Phantom Overload is modeled after those old Dashiell Hammett stories where some shadowy organization tosses their weary operative into a local political schism that brings about 18 quabillion different entities, power lines, emotional trajectories and beautiful women into an escalating conflict (Red Harvest is a great exemple). Besides being masterful in their voicings and plot structure, these old noir stories have a lot to say about economy of prose. All those different elements balance out and crash against each other throughout the work but these pieces are usually fairly short. They get right to the point but without shedding emotional or social depth. The underlying meanings simmer just beneath the prose; they’re not necessarily subtle, but they don’t jump out either. It’s a fine balance.
So with Phantom Overload, the story began with the Ghost Bus. I’m not sure where that came from, but I loved the idea that dead have their own commuting issues and when something throws a cog in the system the shudders from it eventually make their way up to the all -controlling Council of the Dead. Here too, of course, is the idea of Autonomous Zones – small areas of the city where the dead buck the Council’s bureaucratic oppression. They mingle with the living, they do what they want. And of course, COD turns itself upside down trying to figure out ways to fuck up such a peaceful arrangement. There are autonomous zones all over the world. I remember visiting one near the Tijuana border crossing, Chilpancingo i think it was called, where the folks set up their own mini-government and the Mexican powers-that-be was doing everything to make life as miserable as possible for them. It’s here, in the little independent stretch of East New York, that Carlos glimpses some outward semblance of the inner harmony he seeks.