Below is a link to the paperback of le D3M0N.
Below is a link to the paperback of le D3M0N.
My book (actually books, TOO LATE didn’t have one either, neither did HATE FROM THE SKY) have yet to have an acknowledgements page. Understand, this is less to do with me not thinking others played a great part in my work, and more to do with a terrible memory getting worse by the day.
But in that spirit, I’d like to, first and foremost, thank Brian O’Connell for believing in my work enough to host it on his site THE CONQUEROR WEIRD. The finished manuscript has been fleshed out, and differs in some ways from its original serialized version, but the spirit is the same, and Brian’s enthusiasm was, and continues to be infectious. So many of us as we age grow bitter and let the spark die, so it’s nice to have a teenager to give me pure unhindered hyperactive joy. Thanks buddy. (Let’s get that novella off the ground soonish, ay?)
Emily Chew, the love of my life, I’d like to thank her for not murdering me yet. I am not easy to live with, and am harder still to be around when I’m working on a longer project. She joked today I’m a basement dwelling cryptid, which really isn’t that far off, haha. Love you Emily.
Now many authors inspired TH3 D3M0N, but I keep coming back to Matthew M. Bartlett. For the last few years, he has been ever supportive, and much the same way Emily puts up with my pure unadulterated neurosis, so too has this wonderfully patient, and incredibly talented man. His encouragement has gone a very long way, as well as the help of other great writers like Farah Rose Smith, Gwendolyn Kiste, Tom Breen, Jonathan Raab, John Claude Smith, Alex Smith, and there’s a ton I’m forgetting, and this is exactly why I haven’t done an acknowledgements page yet! I’m sorry if i forgot you!
Thank you all, and if you’re screen starts strobing red, run like Hell!
Fickle Mortality is the first story in the chapbook Too Late, and tells the story of an unnamed killer on death row for murdering people to use their skulls to decorate for artistic, and other nefarious purposes.
If I remember correctly, I wrote this story in 2011, and I don’t think I even tried to shop it (a reoccurring theme) and instead threw it up on this blog. In terms of the atmosphere, I was heavily influenced by old King stories, and a few Barker ones, which of course took place in prison settings.
Strictly looking at the prose, jeez, I guess there wasn’t one thing in particular. I’m heavily inspired by film, and it seemed to be a wonderfully cinematic approach. The story is written in the first person, and is, in essence, a monologue. Since I recently discussed it on The Rants Macabre episode, Killer Pilots ,I must have drawn from the pilot for Tales From the Crypt, consciously or not.
How could I talk about a story where a woman paints skulls without mentioning it’s obviously aesthetically drawing from the Day of the Dead ceremony, and while I don’t picture the skulls the narrator paints as similarly designed, the comparison is obvious.
Not to get into spoiler territory, but the image I had in my head for something near the end of the story seems to have been influenced by this album cover (although it’s not nearly as cool).
That’s all I can think of for now. I’ll edit something new in if I think of it.
As always, if you want to purchase Too Late, it’s available through Amazon, and Createspace, and follow the links below.
Why does massachusetts have so many Dunkin donuts?
There’s a Dunkin’ Donuts on Main Street where they put in a separate Dunkin’ Donuts in the corner. When I got up this morning, I found they’d put one in my living room. It’s convenient, but I’m afraid I might be responsible for payroll.
Do you believe in witches?
I know some witches. I’m just glad you didn’t ask whether I believe in witchcraft.
Pears or peaches?
Peaches in pairs.
Who would win in a fight, Edgar Allen poe or hp lovecraft?
This is a tough one. Google informs me that Lovecraft was two inches taller than Poe. Lovecraft grew to 200 pounds after he got married; Poe was 140. Poe had a fondness for drink, while I suspect Lovecraft wasn’t one to overdo it. Lovecraft was sickly, though, right? Poe reportedly had a gorgeous singing voice, and Lovecraft predicted the advent of toaster ovens. What were we talking about again?
