Here, Jeffrey Ford talks about his story “Daddy Longlegs of the Evening”. I heard Jeff read the opening in Cambridge last month and barely took a breath while he was reading. In the story, he perfectly captures the character and mood he describes here perfectly.
“Where Did Daddy Come From?
A recently published story, “Daddy Longlegs of the Evening,” appeared in Ellen Datlow’s anthology for St. Martins, Naked City. It’s a pretty grim little piece but told with humor and in the style of an urban fairy tale in order to torque the grimness a bit. It’s about a spider that crawls into a sleeping boy’s ear, eats its way through to his brain and makes a nest for itself in the center of his thoughts. It restrings the boy’s neural pathways with its own thread and then plays him like a zither. The kid goes through this horrific transformation into a creature that later comes to be known as Daddy Longlegs of the Evening. He winds up in the failing city of Grindly, and sets about draining the citizenry of their essential fluids, leaving behind corpses that the Grindly newspaper refers to as “old luggage.” And then some more stuff happens.
The seed of the idea came to me when I went with my son and wife to a Salvador Dali retrospective, I think, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Dali did a painting called, “Daddy Longlegs of the Evening — Hope.” You know, everything in it is dripping and turning into other stuff. There’s a spider in it you can find. I was struck by the title and thought it would also make a good title for a story. I dropped the Hope literally and figuratively. The last piece you saw in that museum show, on the way out, was a hologram that Dali made of Alice Cooper, sitting on a log or something. There was Alice, 3-D, made of green light and the size of a pack of cigarettes. It might have been the vibe from that last holographic vision that gave me the inclination to let the words of the painting’s title give birth to a character and a story. While writing it, I was thinking about the old Fleischer Brothers cartoons — not for their anthropomorphic houses and clocks, but for their perpetual night, their grimy cities, and their crazy melodrama. Also, I was thinking of that part of the Fairy Tale world that’s a dark and remorseless country. I remembered one I’d read years earlier where a woman had a spell put on her and was cursed to vomit up frogs and snakes for the rest of her life.
I tried to write the story once and got stuck, so I put what I had on my blog. Some people wrote to me and told me they liked it and to finish it, which inspired me. Still it took a while for me to start up on it again. Once I did, though, it came to me pretty fast.”