This continues on from my first post about the Gollancz Festival 2017.
The first panel was called: Who you gonna call? Ghostwriters! I eagerly awaited the panel as the line-up consisted of several authors that I love, plus a few I don’t know much about, a great mix. The panel was moderated by Rachel Winterbottom (Commissioning Editor), and featured: Catriona Ward, A K Benedict, Ben Aaronovitch, Joanne M. Harris, and Joe Hill.
There was no shocking revelation that the authors had ghostwriters, nor were they ghostwriters for somebody else. The discussion focused on the why people like ghost stories, what is special/interesting about the genre. I’ve summarised a few things that each author mentioned; I appreciate I am missing a few interesting statements.
Catriona started things out and highlighted how ghost stories provide a form of comfort. She later explained the importance of creating a tension by scepticism and belief in ghost stories.
A K Benedict explained that the worst kind of haunting is the one that goes on in your own head. She also discussed the common link of depression, grief, pain or loss in relation to ghost stories, and how these stories can help as a form of exorcism of these feelings. A K mentioned a creepy experience of being chased around Cambridge by something…
Ben expanded on the statements by the other authors that had gone before him, underlining a few of the points previously mentioned. Ben went on to emphasis how ghost stories are a way of connecting and exploring the past, as well as our memories, making them live, possibly solving them.
Joanne made an enlightening point about how ghost stories are often satisfying, because they provide a reader with a sense of closure. Ghosts are also a way to explore areas of life that we don’t have the vocabulary to deal with. That we tell ghost stories to stop being afraid. Joanne delved in to evolutionary psychology in regards to our species was once prey, and our fear of the irrational, the unknowable, with of course death being the ultimate unknown. Joanne says she wrote a short story that creeped her out so much she has tried to forget it.
Joe took a different approach to the others, illuminating how ghosts are real, in many different ways. He told of his own experience after 9/11 of going to the cinema and appreciating the gravitas of things even there. How the silver screen manages to capture ‘things of light’, that repeat events, plus we are unable to interact with them. How ghosts are a metaphor for history throwing itself on the present. Joe brought up a Rick & Morty reference in regards to squirrel conspiracies and the fact squirrels don’t have fiction (or do they?!), which related to seeing a squirrel being schmucked. He also told a great tale about the time he spent at a hotel in a room with a boo!
The panel briefly struggled explaining why ghosts are different to mundane threats. After all seeing a person outside your window wearing a pig mask and wielding an axe is scary, but why are ghosts scary. After a bit of debating about whether mundane or supernatural horror was worse the panel arrived at the crucial point about ghosts traditionally being non-corporal, and difficulty of getting rid of them, or even harming them. This led to a building threat:
The idea of a pig masked thing getting in bed with you, and when you pull back the mask there is no face. (This nicely encapsulates the dread of the irrational.)
The interaction between the authors was splendid, and I wish it could have gone on a lot longer. The fact that stories are a tool of exploration, history, empathy and shield really applies to horror, but also applies to all fiction. This really set a high bar for the rest of the day.
Now back to my NaNoWriMo writing now, whilst resisting the urge to write another short ghost story for my fantasy setting. Thankfully the approaching deadline helps to keep me focused 😉
Next time is the panel: The Future’s so Bright I Gotta Wear Shades.