Data dive: Every Ghost Story is a Love Story


"Ghost Story" was the first story I wrote after an almost decade-long hiatus from writing fiction.  (Grad school, life, etc.)  Psychopomp Magazine published it this fall (it did place, but did not make the cut in Fiction Desk's Ghost Story competition.) 

The story is very much inspired by the rowhouses that line many streets in DC.  If you've never seen one, they tend to be strangely narrow but deep, and they are connected directly to neighbors (leading to delightful noise issues at times).  They typically have an English Basement (which is more half underground than actually underground) with a walk up to the "first floor."  I found these houses delightful when I first moved here, but have since decided that I never want to live in one.  Some of the rowhouses in DC date way back, which on the one hand means sometimes long and interesting histories, but on the other can also translate into creepiness.  Creaking stairways, wooden floors that "settle," old pipes that make mysterious clanging noises.  The potential for ghosts seems high...

Logan Circle rowhouses, picture by  AgnosticPreachersKid

Logan Circle rowhouses, picture by AgnosticPreachersKid

As I've lived here for a while, I've become more interested in not-necessarily-politically-related history about the city.  Below is an old picture from the National Park Service of Meridian Hill Park (mentioned in the story).  Way back when the city was first created, all the land it was eventually built on was owned by one rich dude.  Then the hill was used as a vantage point during the Civil War before it was eventually turned into the park.  The image below is a bit idyllic; when I was here a couple decades ago, the park had a reputation as a place for anonymous sex, drug dealing, and getting stabbed and stuff.  It's a bit cleaned up now (probably all of the above are true, but its nice during the daytime and kids play soccer), but there definitely isn't neatly trimmed topiary or lily pads last time I checked.   One of the things I would love to do via fiction is highlight that side of DC that is not the DC you see on TV.  On the one hand there's House of Cards and All the President's Men. But on the other, there are tons of people that you never see on your TV or in your standard "The corruption goes all the way to the top!" thriller.  My friends are teachers and medical professionals, security folks and all kinds of lawyers, IT people, chefs, and artists.  There are people who never wear suits and people who sport them every day.  And you live in this weird city where occasionally you're stuck in your car and hangry because the traffic holdup is a motorcade, where you might bump into a Supreme Court justice, or where people say "well if we get nuked we'll be first, so we won't feel it."  Anyhow, add this story to my collection of DC stories that have nothing to do with politics.

Number of submissions: 44.  Ratio of positive feedback to number of submissions: 27%.  Time from completing story until publication: about 3 years.  Lesson to be learned: if you keep getting positive feedback on a story, keep sending it out. I'm happy this one found a home. The title actually is a reference to the David Foster Wallace biography, but the story isn't about him.  (My friend came up with the inverted title, which I thought was clever, so I kept it.)