There are a lot of compelling reasons to pick up Haunted Legends edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas. The editors for one. The contributors – Ramsey Campbell, Kit Reed, Joe R. Lansdale, Caitlin R. Kiernen, Jeffrey Ford to name but a few.
Co-editor Nick Mamatas describes the theme of the anthology as “simple: ask some of the best writers of horror and dark fantasy in the world to choose their favorite ‘true’ regional ghost story, and to rescue it from the cobwebs of the local tourist gift shop or academic journal.”
The stories in Haunted Legends are stories that have endured, stories that capture the nature of a particular time and place, and stories that have been converted from legend to the written, short form. These are stories that disturb and linger. Stories that haunt—the region, the reader, the writer.
Below, eight of the contributors to Haunted Legends talk about being haunted (or not) and about what Caitlin R. Kiernan refers to as the “complex web of hauntings that influences [her] work”.
Whose ghost haunts you when you write?
Ramsey Campbell: Interesting question! In literary terms these days (and indeed for decades) it’s more likely to be M. R. James than Lovecraft, but both of them had a lot of use for suggestion and reticence, and so do I.
John Mantooth: My dad. He never got to read one of my stories, but I inherited my love of reading and writing from him. Every time I sit down to write, he is in the back of my mind. I’m thinking, would he like this?
Carolyn Turgeon: Well, given that my last two novels (Godmother and Mermaid, which comes out in March) and the novel I’m working on now are all, to some extent, retellings of fairytales, I must admit I’ve had all kinds of ghosts surrounding me when I write. You know, all those girls whose hearts were plucked out in forests, all those mermaids who turned to foam, all those girls who dreamed of princes while covered in ash. I recently visited the grave of Hans Christian Andersen in Copenhagen and suspect he’s spied on me once or twice, too. He is very nosy.
Kit Reed: Memory and imagination chase all the ghosts away.
Rick Bowes: In this case it was Washington Irving. Around the time I was invited to write for Haunted Legends I attended the World Fantasy Convention at Saratoga in the Hudson River Valley. A lot of attention was paid to Irving and his stories of Dutch New York.
The remarkable thing is that he really wrote only two such stories, “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. But their influence on American writing is great. Irving, not Poe wrote our first enduring short stories – and these are stories not tales.
They are where we get any vision we have of 18th Century Dutch New York. Irving, I think, was attempting to integrate the Dutch into the fabric of the protean USA, also to heal the bitterness of the brutal form the Revolutionary War had taken in the Hudson Valley a generation before he wrote. But also to give people a good old fashioned chill.
Irving’s The Sketch Book has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. I was happy to work with his stories and I hope he didn’t mind.
Erzebet YellowBoy: When I wrote this story I was haunted by ghosts to come.
Caitlin R. Kiernan: This seems like a simple question, in some ways, but a tricky one, in other ways. I can certainly say that when I write I am “haunted” by the ghosts of earlier authors who’ve played an important role in my development as an author. When I’m writing dark fantasy or ghost stories, those writers are M. R. James, Arthur Machen, Angela Carter, Lovecraft, Poe, Shirley Jackson, and Algernon Blackwood. So, yes, there are the ghosts of the authors who have come before. They’re always near when I am writing. But, also, someone very dear to me committed suicide in 1995, just as my writing career was taking off, and she’s haunted every word I’ve written since. She’s always here with me. And then there are the ghosts that haunt everyone, not just authors. And they’re not all ghosts of people, precisely. Sometimes, they’re events that haunt us. Schoolyard conflicts, close calls with mortality, sublime moments of transcendence, a dream, and so forth. There’s a complex web of hauntings that influences my work.
Carrie Laben: When I write, the ghosts leave me alone. When I edit, I am haunted by the small still voices of the beers in the fridge and the games on Facebook.
Rick Bowes is the author of From the Files of the Time Rangers and Streetcar Dreams and Other Midnight Fancies. He wrote “Knickerbocker Holiday” for Haunted Legends.
Ramsey Campbell is the author of The Seven Days of Cain and Just Behind You. He wrote “Chucky Comes to Liverpool” for Haunted Legends.
Carrie Laben is working on a novel and an MFA. Her fiction has appeared in Apex Digest, ChiZine, and Clarkesworld, among other places. She wrote “Face Like a Monkey” for Haunted Legends.
Caitlin R. Kiernan is the author of Daughter of Hounds and The Red Tree. She wrote “As Red as Red” for Haunted Legends.
John Mantooth is a seventh-grade English teacher, grad student, and writer of short fiction. He wrote “Shoebox Train Wreck” for Haunted Legends.
Kit Reed is the author of Enclave and Weird Women, Wired Women. She wrote “Akbar” for Haunted Legends.
Carolyn Turgeon is the author of Rain Village and Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story. She wrote “La Llorona” for Haunted Legends.
Erzebet YellowBoy is the editor of Cabinet des Fees and the founder of Papaveria Press. She wrote “Following Double-Face Woman” for Haunted Legends.
Jeremy L. C. Jones is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher. He is the staff Interviewer for Clarkesworld Magazine and a frequent contributor to Kobold Quarterly. He teaches at Wofford College and Montessori Academy in Spartanburg, SC. He is also the director of Shared Worlds, a creative writing and world-building camp for teenagers that he and Jeff VanderMeer designed in 2006.