick buildings. I stepped after her into the gloom. I had no thoughts of a trick, or possible danger, I just wanted to find out who she was, why she had looked at me in that way.
As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw her, no more than ten paces ahead. She had stopped, her back to me. Suddenly, it looked as if she was encased in a glowing cloak of rainbow colours. It was a trick worthy of the best entertainments at Kauron’s palace. Perhaps she was a theasp, an illusioneer, or should that be illusioness?
Hearing my footsteps behind her she turned and looked back. I couldn’t see her expression, just a flash of bright teeth as she stepped sideways, into the wall. It accepted her, she was gone.
What I had just witnessed was impossible. I ran to where she had been and looked at the bricks. They carried a faint glow of rainbows. Gently I reached out to touch them and watched in disbelief as my hand vanished deep into what should have been a solid wall.
How had she done that?
I knew of magic, of the tricks worked in the market. I’d seen the disappearing coins found behind the ear and watched as people or objects appeared to vanish. But I also knew that it was not real and that there was always an explanation. Yet this was beyond my mind to explain. I quickly removed my hand, lest the bricks should change their state and trap me. Then, as if poking a wound to see if it still hurt, I pushed my hand forward again, once more it vanished.
One small step was all it would take to follow her. I didn’t hesitate, had no thoughts of right or wrong. Where was I going, how would I return? It never crossed my mind. Taking a deep breath, I stepped forward.
Published on October 15th 2021, you can find The Syk’m for yourself at
or on Goodreads at
I’m Richard Dee and I normally write Science Fiction and Steampunk adventures. I also chronicle the exploits of Andorra Pett, a reluctant amateur detective for the space age.
I spent forty years at sea, firstly as a ship’s officer, then as a Thames River pilot, taking vessels of all sizes through the Thames Barrier and Tower Bridge.
In retirement, I set up an organic bakery and then, from out of the blue, I started writing. You can read about my writing journey at https://richarddeescifi.co.uk/i-was-never-a-writer/
The Syk’m is my seventeenth novel and my first in the Fantasy genre.
You can find me at https://richarddeescifi.co.uk/ where you can read more about me and my worlds. There is also the opportunity to join my newsletter and get a free novella, the prequel to one of my series. I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RichardDeeAuthor
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