I’m not particularly au fait with ghost stories, new or old; then again, arguably only one or two stories in this anthology feature ghosts, so perhaps I’m not at too much of a disadvantage. Fiction Desk editor Rob Redman makes clear that these collections are open to supernatural fiction more broadly; what really makes them work is their openness to haunting of the non-supernatural sort, whether it’s a voice in the head or notes left by an ex or the life you could be living. Nestling these stories among each other points up the real in the supernatural and the spooky in the natural. I have given my brief thoughts on each of the stories elsewhere, but all of them benefit from being among their friends.
I certainly understand my own contribution better for reading the others. I wrote ‘The Double’ almost exactly two years ago, in June 2021. The basic idea had been in my head for years, unable to make it coherently onto the page. This was, I think, because it was such an old idea, stuck to the person I was when I had it: a carefree, middle-class student. Such a person is not the best fit for a story about being displaced from one’s life: their life is supposed to be still malleable. The nice thing about fiction, of course, is that you can make up someone else who is a good fit, but sometimes you have to grow a bit yourself before you can do that. Once I had grown enough, the story came out in a day. Now I’ve grown more, I can see more of where it came from. One thing I’ve learned in the growth of this story, and that Jasmine learns within it, is that growing is not only, or even primarily, a matter of time. If the other authors in New Ghost Stories IV have helped me understand my own, it can only be because they have grown me, too, and I thank them for it.
As the inclusion of my story in this anthology presents a conflict of interest, I am ethically compelled to award it no stars. ☆☆☆☆☆