Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Curse Of My Christmas Ghost Story...

Muriel Gray has an interesting column in The Guardian today about Christmas ghost stories. Part of the Victorians' reinvention of Christmas that we seem to have forgotten nowadays is the ghost stories of Dickens, Gaskell, MR James etc. It isn't just the famous names - the seasonal editions of various periodicals would always feature some supernatural creepiness, just begging to be read aloud around a crackling fire while the wind howled outside... (Maybe out modern equivalent tradition is sitting together to watch the creepier moments of the Doctor Who Christmas special?)



I tried my hand at this type of Christmas ghost story late last year - Snow doesn't specifically take place at Christmas, but as its title suggests the white stuff plays a prominent part. It tells of a man, on the run from his past, holed up in some crumbling and freezing cold mansion house, while outside the snow piles up at the windows... It isn't necessarily a ghost story either, although neither were many of MR James's so-called ghost stories - if it's good enough for James it's certainly good enough for me. (Probably no surprise to anyone who's read any of my stuff, but James wrote some of my favourite classic horror stories.)

I was pretty pleased when I finished Snow, which is unusual - I'm normally convinced for at least a week that I've wrote a huge pile of tripe. But it seemed to me then (and still does now) to be one of the best things I'd written. I'd kept the plot tight and the word count down, so I already knew there would be lots of potential markets to submit this one to. And I thought if any horror magazines were planning the modern day equivalent of the Victorian periodicals' creepy Christmas issues, it would fit right in. In short, I was as confident as I've ever been, sending this one out into the world...

Every magazine or anthology I've submitted Snow to so far has either gone bust or folded.

Now I know it's coincidence, and I know that the fact I've noticed it at all is probably an example of some psychological principle (most likely with the word 'cluster' in its name) - that it's no more significant than buying a new car and suddenly seeing that model every time you go for a drive. Know too that times are rough out there, with our economy being run by idiots or maniacs, and that magazines for short fiction (not exactly stable ventures at the best of times) are probably suffering as much as everyone else...

But still, the sheer number of times it's happened with Snow is odd.

So if you're reading this and you're in any way involved with the publishing world you may feel a slight shiver, for I am about to search Duotrope again for a home for poor ol' Snow and it might be about to wing its cursed way to your inbox... If you see it arrive, for God's sake don't open the mail, although by then I fear it will already be too late.... heh heh heh. (A suggestion: maybe the only way to break the curse is for someone to publish the damn thing!)

Anyway, Happy Christmas all, particularly to those of you who've offered me much encouragement this year. You know who you are and know I'm grateful. I'll leave you with one of the few Christmas songs that a) is good, and b) isn't The Pogues. Enjoy!


1 comment:

TC said...

Just a quick Good Luck with Snow, hope it doesn't bring about the demise of anything else, and Merry Christmas and Happy 2012.