It’s the time when bloggers crane their necks to glance back at the past year and then turn to squint hard at the coming one. I had at least two odd and interesting moments in 2019. First, the long essay in which I attempt to define “occult detective fiction” — along with the Chronological Bibliography of Early Occult Detectives — was translated into Italian and now appears in I casi soprannaturali del Dr. Muncing, from Providence Press. Second, the Society for Psychical Research requested a review copy of The Victorian Ghost Hunter’s Casebook. Both great and unexpected honors.
In addition, Brom Bones Books released three new books during 2019: the Casebook mentioned above, the anthology Ghostly Clients & Demonic Culprits: The Roots of Occult Detective Fiction, and the novel Guilt Is a Ghost: A Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mystery. Since its inception on Halloween of 2017, BBB has released a total of eight books. By my calculations, that’s 3.692307 books a year. Roughly. Of course, some of these books were started well before Halloween of 2017. The Lost Limericks of Edgar Allan Poe, for instance, had been in development for probably about five years. Help for the Haunted: A Decade of Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mysteries is actually a reprint (a spruced-up reprint, mind you) of a work that had been published by a different small press. Given this, book releases will probably start slowing down in the coming years.
I only have two books scheduled for 2020, and I’m not entirely sure that one of them will be ready in time. It’s the next Vera Van Slyke ghostly mystery, and novels are tricky beasts that mature at their own unpredictable paces. But I can say that the adventure takes place in Oklahoma during the oil boom of the early 1920s. There, the already troubled Meyer family faces a dilemma: has pillaging the local mounds left by an ancient civilization released a curse upon them? You see, multiple witnesses have glimpsed a half-human, half-canine creature wandering the windswept landscape, and it seems to be targeting the Meyers with deadly violence. Vera Van Slyke must unearth the family’s buried secrets before solving the supernatural mystery.
I’m also struggling a bit with finding the right kind of material for the coming year’s other book-to-be. It will be the fourth of the Phantom Traditions Library: an anthology of fiction about sentient life on the moon, all of it written when there was still debate over whether or not such a thing might be possible. Around the 1860s, the idea that the moon can’t support life became generally accepted, and I guess writing fiction about what such life might be like seemed futile. Step One, though, is to compile a timeline of how that debate was settled and then see how fiction intertwined with it. (There was a resurgence of fiction about sophisticated lunar life in the early 1900s, but presumably the topic had moved from “scientific” possibility to pure fantasy.)
I’ll also be returning to the Chronological Bibliography of Early Occult Detectives. I reported earlier that I’ve received an impressive list of potential candidates to check, and I want to do some general maintenance, too.
Meanwhile, my work on the Appendix of The Victorian Ghost Hunter’s Casebook, which presents two ghost-hunting chronicles published in U.S. magazines, has inspired another idea for this site. It’s still sketchy, but the page(s) will feature haunted sites in the U.S. as recorded by the press in the 1800s. This blog post will give you taste of what I mean. For now, the project is titled simply: Ghosts of the Gilded Age. Or maybe Gilded-Age Ghosts. Or Cold Ghosts? Possibly Cold, Old Ghosts…. Well, I’ll figure that out later.
My only other resolution for the coming year is to cut out bedtime snacks. But I’m honestly not betting any money on that happening. I feel more confident about one thing: I truly do wish you a productive and intriguing 2020.