When S. T. Joshi invited me to write a story for an anthology of dream-based weird fiction, I jumped at the chance. Not only because it was nice to break away from the Lovecraftian weird that was already past its due date in terms of freshness, but because writing fiction about dreams seemed right up my alley.
So, I wrote “The Fifth Stone” for NIGHTMARE’S REALM (Dark Regions, 2017) and sent it over to a great response.
Theme anthologies are funny things: the editor wants stories that fit in a specific box, but what readers respond to most are stories that surprise them. How can a reader be surprised about a vampire in a story published in a vampire anthology? Similarly, in writing a story about dreams, one can’t make the story turn on the presence of said dream. It needs to be approached in a different way. In “The Fifth Stone”, I chose to approach dream not from the typical angle of slumber, but instead through epileptic seizure. I think (and hope) this presents something different from what the reader expects.
I’d also wanted to tell a story with scope. Most of my stories take place over the course of a few hours or days, but I’ve always been enamoured by those that extend over a lifetime, and wanted to take a stab at it myself. And, as the starting point, I used the text of a short exercise I’d written once that I loved but was languishing in a folder of other ideas. It’s one of the reasons I continue to noodle around with experiments and exercises—because one never knows how useful they might be later.
Finally, the title is inspired by what may be my favourite short story title of all time: L. P. Hartley’s “The Third Grave”. Even now, typing it, it evokes so many story ideas in me. One day, I may even write one of them down.