Out and Back - Barbara Roden"My cousin-by-marriage Sean Lavery, knowing my love for weird and outré websites, sent me a link to the Dark Roasted Blend website," reveals the Barbara Roden, "where I found several pages featuring photographs of abandoned places."My imagination was fired by pictures taken at Chippewa Lake Park in Medina, Ohio, which opened in 1878 and was abandoned in 1978, with the buildings and rides left to rot where they stood, and I began looking around for some information about the park."I've always had a fondness for amusement parks, ever since I was a child visiting Vancouver's Pacific National Exhibition with my father and my brother: an annual trip which was one of the red-letter days on my childhood calendar. The photographs of Chippewa Lake Park were equal parts eerie and sad, for anyone who has ever thrilled to the sights and sounds of a midway, and the story sprang, almost fully-formed, into my head; one of the few times that's happened."The Game of Bear - Reggie Oliver & M. R. JamesAbout the posthumously published collaboration that follows, Oliver explains: "James left 'The Game of Bear' in manuscript unfinished at his death in 1936, stopping at the words: 'No, she mayn't.' In completing this story, I have tried as far as possible to enter into James' mind and style and provide the ending James himself might have produced had not death intervened."Permission to do this was kindly granted by James' great nephew, Mr Nicholas Rhodes James, whom I had the pleasure of meeting while attending one of Robert Lloyd-Parry's famous theatrical renditions of James' work."Shem-el-Nessim: An Inspiration in Perfume - Chris Bell"Shem-el-Nessim' was inspired by a real perfume of that name," reveals Chris Bell, "or at least by a framed advertisement for it that once hung in my girlfriend's parents' house. Now that we live together, it hangs above our bed. The story took a year to write. I began making notes in England in 2005. When I discovered more advertisements and packaging by J. Grossmith & Son, Distillers of Perfumes (the firm fictionalized in the story) on the Internet, Stan Tooprig, the mystery woman and the Cairo Gazette journalist narrator came alive.Venturi - Richard Christian Matheson"Nineteenth-century physicist G.B. Venturi discovered a compressive phenomenon which effects fire, moving through a canyon, causing the flames to be intensified, feeding upon themselves," Matheson explains. "This acceleration, called the 'Venturi Effect', is as apt a metaphor for paranoia as I have encountered."When my own house in Malibu burned down, some years back, my senses altered. As fires ate hillsides and smoke drowned sun, I was forced to evacuate in twenty minutes and ultimately lost everything. I even watched my house go up in flames, on the TV news - a surreal pain."The loss awakened me to signs of oncoming fire - rising wind, distant scents of smoke, angry glows on mountains that rim the bay. "I still live in Malibu, aside its dreamy spell, but am never as completely at ease here as I once was. When winds convulse and fire engines wail, my heart races and I know everything could change."Party Talk - John Gaskin"A year or two ago I was planting roses against the wall of a village church, and found strange things," recalls John Gaskin. "A little later I was at a lunch in one of the larger houses overlooking a deserted railway, and a river . . ."Princess of the Night - Michael KellyMichael Kelly recalls: "The genesis of 'Princess of the Night' is a little murky. It was written for an anthology of Halloween tales. Alas, it didn't make it into the book."The tale then sold to a slick new professional magazine, where it promptly languished for four years until the magazine (which published four issues, I believe) folded before publication. I forgot about the story for a while. Then, one day, as I was looking through my files for possible stories to include in a new collection, I chanced upon it again.