‘Mammy Morgan Played the Organ; Her Daddy Beat the Drum’ by Michael F. Flynn
I’d read a few reviews of The Ascent Of Wonder that singled out ‘Mammy Played The Organ’ for the unlikeliness of its inclusion in an anthology of hard SF. Given the rest of the book, this filled be with dread. Nor did Hartwell and Cramer’s introduction reassure me: “a clever amalgam of ghost story and sf”. And so, to the story itself.
A librarian hears something go bump in the stacks in the middle of the night. Who ya gonna call? Well, actually, the director of the library thinks she’s called a psychic but no, she gets a paranormal researcher. The ghostbuster is a discredited physicist, the director is a professional administrator; it is very unclear why she has hired him (and you have to wonder what cost centre she will pay him from). It is particularly unclear given her desire – touchingly divorced from the real world though it may be – that they will end up on the cover of the National Enquirer.
Anyway, the ghostbuster goes off with the librarian for a tour of the building. Its only built on a bloody graveyard! At this point I almost stopped reading but I forced myself to push through the pain barrier. I did this for you so I hope you are appropriately grateful. There then follows some Egon Spengler-style guff about the physics of ghost, interspersed with some hopelessly contrived backstory delivered in the manner of a PowerPoint presentation. Then nothing happens for a couple of pages. Then, blessedly, the story concludes, albeit with all the subtlety of an episode of Scooby Doo.