If cats could talk, what do you think they’d say?
Terrible things. Terrible things. And they’d ask for food a lot.
What do you think you’ll get up to when you’re older?
If by some miracle I’m not still working, when I’m not moping about my lost youth, I will run errands full time. I’ll be the guy talking the cashier’s ear off. I hope I’ll catch up on reading and writing, too.
Favorite TV show?
Curb Your Enthusiasm. I liked Lost a lot until the wrap-up.
Cashews or almonds?
Cashews all day.
If you could go back in time, what time and place would you like to visit?
Rain or shine?
If you could be any kind of monster what kind would you be?
Probably a werewolf. I would be pretty sanguine about the whole thing, I think. That condition is tailor-made for people who are good at compartmentalizing.
I like when Brits use the C-word.
Favorite Care Bear?
If vampires had guns, would they still wear capes?
Let me answer that question with a question.
Why do some cinematic Frankenstein monsters have a flat-topped head?
I assume to make them look more monstrous, and less human.
If werewolves had top hats hats, you think they’d look dapper?
I think they’d look just precious, particularly Lon Chaney, Jr., who already looked quite dapper as the Wolf Man even without a hat.
Can ghosts die?
You’ll find out in March of 2033.
Thanks for participating. Have a spooky Halloween.
You too. BEHIND YOU!
Phillip Gellat is the screenwriter of Europa Report, and wrote a film adaptation of Laird Barron’s short story 30. I’m sure you’ll be hearing his name a lot in the coming months.
What’s been the hardest thing for you to write so far?
The hardest thing was a screenplay I was hired to write. An adaptation, though not of a short story or of a comic or a novel. I’ll leave it at that. The experience was – it was like having a bunch of nails fucked into my eye holes, while I slowly inserted rusty wire hooks under my fingernails so that a team of maniacs could manipulate my typing without my seeing.
What’s the most challenging part of adapting a short story into a screenplay?
The dread is the most challenging part. Dreading that.
Shaken or stirred?
Are you trying to get me to talk about Bond? I’d love to talk about Bond. Because listen to me here and now: George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton might not have been the best Bonds but they are in two of the best Bond films ever. Living Daylights does globe-trotting so god damned well. Bond and the Mujahadeen! It’s amazing.
And On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is such a special movie. A Bond movie that ends with emotional devastation! It’s incredible.
And also stirred, please.
Do you like oatmeal?
Yep. I eat it every morning. I’ve developed various ways of making it. I used to put a ton of powdered ginger in it. Now I put peanut butter. I like to think of it like my morning witch’s brew. Strength for the coming day.
How do you like your coffee?
Dark roasted and black. Two cups a day.
Favorite short story?
Oh sweet Jesus. Favorite of all time?! This interview is sadistic. The first short story I remember loving is The Lagoon by Joseph Conrad. Though, in all honesty, I remember very little about the story itself, just the feeling of having loved it.
Lovecraft’s short stories are probably the ones I’ve re-read the most. Though I’ve also spent a lot of time with Barker’s Books of Blood.
I can say that over the last two years I’ve been reading a lot of short fiction most of it in the weird and horror vein. I recently found myself floored by Robert Aickman’s work.
Ever fired a gun? I haven’t, unless you count one of those tiny little rifles they let Boy Scouts shoot at camp. That’s more like a pellet gun though, I think…
Yep. I have. I grew up in Wisconsin farm country and there were guns around. So I got to fire them. I have one particularly crazy story of getting taken to a weird little one room shack somewhere over the hills that bound my home town explicitly to fire guns. The shack was, at the time, covered in right wing propaganda (Limbaugh photos, anti-Clinton slogans, this was the mid-90s) and guns. Lots of guns.
I spent the afternoon firing said guns with a bunch of hunter types, all of whom were there to both shoot and get drunk.
