I'm clearly not being called upon to do any work today. I was sifting through a list of scariest movies I've never seen on msn.com, and then I went over to salon.com and read an interview with Stephen King, and then because it's October and Halloween is tomorrow, I was thinking about horror movies and horror fiction and then I wondered:
"What's Dale Bailey up to these days?"
Let's go back a bit. In the fall semester of 2003, I took a course in American Gothic Literature, along with a whole bunch of people. It was pretty popular, and very few people dropped out. And we read tons of horror fiction. We read essays on horror. We read novels. We read anthologies. And one very special day, the teacher invited a friend of his from grad school to come and speak both in our class, and as part of some series on campus. The friend, whose novel, The Fallen, was required reading, was Dale Bailey.
He was friendly and personable and entertaining. We talked about Anne Rice, and Stephen King, and he told us about his own influences and some of the things in his work that had caused problems for him (theological uncertainties, issues with his dad, balancing writing with his teaching schedule) and things of that nature. Several girls in the class wanted to marry him. Some of those girls wanted to marry him very badly.
Anyway, that night he gave a reading in which we got to find out what he was working on at the time. It was an interesting draft, and it seemed strange that he would read that instead of something from his collection of short stories that had just been released. A couple of my friends bought that book. I was a little poor at the time, and just had him sign his novel that I read for the course. Later, some of us took pictures with him. Yes, little-known authors get star-struck fans, too.
So: back to today. Off to google I went, and there I found my first disconcerting piece of information. His website, which is still the first result you'll get if you google him, has not been updated since 2004. And I'll be honest, it's pretty self-promoting. I was a little put off by the tone. But at the same time, I can see where some of the cockiness might have come from. If you go back to 2002-2004, you will find reviews (in newspapers, blogs, amazon.com customer reviews even) in which people are tripping all over themselves to write [super adjective here] things about Dale Bailey. There was not a revered horror/fantasy writer to whom he could not be favorably compared. Only the best gushing, superlative-filled praise was good enough.
And then there's nothing. Or next to nothing. A story in a magazine here. A story in a collection there. A book he co-wrote in 2006. But ultimately nothing that would let me know what in the world the man was doing. No myspace. No facebook. No fanpages. No wikipedia entry!
Earlier this year, one of his stories was included in anthology of apocalyptic fiction. The story is "The End of the World as We Know It" and it's the draft that he read 5 years ago.
I think we all know what's happening here. Promising academician with an interest in mythology and literature steeped in the supernatural is on the cusp of greatness uncovers a terrible, long-lost secret, and either loses his mind or gets transported to a horrible alternate universe or Cthulhu pops out of nowhere and destroys him. Sometimes all three.
Think I'm wrong? Dig up something on him for me. It's really bothering me.
Here is a timeline for you:
June 1999: A revision of Bailey's doctoral thesis is published as American Nightmares: The Haunted House in American Popular Fiction
November 2002: The Fallen is published
November 2003: Dale Bailey visits the University of the Ozarks
The Resurrection Man's Legacy: And Other Stories is published
December 2003: House of Bones is released
June 2006: Sleeping Policeman (co-written with Jack Slay Jr.) is published
January 2008: "The End of the World as We Know It" is published in Wasteland: Stories of the Apocalypse
(Photo stolen from www.summeroflovecraft.com)