What Happens When You Wake Up in the Night – Michael Marshall Smith For Michael Marshall Smith, this was one of those stories that dropped straight into his head, but the problem was that he didn’t want it: “It wasn’t an idea I liked. It was clearly some part of my brain serving up a notion simply because it could, and because it knew it could frighten me with it.
“It did frighten me, and so I did what I always do when that happens – which is write it down, in the hope it will go away.”
Respects – Ramsey Campbell
“‘Respects’ was suggested by a local incident in which a car thief in his early teens killed himself while fleeing the police,” recalls Campbell. “A lamp standard at the site of his demise is still decorated with flowers years after the incident, and the tributes on the obituaries page of one Wallasey newspaper were at least as grotesque as the ones I’ve invented – the romanticisation of a petty criminal.
Cold to Touch – Simon Strantzas
“Stories often find their origins in unexpected ways,” Strantzas reveals. “I was inspired in this case by a photograph of a Zen garden I once used as my computer’s desktop background.
“There was something there in the coldness of the photograph, something that brought to mind the barren vistas of the Canadian Arctic, which ended up being the perfect setting for my tale of tested faith.”
The Reunion – Nicholas Royle
“‘The Reunion’ is based on actual events,” reveals the author, “but the story only really came into focus for me when I was invited to contribute to Ellen Datlow’s Poe anthology.
“Poe is brilliant. I was at a conference recently where a teacher revealed that she had read Poe’s ‘The Black Cat’ to a lecture theatre full of schoolchildren. She switched off all the lights and used a torch to read by. A number of parents lodged complaints, which she took as a measure of the event’s success. My tale is inspired by a different Poe story.”
Granny’s Grinning – Robert Shearman
“I love Christmas,” says Shearman. “Always have done, and always a bit too passionately. The intensity with which I loved Christmas was delightful when I was eight years old, slightly unusual by the time I was eighteen, and increasingly disturbing thereafter.
“I was the last one to grow up. It suddenly dawned on me one year, looking into the faces of my parents, and of my sister, that they were all older, and fatter, and less and less festive. And that they were trying so hard to keep me happy each Christmas, pretending they wanted all those presents I’d bought, all those sausage rolls and Quality Street chocs. That what I was trying to do, each December, was somehow reach back into the past and resurrect a time that was dead, that was long dead.
“I still love Christmas. But now I recognize – as I still make them perform party games, as I still make them open their gifts and smile and say thank you – that they’re zombies now. All of them, zombies. I’ll never get my childhood back again, not really, or the innocence of that family get-together. So I’ll make do with the dead, and pretend.
“This is a story all about that.”
In The Garden – Rosalie Parker “‘In the Garden’ was written after I challenged myself to write a horror story about gardening,” explains the author. “It emerged more quickly and easily than anything I’ve ever written. I think of it more as a prose poem than a story.”