Starting from this post Publication Day posts will be transformed (gradually) into “Publication Notes” posts, given my tardiness! This short story/play was published in December, which was over 4 months ago!
I wrote the first draft of this play in 1996 after spending many nights painting a Gothic/surreal painting of a woman coming out of a flower, with a tower in the background. It was always a painting and play infused with my homesick longing for Penang. I grew up on the island and it feels like I spend most of my life missing Penang or being haunted by events that occurred there in my childhood. These dreamscapes and nightmares infuse my sleeping hours.
The painting itself is not very good but I may revisit the theme at some point when I’m able to dedicate some time to the visual arts again. The idea of the story being postcolonial Gothic existed at the time even though I didn’t know postcolonial theory existed as a thing (that happened years later during my M.A. in Literature). But I was always a history nerd and had written more than one thing around the time of the East India Company. This one seemed to spool out as a play. I went with it. A few years later as an academic who had started to do research in postcolonial theatre and who discovered monodramas, I formatted it accordingly (circa 2006-2007), but I was never fully happy with it so I didn’t submit it. Was it a play? Was it a short story?
Of course, now we know the answer is “both”. Around the time I started wanting to submit to The Dark, I was attracted to the call for submissions that asked for unusual formats they’d never seen before. “Ahah,” sez I. “I’m going to send them this play one day!”
But I was still never sure so I lobbed my other creepy stories at them, which they never quite liked enough to buy. And then last year I went on a one-week adventure in Penang while having health issues — that in itself made it a rather intense trip. This story was edited and made fully a three-act play while in Penang, while ingesting that surreal magical creepiness I always associate with nights by the beach in Penang, but it was also in part influenced by my emotions at that point in time.
I submitted it as threatened, and a few weeks later, it was accepted. And I was absolutely gobsmacked at the positive response to this murder pontianak play of mine! Thank you everyone!
And to my surprise, more than one reviewer read it as “a short story, framed as a play”! Well, of course. But I’d still love to see it performed one day 🙂
And there you have it. A spoiler-free publication note!
When The Night Blooms, An Artist Transmutes: A Three-Act Play in The Dark Magazine , Issue 31, December 2017