Author Note on Phantom Mitch

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First published in Wicked Mystic #22, October 1993

THIS STORY went on to receive honourable mention in The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror #7 edited by Datlow and Windling.

Getting the short typewritten note in my SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope - this was something that was standard prior to the internet and email, when you submitted EVERYTHING to editors and markets in print format) from Ellen Datlow was quite a thrill, despite the fact that I didn't initially know what it meant.

In my submissions journal I made the following note. ". . . received note from Ms. Datlow . . . 'Phantom Mitch' made her 'rec' list for 1993. (Wonder what that means)." At the time I didn't know what that was, and when the book came out, I got a second thrill when I saw my name on the "honourable mention" list on the same page with Richard Laymon. Thanks for that amazing double thrill Ms. Datlow.

[I'm going to take an aside here, and pause to tell you that if you are a horror fan, aren't squeamish and you haven't experienced a Richard Laymon novel, you're missing out on something great. When I was working at a bookstore in Ottawa, I used to offer to personally buy back a copy of Laymon's "In The Dark" or "One Rainy Night" if the buyer wasn't completely satisfied. I never had any takers. Get the picture? Richard is no longer with us - he died unexpectedly on Feb 14, 2001 - but he left this world a much richer place with his writing. So get out there, get your hands on as many of his works as you can and read them. Just be warned, Laymon's novels are NOT for the faint of heart. They are extremely adult and graphic in nature, making my own novel I, DEATH look like a family-friendly read, which is most certainly is not.]

The story basically explores the concept of amputees experiencing an itch on their "phantom" extremity (ie, feeling an itch between the toes on a leg that was amputated). What if the itch was real because the phantom extremity actually still existed, but on another plane? What if you could touch a dead loved-one with that phantom limb?

In an early version of this story, it was a chilling horror tale with Barry's wife an evil vengeful dead wife coming back to get even with him for killing her in the accident. The story was called "Phantom Bitch." I liked the play on words. The story didn't do much for me, though, so I re-wrote it as a love story. Wanting to keep the play on words in the title, I changed Barry's wife's name to Michelle. I think I ended up with a much better story and a much tighter play on words. Sometimes it's the little things that keep me amused.


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