There were a couple of points of entry for me in the creation of ‘Why We Don’t Go Back’. This is the third story in my loosely connected sequence of folk horror tales with an unnamed character, provisionally titled ‘The Land Of Empty Men’. Even though they have connective tissue, I’ve made sure that they also can be read as standalone stories. At the start of ‘Why We Don’t Go Back’, the character is in Birmingham, living in a flat upstairs from a young single mother.
The initial spark for the story came from my girlfriend, Amanda, who worked for a number of years in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. Some of the stories she told me, about how the people there go about their business, ferrying around diamonds and other precious stones that are worth fairly staggering amounts amazed me. The seed of the story was in those mad little details.
The intention then, was to write a noir-infused tale of theft and going on the run, and then the setting changing subtly into something much more folk-horror, similar to Ben Wheatley’s Kill List.
The folk-horror element took awhile to arrive, but then, while I was researching something about maize mazes I happened upon some information about
Chartres Cathedral in France. In the nave is the “Chemin de Jerusalem” (Road of Jerusalem), a pavement maze. Either you were supposed to walk the maze as a substitute for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem or you had to shuffle along on your knees as a penance.
The maze at Chartres —
The path through Chartres —
As soon as I read this, something clicked into place in my mind, and ‘Why We Don’t Go Back’ pretty much wrote itself after that. It’s often about two wildly different ideas fusing and evolving into a story.
At the heart of ‘Why We Don’t Go Back’ is a story about two people making difficult decisions and sticking with them all the way to the end. I really felt this story when I wrote it. It’s harsh and (I hope) sad and quietly devastating.
Further details on the sequence of stories that form ‘The Land Of Empty Men’
At the moment the sequence goes:
‘Sunflower Junction’ (Black Static 57)
‘Songs for Dwindled Gods’ (Occult Detective Quarterly 4)
‘Why We Don’t Go Back’ (Black Static 64)
I’ve just completed the fourth story, ‘The Nature Of Panic’, which will go out into the world soon. As I said earlier, none of these stories need to be read in any particular order at the moment. They all stand alone. There are, of course, little connective threads creeping in, and, should you read the stories in the correct order then you will certainly see a character and an attendant cast list evolving from one tale to the next.
The ultimate intention is to gather these stories into a collection that’s provisionally titled ‘The Land Of Empty Men’. There will probably be about eight of them with a novella that ties threads and storylines for the various characters, and provides what in tv parlance would be called a ‘season finale’. As an example, early seasons of a TV show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer would generally contain standalone stories with little intimations of an over-arching story that would be tied up in a season finale. That’s the kind of idea I’m aiming for.
So far I’ve loved writing each of these stories, and I feel (and hope) that it shows in the work. I’m feeling my way forward, touching on various folk horror and Hauntology tropes, and then twisting them into something that’s dark and sad and (again, hopefully) emotionally involving. I can sort of see the road ahead, and how various threads and relationships might recur and be resolved. I really hope the stories go down well enough that someone might want to publish them as a collection of stories that form a complete story and character arc.
I hope everyone enjoys the story.