May is turning out to be a ghostly month for me.
I haven’t felt icy
fingertips teasing my neck in the middle of the night (except for those
belonging to my wife, of course) or witnessed any strange apparitions upon the hour. What I mean is that I’ve found
myself spending quite a bit of time reading and writing ghost stories.
Now, in my
opinion, a really good ghost story is one of the most difficult objectives to
reach in the world of fiction. There are plenty of rather good ghost stories
out there, but turning that rather into really is no mean feat. It
takes a talented and diligent writer as well as a black seed of an idea from
which a truly haunting tale can germinate. For me, the best ghost stories are
the ones that almost aren’t ghost stories. They are tales of love, loss and
longing in which the phantasmal only breaks the dark surface from time to time,
like jellyfish in murky water. The most subtle hauntings are the most chilling.
This month, I am
reading two anthologies of ghost stories (“Isaac Asimov’s Ghosts”, edited by
Gardner Dozois, and “Hauntings”, edited by Ellen Datlow) and writing one tale
of my own. For both tasks, my aim is the same; to discover a world beyond that
which is known to us and to feel the tingling sensation on the back of the neck
that a really good ghost story gives.