“Crook’s Landing, by Scaffold” is one of the richest horror stories in terms of setting I have read in quite some time. The seamless blending of our world and the world of the dead left me to wonder if Crook’s Landing does, indeed, wait for a certain sort when we die. Tell us a bit of what inspired the story.
Thank you! I was actually inspired a great deal by Marissa Lingen’s story in the July/August 2017 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, “An Unearned Death,” where people are allocated an afterlife based on their attributes. I wondered what an afterlife of crooks and petty criminals would be like, and how they’d get there.
Unlike Marissa’s wonderful, poignant story, my take is firmly rooted in black humour—literally, gallows humour. Newcomers-by-scaffold are sorted into “Thrashers” and “Brecaneks”; when Noosie says to the narrator, “You look like a Brecanek, I reckon,” he’s referencing the narrator’s clean execution.
However, as most stories do, it gained depth as I wrote. The humour’s still there, but it took a backseat once I figured out what it was I really wanted to say.
For many people, the horrors of amnesia, of forgetting, resonate on varying levels, whether in the realm of the supernatural or the grim realities of dementia and Alzheimer’s. What does forgetfulness mean to you? What part of yourself would you least want to forget?
I think most readers can relate to, or find the horror in, forgetfulness to some degree because, as you say, we deal with these things in real life. Losing a loved one to a disease like Alzheimer’s, even as they’re still with you physically—that’s scary for a lot of people.
I suppose loss of memory for me means loss of identity. Without the accumulation of memories to inform and shape us, who are we? Why do we act the way we do? Personally, like the narrator, I would be scared of forgetting my own name. To reach for such a fundamental piece of information about myself, and not find it, would be unnerving.
Many writers like to imagine the cast for a film production of their works. Who would be your ideal cast for this story? The main character? Jag? Noosie? Old Kenzie? Mam?
Such a fun question! Will Poulter would be amazing as the narrator. Sophie Okonedo is a favourite of mine and would make a fantastic Jag. Maybe Alex Lawther for Noosie? Old Kenzie is harder . . . perhaps Gary Oldman doing his best Jack Sparrow impression?
Charlie and Mam are difficult, though! They represent a lot of emotional weight; one is described in detail, the other in broad strokes. I expect every reader will picture them slightly differently.
In 2017, your story “Das Steingeschöpf” won the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction. How did it feel to learn you’d won? Has winning the award influenced your recent work at all?
It felt surreal, amazing, frightening . . . I hadn’t been writing seriously for very long at that point and hadn’t thought much beyond fulfilling my dream of getting a story or two published. Suddenly there was a lot of pressure, a lot of attention I hadn’t prepared for.
I’m still very grateful to the community for getting me to San Antonio so that I could accept the award in person. Luckily, I had great friends who helped support me as I worked through my imposter syndrome afterwards!
Winning a World Fantasy Award has made me value my writing a lot more. It showed me that my childhood dream was actually possible and then some, providing I continued to work hard. It was amazing to suddenly find that agency.
What’s next for G.V. Anderson? What can readers look forward to in the second half of 2018?
The answer is: I don’t know for sure! I have a few new short stories that may or may not make an appearance by the end of the year, but otherwise, things will be quiet because I’ll be working on a novel. “Crook’s Landing, by Scaffold” may be my last bit of fiction out for a while, so I hope your readers enjoy it!
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