Today marks the release of my second short story collection, Things You Need, from Crystal Lake Publishing, also the latest installment in the ongoing story of my fictional Adirondack town, Clifton Heights, which owes its existence in large part to not only Charles L. Grant’s fictional town, Oxrun Station, but even more so to the anthology series he edited, The Chronicles of Greystone Bay.
I’d already discovered and become enamored with Grant’s strange fictional town, Oxrun Station, when I first read Greystone Bay in the summer of 2012. Like Oxrun Station, I fell in love with Greystone Bay instantly. In true Charles Grant fashion, we’re delivered a premise that’s just detailed enough (though not too detailed). Colonists seeking refuge from some sort of persecution (for what and from where, exactly, we’re never quite told) land on the coast somewhere in New England, to found the small town of Greystone Bay.
A dark force moves among these refugees, however, blessing — or cursing? — Greystone Bay with a forever strange existence, until it finally returns to the fog from whence it came in the final installment of the series, In the Fog.
I couldn’t have encountered Greystone Bay at a more opportune time. I had just begun talks with Joe Mynhardt of then-fledgling Crystal Lake Publishing about my first short story collection. I had also been creating my own little mythos, writing and selling short stories taking place in the fictional town of Clifton Heights, New York, in the scenic and atmospheric Adirondacks, but it wasn’t like anyone knew that, then. All those short stories appeared in semi-professional or even token payment markets, so it wasn’t like they had much of an audience, if any. This new short story collection was my first chance to introduce my fictional town to a wider collection of readers, and the Greystone Bay stories pointed the way even better than Grant’s Oxrun Station mythos.
Make no mistake, Oxrun Station was a huge influence. What the Oxrun Station series did so well was introduce new stories and characters — most notably in the novels and novella quartets — with only slight references to past stories and characters. In fact, probably the only two which need to be read in any certain order are the novella quartets The Orchard and The Black Carousel, because in the former, Oxrun Station sheriff, Abe Stockton, is nearing the end of his career, and in the latter, his nephew has just begun his career in the Station, having replaced Abe (because for some reason, only Stocktons can be trusted to oversee this small, strange town).
However, Greystone Bay exerted an even greater influence because the connections between its stories were even slighter, or, in some cases, went no further than common geography. This comes as a result of other authors of varying styles and voices telling the stories of Greystone Bay. This had a profound effect on me as I worked over the first few drafts of Things Slip Through, and The Greystone Bay Chronicles became the guiding light in envisioning stories for my own little mythos.
Communities are made up of diverse people with varying backgrounds, personalities, beliefs, fears, goals, dreams, and nightmares. As I read the Greystone Bay stories, I realized that my town, also, could be filled with all kinds of people. I realized that before me lay an infinite palate unto which an infinite number of stories could be written, through which an infinite number of voices could be heard.
Even considering it’s triumph as a work of quiet horror and the consistently excellent craft of its stories, this diversity is perhaps the greatest strength of the Greystone Bay series. Its wide variety of voices makes Greystone Bay all the more believable. In Greystone Bay, laborers and blue collar workers struggle with all the difficulties of working hard labor jobs…exasperated by Greystone Bay’s strangeness. Greystone Bay also becomes the best (worst?) place for people to hide in if they’re looking to disappear, or to start over…though these new starts are not always as imagined.
Hereditary werewolves and vampires live in Greystone Bay, and also the living dead, but there are also burned-out actors hoping to leave behind their mistakes, tourists struggling with their marriages, terminal cancer patients hoping to take their lives quietly at the Seaharp Hotel (only to discover their cancer — which will ultimately take their life — can save an old love). Just like in any small town, the next generation labors under the expectations of their family ancestors. Some successfully throw off the shackles of obligation and strike out for new territories, others gladly embrace them, while still others succumb to them, because there simply is no other choice. Others, who left Greystone Bay behind years ago, return, called by the same strange curse which has afflicted the Bay since it first resolved out of the fog.
So, as you can see, Greystone Bay offers everything. From philosophical musings on the dangers of making one’s living from the sea in “Night Catch,” by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, (an occupation especially dangerous in the Bay’s haunted waters), to the pressures of life which can drive a man to find any way to escape (a dangerous venture anywhere, but especially dangerous in Greystone Bay), as in “In a Guest House,” by Steve Rasnic Tem, to poignant coming of age stories worthy of The Twilight Zone in Robert McCammon’s “The Red House,” to cautionary tales about boys who are too curious for their own good in Robert E. Vardeman’s “Used Books” (because the “adult section” in Greystone Bay’s used book story isn’t what you think), to a classic take on woman coming back to exact revenge for the wrongs done to her, in “Power,” by Kathryn Ptacek.
And that’s only in the first volume. In Doom City, F. Paul Wilson offers us a story about the new doctor in town, trying to shake off a nearly fatal blow to his career. When he meets the Bay’s most popular physician, Doc Johnson, he learns what triage means in a town like Greystone Bay. “The Supramarket,” by Leanne Frahm, is a wonderfully weird story commenting on our culture’s obsession with buying things simply because we can…and of course, a new supermarket opening in Greystone Bay will be unlike any we’ve every shopped at before. “Jendick’s Swamp,” by Joseph Payne Brennan, is a good old fashioned weird story about cannibals who worship the ancient wendigo spirit…because the swampland of Greystone Bay isn’t any less haunted than its bay.
In The Seaharp Hotel (which came long before American Horror Story: Hotel), Thomas F. Montelone offers a similarly entertaining story of a beleaguered bell-hop at the Seaharp Hotel who has to look after a bottle containing a strange, alien life-form, left behind by a professor from Miskatonic University. Al Sarrantonio tells of a cursed jacket — in “The Coat” — which compels its wearers to enact horrible atrocities. This fun pulp story stands side by side with heart-wrenching examinations of all humanity’s flaws, like our tendencies to shelve our ailing parents and grandparents in nursing homes, to be forgotten, because of course, we’re just so busy, in “The Home” by Kathryn Ptacek, found in Greystone Bay’s final volume, In the Fog.
As I so often do, I have to resist the temptation to simply give you a rundown of every story. I will end on this note: I love how Grant himself ends The Greystone Bay Chronicles. As this cursed town disappears into the fog, its implied that Greystone Bay is not destroyed. It will return, someday. Under a new name, in a new place. It will be different, and yet, it will still be Greystone Bay.
I’m sure he never indented it this way, but at the risk of arrogance, I’d like to think that Greystone Bay reappeared in the Adirondacks in New York, five years ago.
The Greystone Bay Chronicles on Amazon.com:
Kevin Lucia is the Reviews Editor for Cemetery Dance. His column Horror 101 is featured in Lamplight Magazine. His short fiction has appeared in several anthologies. His first short story collection, Things Slip Through, was published November 2013, followed by Devourer of Souls in June 2014 and Through A Mirror, Darkly, in June 2015. His novella Mystery Road is forthcoming in limited edition hardcover from Cemetery Dance Publications, and he’s currently working on his first novel.