The landscape of western Kansas is perhaps best known for two things: wide fields and tall elevators. While eerie fields have had plenty of great moments in gothic fiction, the towering grain elevators that stand guard over them have received considerably less literary attention.
My M.A. thesis, titled “Son of the Devil,” is a gothic short story set inside the cavernous chambers of one of these elevators. Midwestern grain elevators are invaluable in the process of feeding the country, but they aren’t without secrets. These elevators become so idolized by those who rely on them that they seem to hold an epic power over the little towns and villages below.
The visual imagery of Kansas plays a role in the project, but I also wanted to craft a piece that is entirely loyal to its mode; “Son of the Devil” is a story that can only be experienced as prose fiction. The visual clues of setting and characters that we crave as readers are gradually teased rather than outright revealed, creating a unique narrative experience. Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif” provided major inspiration to me in developing this style.
“Son of the Devil” is my most brazen exploration of the Kansas gothic. The famous castles, cathedrals, moors, and mansions of gothic lore may have originated in Europe, but their spiritual descendants live on today throughout the Midwest. It may just take a journey out into the mysterious plains to find them.
— Nick Cady (B.A. ’18, M.A. ’20)