for a New American Fear Index

Satire, allegory, horror. The tale transcends history and culture. It acknowledges the ethos of its moment and taps into its audience’s basest instincts, indulgences, and phobias. It preys on curiosity. It builds through humor. It stirs up dread. It allows the zeitgeist to remain a ghost.

Masters of the tale include Washington Irving, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bram Stoker, Edith Wharton, William Faulkner, H. P. Lovecraft, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Daphne du Maurier, John Cheever, William H. Gass, Cynthia Ozick, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, and Joy Williams.

Here, I have resurrected the form. In four long stories, I explore the tradition of tale-telling, for a new—and never less potent—American fear index. From collapsing city infrastructure to suburban hospice care to contemporary factory conditions to the rolling rural hills separating the extremely online from the other side of the digital divide, unremarkable men and shrugging women, foster children and gender-nonconforming nightclub owners, absent parents, vicious landlords, endangered animals, pharmaceutical company mascots, the damned, the dying, and the already dead assemble to confront plagues, tempests, education by pod, and real estate, and to remind us that the world in which we’re living is as mysterious, unwieldy, forbidding, and susceptible as it’s ever been.

Every two months, beginning August 31, 2021, and ending February 28, 2022, I will publish a new installment, a new tale of awe and awfulness for our invariably transforming civil climate:

  1. “The House on the Hill in the Country”

  2. “The Slaying at Yesternights”

  3. “The Children of Zoar”

  4. “The Other House on the Hill in the Country”

Thank you for joining me in this foray into our little known present. A speculative landscape without judgment or accord. A blending of genre, realism, autobiography, and stark terror. Our fiction. Our uncanny. Our void.

Tell your friends.