The Big Idea: David Nickle

Today, with his novel The ‘Geisters, author David Nickle goes to a dark place. Want to come with him?


I wanted to write a book about kink.

This was around the time that Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books were getting popular; well before the time that E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey took Edward and Bella’s figuratively Dom-Sub relationship to its more literal manifestation in Christian and Anastasia. Part of my interest was mercenary—at that point, my previous two novels (Eutopia and Rasputin’s Bastards) were at the polite-rejection stage of their life cycle, and it sure seemed that this emerging kinky-horror market was a good place to set up a booth.

But I soon realized it would have been a lousy booth. Because every time I thought about the sparkle-skinned vampires of the town of Forks, I couldn’t help but also consider the silicon-skinned hausfraus of the town of Stepford. And while there’s a lot of sex, and sexual politics, at work in Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives, it’s not what anyone would call titillating.

In Stepford, kink is expressed as its nasty uncle: perversion.

So it was that I set out to write The ‘Geisters: a horror novel about perversion.

It’s the story of Ann LeSage, a young woman whose life has been shaped by the continual intrusion of a poltergeist that she eventually named the Insect. Unlike poltergeists of lore, which are said to wreak havoc for months or years in households including a troubled young daughter, the Insect doesn’t just disappear when she passes puberty. It in fact becomes downright murderous.

That’s bad enough. But the Insect has attracted the attention of a group of men who have a twisted and erotic obsession with poltergeists. They are long past chat rooms and dungeon play. They are powerful and wealthy and determined to use those advantages to court the real thing.

And the Insect… it’s prepared to show them reality like they’ve never seen it before

The book as it’s come together really owes a debt to Ira Levin. Think Rosemary’s Baby, with the part of Rosemary Woodhouse played by Carrie White.

It owes another kind of debt to a real-world perversion: the horror story that emerged in 2008 in Austria, of Elizabeth Fritzl who’d been kept prisoner in a cellar for 24 years as a sexual slave by her father Josef, among a growing “family” of children borne of repeated rapes. The ‘Geisters was in the proof-reading stage of its life-cycle when Amanda Berry made her escape from a makeshift dungeon in Cleveland, where she’d been literally chained for years along with two other women, so I can’t say that story influenced the book. But it surely did confirm to me the existence of a continuum of men using their predilections as a jumping-point for a literal life’s work of the objectification, subjugation and rape of women who are anything but willing ‘Subs.’ In that manner, the privileged gentlemen of The ‘Geisters aren’t playing a sex game divorced from human consequence, even as they trick themselves into thinking that they are. They are not sexy. They do not sparkle.

The ‘Geisters goes to an ugly and horrific place. It’s not the place most people go when they decide to experiment with responsible BDSM or other non-vanilla varieties of consensual sex. It is a place, to use the current parlance for these things, that contains more than a few triggers.

But it goes to that place in the company of Ann LeSage, and the Insect. I like to think that the horror show in my made-up story The ‘Geisters is at least more of a two-way street than it is for the victimized women in our sad reality.


The ‘Geisters: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Hear the song inspired by the book, by Kari Maaren. Visit the author’s blog. Follow him on Twitter.

5 Comments on “The Big Idea: David Nickle”

  1. Truth be told, Dave almost ALWAYS goes to a dark place. I haven’t gotten to The ‘Geisters yet, but I expect that yes, it may indeed be a bit darker than his other dark and brilliant works.

  2. Had wanted to read this one for awhile. My 19 hours of schoolwork seems to be in a slight lull, so just started. Good stuff so far.

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