One of them told me that the only way to ensure a hand gun is accurate is to dry fire it constantly. Like I should buy one and just walk around the house pretending to shoot things with an empty gun. Then he told me about how he’d accidentally shot a hole in his fridge that way.
It’s a very strange memory.
How did you get into writing comic scripts? Was it hard for you to get your foot in the door with that?
Compared to the time other people have breaking into that world, I had a relatively easy time. The artist on my first comic was also working on The Venture Brothers. When you say that to publishers, they perk up a bit and listen.
Have you ever actually got your foot caught in a door?
I haven’t! But I have knocked my two front teeth out on a bathtub.
What would you do if you came home, and there was a severed foot stuck in between the front door to your place?
Ask it politely to leave.
Who do you think would win in a fight, Robert E. Howard, or Howard the Duck?
I… I… I’d love to say “The duck” and justify it in some epic fashion. But I’d have to say the Robert would win. Then again, I don’t actually know that much about Howard the Duck… except that he’s trapped in a world he never made.
If trees scream, does that mean grass would too when you mowed it?
One cannot assume such, no. They’d be entirely different species. Perhaps the grass suffers silently. Perhaps it weeps. Or perhaps it just bides its time, cataloguing every blade we trim, and waiting for its moment.
What’s your favorite part about living in Providence? You do live in Providence right? I hope I didn’t just pull that out of my ass…
I do live in Providence. I’ve been here for about 5 years. Providence is a weird city. It’d be a weird city even if it didn’t have the Lovecraft connection going for it.
My favorite part is my house. We moved from Brooklyn so having a house felt really special. I have my office in the attic. When we moved in we found old chiropractic back braces under the eaves. It made the whole thing special.
What kind of comics have you read which inspired you? What kind of films have inspired you to write films?
I am and will forever be an Alan Moore apologist. From Hell is my favorite comic of all time and it is something I am always coming back to as a high watermark of storytelling. When I was a teen, I was all about Dark Horse’s “Legends” line. So the Mignola, Chadwick, Miller, Allred, Byrne stuff. Then in college I was all about the Vertigo books of the ‘90s and ‘00s (Preacher, TransMet, The Invisibles, Sandman). Lately I haven’t been reading many comics, sadly.
As for film, I’m not exactly spouting a radical theory when I say that American film of the 1970s was something special. I find myself constantly inspired by that era. It was radical and philosophical and poetic and felt hand-crafted. Each of those movies, even the bad ones, is special in some way.
Because if there is a god, he hates us all. And if there isn’t, then it’s just us and our luck versus the clowns down here and isn’t that an upsetting thought.
Go anything to pluggy-plug? Do it now!
Well, I started shooting that adaptation of a Laird Barron short story last week, so everyone should keep their eyes peeled for that! Feel free to follow me on twitter (@pmjeepers) or instagram (philipgelatt) where I’ll be posting pictures and things from behind the scenes.
Orrin Grey is a skeleton, who writes horror fiction.
Check out his new collection, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts from Word Horde out October 31st!
Pasta or Ziti?
Well, since I had to look up what ziti is—I’m a heathen—I would say pasta, but when I looked it up, ziti looked really good, so now I’m gonna have to go try it…
Spanish language Del Toro, or in English Del Toro?
Del Toro’s Spanish language films certainly have the better track record so far, but his English language films are full of so much promise that it’s tough for me to pick. I still believe that someday we’ll get the movie that finally combines the resonance of his Spanish language filmography with the ambition and enthusiasm of his English language blockbusters, and that will be the ultimate Del Toro movie. For now, Pacific Rim is as close to that as we’ve come, which is probably why it’s my favorite.
Salt or pepper?
Salt, definitely. Everything is better with a little salt.
What happens if a vampire drinks a zombie’s blood?
A very unsatisfied vampire, most likely.
What happens if a zombie bites a vampire?
Only one way to find out?
