Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wilde Stories now available

Wilde Stories: The Best of the Year’s Gay Speculative Fiction, edited by Steve Berman, is now out and includes my ghost story “The Woman in the Window.”

Here’s some background on the story, which was originally published in Issue #42 of All Hallows: The Journal of the Ghost Story Society.

A few years ago I had noticed a submissions call posted on the Internet for an anthology of short fiction revolving around items that could be found in a curiosity shop. It occurred to me that this might be a good idea for a ghost story about a haunted object. I immediately seized upon the idea of someone finding one of those large, beautiful, glass-domed snow globes in such a store, because I collect them myself. (However, most of my snow globes are not of the expensive glass variety but of the plastic souvenir type found in airport gift shops). I never submitted the story to the anthology because I did not finish it in time for the editor’s deadline — the reading and consideration period comes and goes so quickly for a lot of these speculative fiction markets. It wasn’t until I read two stories by M.R. James — “The Mezzotint” and “The Haunted Dolls’ House” — that I understood what kind of haunting the snow globe could play in the story. I had also recently re-read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood for background research for another story I was writing and I wondered if the Clutter’s house where the murders took place still existed and if it was ever reported to be haunted. (Around the same time I was also voraciously reading through The Mammoth Book of Haunted House Stories, edited by Peter Haining, which, in short introductory paragraphs, gives historical details of the houses that many writers used as inspiration for their ghost stories.) I specifically wanted to write a gay themed ghost story and it made sense to me to fashion the back story of the haunted house inside the snow globe to have been lived in by two women who had come together to raise their children, after abusive relationships with men. It did not occur to me to make the present day couple in the story a gay male couple until my final draft, just before I work-shopped the story with my writing group (as I do all of my fiction), when I realized that the story could make some kind of statement about homophobia in suburbia and the rising influx of alternative families into those neighborhoods.

The village that I had in mind in the story where Tom goes to purchase the snow globe is based on Lahaska, Pennsylvania, in Bucks County, about a ten minute drive from New Hope and the Delaware River. There is a large cluster of specialty shops there that cater to tourists, and I knew there was a children’s store, a variety emporium, and across the street an Inn. (My parents had stayed there during a period when I was renting a small cottage nearby on Aquetong Road.) As I recall, that Inn is not as architecturally elaborate as the one I envisioned for the story; it is a small farmhouse near the edge of the road which has been made into a nice guest house.

The name of the story was originally “The Snow Globe” and was changed to “The Woman in the Window” when it was accepted by All Hallows. A story with the same name had recently been accepted for publication by the magazine and the editor suggested that I rename my story.