The Freshwater Fishmen of Tucumcari, New Mexico

Today, I’m happy to welcome Tex Thompson, whose book One Night in Sixes comes out next week.

One Night in Sixes

The thing is, I grew up in Texas. Or as it’s colloquially known, “miles and miles… of miles and miles.” In the eastern part around Dallas, where I’m from, the miles are mostly green:

miles of green

While as you head out towards the panhandle, they turn a kind of rugged brown, like slowly oxidizing guacamole:

rugged brown miles

My love of sci-fi and fantasy was born somewhere in between. When I was growing up, our epic family road trips practically required epic novels to pass the time. I hung out with hobbits in Houston, Narnians in Nacogdoches, and androids in Abilene. (And somehow, you can always tell when you’re in Texas…)

You can tell you're in Texas

But when part of my family moved out to Albuquerque, the road trips got longer and more lateral – and I was introduced to a whole new world.

You can tell as soon as you cross the border that something is changing. That trademark Texas flatness starts to wrinkle and rumple and rise up, and the sky seems to get lower and heavier, until the only space between the two is what the rivers have carved out of the rock. It’s a heck of a thing.

What the rivers have carved

So there’s a real sense of geologic time there – not only in the land, but in the marks that human beings have left on it. There’s a fantastic place called El Morro — an oasis sheltered by a huge sandstone cliff, where for literally hundreds of years, travelers have left inscriptions as they passed. Look close, and count how many hands and scripts you can see in just this one snapshot:

El Morro and the messages left

That’s not “and in 1854, when the first pioneers…” That’s not even “in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” That’s called “carbon-date it and give it your best guess, because some of these must be damn near a thousand years old.” I tell you what: it is SO EASY to walk into adulthood with a solid public-school education and think that on the eighth day, God made the Alamo. But out there, it is even easier to stand up in the Sandia Mountains, or look out over the edge of the Acoma Sky City, and feel so small that if you were to fall, you might not even have enough mass to hit the ground.

if you were to fall . . .

And this isn’t, like, fusty curated museum stuff, either. These are living places. People still live up in Acoma, as they for the last nine hundred years. (Well, the Chevies are a bit newer, but still.)

Acoma (with a newer Chevy)

And in the “ghost town” of Cerrillos.


And in downtown Santa Fe.

downtown Santa Fe

And I absolutely love that sense of continuity with the past – of so many living human layers, with neighbors organized not only by houses and streets, but also by cultures and centuries.

So while I myself am firmly rooted in Texas, my “rural fantasy” books were born in New Mexico. Like Tolkien’s Middle Earth and C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, One Night in Sixes lives in its own world with its own rules. But if you want a real-world analogue for the town of Sixes, look no further than Tucumcari, New Mexico. And if a few fishmen come crawling up out of the river for a game of cards one night… well, one wrong turn off I-40 would probably net you just as much excitement.

Tex ThompsonTex Thompson is a “rural fantasy” author and editor for the DFW Writers Conference. Look for ONE NIGHT IN SIXES, the first book in her epic fantasy Western series, on July 29th – and find her in the meantime at and on Twitter as @tex_maam!

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  1. Lovely photos. Beautiful illustration of your transition. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Shirley Thompson

    You do have a way with words. Very enjoyable. Having made that trip a few times it brings back good memories. I’ll remember to look for the fish people next time.

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