Actually, not much, the way I figure it. If the zombies are zombies because of magic or something, then the vampire is already a form of the risen dead, so he’s probably about as risen as he can get. And if the zombies are a virus, then the vampire probably doesn’t have a working circulatory system to spread it around. Maybe the vampire would become a carrier in that situation, though. That could be pretty cool.
You heard there’s a genre now called Dreadpunk?
I heard there’s a lot of those at the mall.
There are still people at the mall? As for Dreadpunk, I’ve got no problem with it, though I liked it fine when we just called it Gothic. I guess Dreadpunk is easier to market?
If there’s a Mall of America, does that mean there’s a Mall of Canada?
We should ask a Canadian. Silvia?
How do skeletons procreate?
Get a few drinks in me and maybe you’ll find out.
If something is made by a professional, is it not pro-creation?
Works for me.
Do you think trees feel pain?
Sure, just really, really slowly. We’re probably all in for a terrifying arboreal reckoning one of these decades.
Chainsaw or Shotgun?
I don’t like guns, and chainsaws make too much noise. So just give me an ax or a sword or something and we’ll call it a day.
What if Swamp Thing and The Blob had a baby?
I think you’d end up with this thing:
What is a “Painted Monster”?
Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I’m not really sure. The title comes from a quote from the 1968 Peter Bodganovich film Targets, in which an aging Boris Karloff, basically playing himself, says “My kind of horror is not horror anymore. No one’s afraid of a painted monster.” In that context, Karloff is obviously referring to his own former roles, but he’s also talking about the way that horror cinema was changing in the 60s, the creaky Gothic horrors of yesteryear giving way to more visceral and naturalistic shockers.
In the title story of the collection, the phrase comes into play to refer to a lot of different things. There’s a literal painted monster, in the form of a variant of Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Son,” and then of course there’s the figure of Constantin Orlok, a makeup artist from the golden age of Hollywood, famous for creating “painted monsters” of his own. When titling the collection, I like to think that I was referencing all of that, while also alluding to the difference between the imaginary (painted) monsters that I love and the much more unappealing real-life monsters of poverty, racism, greed, disease, etc.
When did you decide to have all of your internet avatars be a skeleton?
Be warned, this is kind of a long story. Back in the day, Mike Mignola used to draw these sketches of guys with floating skull heads when he went to conventions. I loved them, and used one as my avatar on LiveJournal for a while (I told you this was back in the day). About the same time, I was working on the staff of a now-defunct magazine of old-fashioned weird fiction called The Willows. My friend Reyna was also on staff, working as a sort of art director. At one point, she was going to draw caricatures of the whole staff to run on the website, and when it came time for her to do mine I told her to draw me as a guy with a floating skull head.
That might have been the end of it, except that I also needed a bio to go along with the drawing. I hate writing bios, so I was taking a long time in getting one put together, and Ben Thomas, who was the editor, wrote this placeholder text to go with the illustration: “Orrin Grey is a skeleton who likes monsters.” It was so much better than any bio I could ever come up with that we kept it, and it became a part of my bio from that day forward. As I got a little more established and started using well-dressed skeletons as my avatar pretty much everywhere, I actually reached out to Mike Mignola to make sure that it was okay, since by then he was using his own skull-head guys on his website and on merchandise and stuff. Fortunately he said yes, and the rest is history.
Favorite movie about the Wendigo?
Y’know, I’ve never actually seen the movie Wendigo? Seems weird, right? So, given that, I’d have to say Ravenous. Unless TV shows count, in which case, Hannibal.
Favorite movie about vampires?
Damn, there are so many movies about vampires, that do so many different things. Normally, I really like vampires that are a little more like monsters and a little less like people, but in spite of that, I’m gonna have to go with some Hammer titles here and say probably The Vampire Lovers. Special bonus points to Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter for having some of the best/weirdest vampire mythology in any movie ever.
Favorite movie with tentacles?
That’s a tough one. Maybe It Came from Beneath the Sea. I’ve also got a (probably underserved) soft spot for Deep Rising.
Does ye have anything to plug?
