Skip to main content

Story-notes for "Machinery of Ghosts"

Gehenna and Hinnom's "Year's Best Transhuman SF" anthology is now available! This awesome collection happens to include my story "Machinery of Ghosts" which has a bit of an involved back-story. Here are a few notes on its inspirations as a story and its development over the years. 

Hugo Station by Morgan Crooks (2012)
I wrote this story more than a decade ago while working as a night shift guard in downtown Boston. Twice every night I had to leave my desk in the front lobby, take an elevator to the top floor, and walk all the way back down to that lobby. To make sure guards completed their rounds, each floor had two sensor stations that I had to check into with a black metal wand. For the most part, I didn't mind this part of the job. The upper floors provided a nice view of the city and it was interesting checking up on the various companies in the building. I did, however, mind the fifth floor.

The fifth floor was in the process of being remodeled when I worked at the building. There were no lights. Each night more of the walls and ceiling were missing. As more and more of the dry wall and insulation was removed, the moan of wind became more and more audible. After a month or so of this, I'm not ashamed to admit I basically sprinted from one end of this floor to the other. To be clear, I never saw so much as a rat on that floor but something about its slow dissolution unnerved me. The original drafts of "Machinery of Ghosts," were an effort to capture that feeling of being isolated inside of a structure slowly falling apart.

As I said, the original version of this story is more than a decade old. Because I was a writing more or less for myself without much thought of where the story would go, I'd describe these versions as short stories only in the sense that they were tales somewhat shorter than a novel. Chamille was always the main character but her journey through D-Block and the nanoweapons was one part of a larger plot about taking over the space station for the UN. I grew dissatisfied with my revisions and I got involved in other projects.

Cut to four years ago, after getting my first few stories published, I start raiding the attic (so to speak) for other stories I could revise into some publishable form. I always like the mood and idea of this story and a quick read through suggested the most interesting part of the story was this descent into a very different sort of war-zone. I slashed away all of the other sub-plots and spend the next year or so refining the idea of a haunted space station and its unhappy residents. The story appearing in "Year's Best Transhuman SF" is the result.

I've always had high hopes for this story and I'm happy to have it in this collection alongside the work of so many other accomplished and talented writers. Hopefully you buy the collection and enjoy it! 

Links to print and digital copies:
  • Purchase "Year's Best Transhuman SF" paperback
  • Purchase "Year's Best Transhuman SF" e-book

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

What I Read in 2017

The third in my series of year-end lists is literature. As in past years, I've divided this post into two categories: Novels and short stories. Each of these stories made 2017 just a bit brighter for me and I hope this list includes at least a writer or two new to you.

I Wish I was You by SP Miskowski: This was the subject of a review earlier this year. The way I feel about this novel, the tragedy of a talented person crippled by anger and regret, transformed into a monstrous avatar of wrath, has not really left me. Beyond the perfection of its prose and its preternatural subject matter, I feel like this is one of the best evocations of the mid-nineties I've seen published. There's something about this book that lingers with me long past the concerns of its plot and characters. I guess what I'm trying to say is this work moved me. 2017 would have been a lot dimmer if I hadn't read this work.New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson: Robinson writes next-level sp…

Writing Horror

I'm wary offering advice to other writers. 

First of all I've got the whole imposter syndrome thing and whatever advice I give feels like a good way of revealing how little I know about anything. Second, what I've learned mostly relates to solving problems in my own writing. What advice does a dog have to offer to a duck on how to swim? 
However, for Arisia 2018, I'll be participating on a panel of doing just that - giving advice to aspiring horror writers about writing horror.

So, what truths can I impart?

Some advice feels absolutely true, if a bit self-evident.

You must read. If you're trying to write horror then you must read horror. Not just one novel. Not just one author. You should make a sincere effort to read everything by everyone. The more recent the better. The classics are always going to be there, but if you want a sense of where your stories could fit, you need to see what is being published out there.

You must write. I do not think you have to write …

We Have Always Lived in Haunted Houses

As my final pre-Arisia post, I'd like to tackle ghosts. Metaphorically, of course, because ghosts are intangible and also don't exist. 

I don't believe in ghosts. Not the sort of ghosts, anyway, that float around decaying old mansions or scare impressionable media personalities. Physics, at least the way I've grown up understanding it, precludes the existence of energy that cannot be detected reliably. Put another way, physicist Brian Cox stated that if ghosts existed the Large Hadron Collider would have almost certainly found one by now.

So, when I say I'm a fan of ghost stories and tales of haunted houses, am I being hypocritical? Possibly, but I also think one can appreciate ghosts and haunted houses in a different way. Even though they might not exist in a 'peer-reviewed' and 'experimentally replicable' fashion, phantoms absolutely exist as a potent symbol of the past.

When we talk about ghosts what we're really talking about is that annoying…