Jeffrey Thomas is the author of such novels as Deadstock, Blue War, Letters from Hades, and The Fall of Hades, and such short story collections as Punktown, Nocturnal Emissions, Thirteen Specimens, and Unholy Dimensions. His stories have appeared in the anthologies The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, The Year’s Best Horror Stories, Leviathan 3, The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases, and The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. Forthcoming from Miskatonic River Press is a role-playing game based upon Thomas’ universe of Punktown. Thomas is also an artist, and lives in Massachusetts. His latest collection is Ghosts of Punktown, published by Dark Regions Press, available for order April 29th

Ghosts of Punktown

by Jeffrey Thomas

Since 2000, when Jeff VanderMeer’s Ministry of Whimsy Press published my collection Punktown, a string of other books set in my far-future milieu of Punktown have seen print. Until this past March, however, with the release of my novella Red Cells (which features as its protagonist private eye Jeremy Stake, from the novels Deadstock and Blue War), it’s been a number of years since a Punktown book has been released. On the heels of Red Cells, though, comes my short story collection Ghosts of Punktown, from Dark Regions Press.

Ghosts of Punktown has been completed for a few years, actually, but its publication was delayed as Dark Regions Press changed hands. A few of the stories are reprints, but the meatier pieces are original to the book. These newer stories reflect a period of transition in my life. During this period, I lost the ownership of my house. I lived at three different addresses, gained a daughter, lost a marriage, went through various jobs, long stretches of unemployment. It’s safe to say that aside from the birth of my daughter, this was the darkest period of my life. The stories I speak of reflect that darkness, and that sense of transition. Always in my Punktown stories have I blurred the lines between science fiction and horror, but perhaps in this collection the horrors are more cruelly edged.

All is not utter gloom and doom, though. After all, I’m still here, doing better, and some of my characters made it out the other side, too. Maybe scarred, maybe changed, but they did the best they could in a hostile environment…which might be the appeal of Punktown for those who have been there before and dared to go back. It’s something we can all relate to: struggling in the shadows to preserve our dignity, our sanity, our individuality…to hold on to something solid in a madly whirling universe. And when we can’t, to at least go out fighting, flipping the cosmos the finger, as it were, like the protagonist of my concluding, Sam Peckinpah-on-another-world novella “Life Work”.

Why am I even writing science fiction stories that reflect in any way the experiences or emotional states of my own life? Rather than focus on such puny terrestrial matters, why am I not orchestrating another battle between galactic empires, fought by a great fleet of starships led by a larger-than-life messianic hero? What can I say, I guess that’s just me. See, if I had to choose a favorite SF novel, it would probably be 1984. And if I had to choose a favorite collection of short SF stories, it would most certainly be The Martian Chronicles. Maybe Punktown lies somewhere between those two books…the nightmarish oppressiveness of the former, and the melancholy poetry of the latter. At the very least, striking such a balance is my aim.

So don’t be afraid to venture into the dark city they call Punktown. Amongst its citizenry of aliens, robots, and mutants, it’s not only me you’re going to find, but yourself.

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