What’s new: academic stuff, short stories

Most of my writing news is actually of the academic variety: I’ll be presenting a paper at Aberystwyth University’s Postgraduate Conference in early May.  The title of the paper is “Fear Travels Well: The Foreign Setting in Contemporary Horror Fiction,” and the basic idea is that authors of horror stories set in foreign (to the characters and/or to the authors themselves) settings use those locales — consciously or not — to render their characters even more helpless than would be the case closer to home.  In the case of authors choosing foreign settings, this is usually done for a reason: because the location theoretically must serve the story in some manner, and in horror fiction the point would be to frighten the characters.

For an example of what I’m talking about, think of Dracula.  People immediately think of Transylvania when the name Dracula is mentioned, to the extent of forgetting (if they ever knew in the first place) that much of the book is actually set in England.  Which is not to say that the book would have been less creepy had it been set in a remote hamlet in the British Isles, but Stoker intensified the narrative tension by choosing Transylvania.  He established a sense of disquiet via Jonathan Harker’s reaction to the locals’ strange (to him) attire, language, and customs.  The language barrier could have created a major obstacle in terms of Harker being able to get his own needs (food, shelter, safety) met.  Later, escaping back to Britain would have been logistically quite difficult to arrange and accomplish.  Taken together, all this made for a much more potent story than would have the case had Stoker set it somewhere in England.

I’m doing a whole paper on how this works and why.  With luck, I’ll finish the bloody thing soon.  It’s cannibalizing my (fiction) writing time, and I’d like to get it over with and get back to the novel.

There are also several short stories in circulation: “Hell Is Other People,” “Too Much Light Makes the Day Go Blind,” and… one other?

Oh, and did I mention I dusted off an unfinished old one (“Distance Fades between Us”) not so long ago, having suddenly finally realized — some seven years after I started it — how it should end?  “Distance” is flash, so I’ll probably submit it to an upcoming Liars’ League HK event.

Last thing: The Queen of Statue Square is inching closer to publication.  The final draft is in, and we’re waiting for the publisher to get back to us with a cover.

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