Noises Off: Behind The Screams
Noises Off: Behind The Screams
IF YOU are not one who likes to get the story behind the story or “see
the strings” behind the play and absolutely never watch the special
features on a DVD where you can listen to commentary by the
director, actors, writers, etc., then I suggest that you stop here. I
doubt you would enjoy what is about to come. But I do want to thank
you for coming this far with me. I hope that you enjoyed your
experience and didn’t mind the silent screams.
However, if you’re one who is willing to walk along with the
author and listen to some of the details behind the stories and poems
that appear in this collection, then grab your jacket. It’s a damp night
with a full moon. There’s a cool wind from the north and we’ve got a
long walk ahead of us. Let me bend your ear as you and I engage in a
* * *
About The Cover
THE COVER design for this book was done by Steve Gaydos, a very
talented graphic designer from Ottawa and someone whom I’ve been
fortunate enough to count among my dearest friends for more than
half of my life. Steve put together something that has a strong
personal meaning to me and which I find absolutely stunning.
Having always been inspired by M. C. Escher’s strange and
wonderful body of work, I expressed to Steve my fondness for the
cover being reminiscent of that. I’ve always found Escher’s work
intriguing and sometimes on the verge of disturbing. Steve captured
that feeling wonderfully in an ode to Escher’s “Eye” (1946).
For the cover, Steve was also able to incorporate a charcoal
sketch of a skull that my wife Francine’s maternal grandmother
Agnes Bartlett drew in 1938 when she was in art school. I never had
the pleasure of meeting this wonderful lady, as she’d died a year
before I met Francine. But I’ve heard how much she loved ghost
stories, and how much she would have enjoyed reading my fiction.
Many of her beautiful pieces of art hang in several rooms of our
home, (the skull, of course, hangs near my writing space) and I am
honoured to be able to use her work for my cover.
The author photo, which appears on the back cover, was taken
by another lifelong friend, Greg Roberts. A self-taught photographer,
Greg has a great eye and a knack for making the most beautiful
photos look simple and “easy” matching his easygoing,
straightforward and consistently dependable nature. Although he’s
one of the most intelligent and technically accomplished people I’ve
known, he’s never been pretentious about it and has always used his
powers for good, not evil. His work can be enjoyed on his website at
First Published in Challenging Destiny #5, January 1999
IT’S NO accident that I wanted this story to lead the collection.
Because so much of my life has involved surrounding myself with
books, this is a tale that is still very close to my heart. That I could
combine my passion for books with a “Twilight Zone” type of tale
was a very satisfying exercise. I’m also tickled by the fact that I was
able to build in a reference to one of my favourite novels, Earth
Abides by George R. Stewart.
This tale was inspired by one of my own quests to explore used
bookstores in a “strange” city. At the time, Francine and I were
living in Ottawa and were visiting her mother in Hamilton. While
mother and daughter made plans to go on an all-day shopping
expedition I decided to go on my own little quest. I took the Yellow
Pages and a map of the city and made a note of all the book and
magazine shops in the area. I then set out to visit them all.
It was during this trip that I encountered the used bookstore that
inspired this tale. It appeared to be a small corner shop, but inside it
was an interesting catacomb of inter-connected rooms that seemed to
go on forever. One of the “rooms” and shelves were in the middle of
being built while I wandered through the shop, but my imagination
had already spawned its own ideas of how new rooms were
I purposely didn’t name the narrator, nor identify their sex. My
goal was not just to allow the reader to identify with this book lover
but to be able to step directly into their role, whether they themselves
were male or female. The only indication that I was successful with
this was when I saw the illustrations by Janet Chui, which appeared
with my story in Challenging Destiny. Janet picked up on this subtle
cue and kept up the masquerade – her excellent illustrations, perfectly
matching the mood and sense of mystery I’d intended, didn’t reveal
the narrator’s face and, in a long flowing overcoat, allowed the
narrator to remain asexual. Thanks Janet.
Previously unpublished in print. First appeared in World
Fantasy Con 2001 CD-ROM edited by Nancy Kilpatrick
WRITING, BEING a completely self-directed activity requiring
steadfast determination and unwavering commitment, is often the first
activity to be sacrificed to make room for other activities. In other
words, it’s easy to let distractions become a convenient excuse as to
why I’m not writing.
While attempting to work at identifying a list of distractions in
the hopes of eliminating them prior to my “writing time” (likely
advice I’d gathered from one of the many writing guides or
magazines that I continue to read every year), I mused that I was
acting like a self-help guru. I began to wonder what a book hot off
the “self-help” shelves on eliminating distractions might be called and
who the author might be.
Then, I imagined a frustrated author embracing the book and
taking its simple message to new extremes.
In 2001, Nancy Kilpatrick sent a communication to a list of
Canadian writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror, looking for
submissions to a CD-ROM that would be given out at the World
Fantasy Convention being held in Montreal that year. She was
looking for stories, poems and essays retrospective of past WF Con
themes while featuring Canadian talent.
One of the categories that hadn’t been filled was the “Fantasy
Writers of the Southwest” theme. To match the requirements for this
theme, I re-wrote “Distractions” further fleshing out my main
character from a “could live anywhere” writer to a fantasy writer
living in the Southwest.
(© 2004 by Mark Leslie Lefebvre - opening section from "Noises Off: Behind the Screams" from the book One Hand Screaming by Mark Leslie)