Well the obvious thing to plug right now would be my latest collection, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, which is available for preorder now from Word Horde. Of its thirteen stories, three are entirely original to the collection, including the title novelette. The stories pretty much all tie in to film in one way or another, and are arranged to give a sort of crash course in the history of the horror cinema, starting out with silent movies and the films of the 30s and 40s and working their way up through Gialli, kaiju movies, found footage, ghost films, and a variety of others.
Thanks for taking part in el interview.
Almost two decades. It’s weird to think that much time has passed since my mom bought me that hardcover of Nightmares and Dreamscapes Christmas of my twelfth year. Before this of course I was reading nothing but those Goosebumps books. They were all the rage with the middle school set back in… Jesus, was it really 1996? Did such a year really exist all those years ago? Did Pogs really exist? Were OK Soda, Sifl and Olly on MTV after school, and video stores really around? The memories are like old photographs from outdated cameras. Those pictures you used to have to shake to get a clear visual of. The ones you had to wait to see how they turned out.
I remember it was hard to read. Not just because it was one of the very first adult books I’d ever delved into, only shortly after I’d read The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton. I mean it was literally hard to read, as the hardcover was heavy for my little twelve-year old forearms to lift.
I read most of that hardcover of Nightmares with the scarecrow on it on a trip my parents took from our home state of Massachusetts down to South Carolina. My grandparents had a time-share there, and to save money on airfare, my dad decided to drive down.
I remember being in the back of a mini van, reading by a flashlight. Reading about the Ten O’ Clock People. I have no idea why, of all the stories in the collection, The Ten O’ Clock People is the one I remember most vividly. Perhaps, because it seemed so adult to a twelve-year-old. People on cigarette breaks from their adult jobs, except they were seeing these weird monsters that passed themselves off as human. In that strange way memory works, like those pictures you have to shake that sometimes didn’t come out, the only thing I really remember understanding from the story back then was that quitting cigarettes was hard, and that batmen could in fact be seen if you smoked cigs, and then tried to quit.
Why I don’t remember about Dolan’s Cadillac as strongly is utterly beyond me. I was in a car reading it, you’d think that would be the one that stuck out. But I digress.
To be frank, I remember the weight of Nightmares and Dreamscapes more than I remember the content of the book itself. Like the first time you learn to do something, how what you often remember is the first time you were proficient at it. Not how you finally learned how to stay up on that bike without training wheels, but rather the time you rode down the street to go get pizza with some friends.
The first King book I really remember the plot of was ‘Salem’s Lot. I was huge into vampires, my mother having those Vampire Lestat books all over the house, and she waxing poetic on Dracula, and her no doubt reading me stories of vampires. So, when I went into a text by this really cool author who wrote about monsters and scary adult stuff, and it was about vampires, you can bet I was over the damn moon.
I still remember the cover was a pale vampire, with fangs out, and neon purple outlining his face, against the black. It was the Signet edition. I remember being really creeped out by the town, by the Martsen house. My family had moved from a house on a busy street in another town, to a larger house on a quiet street in a very rural town. The move no doubt had a lot to do with the resonance the novel had with me.
By that summer I was verily King obsessed. And, it was time for my family to go on our yearly summer vacation to the Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine.
I grew up in Massachusetts. Yes, we’re a state in New England, but well, we’re not like Maine. Maine is a way bigger state. And, most importantly, Maine has some woods you can really, truly get lost in. Maine has small towns sorta like Jersusalem’s Lot. Not that they’re full of vampires, but they are very small.
There’s a different vibe to the state. Things move slower. Or, maybe people from Massachusetts are just really hyper. Who knows? Point is, you can’t spend any time in Maine without hearing something about Stephen King. Hell, I’d argue you can’t go anywhere in New England without hearing something about him. But, back in the 90s, you really couldn’t escape his looming shadow.
For the first time, in that summer of my twelfth year, I noticed there was a picture of Stephen King in the lobby of The Samoset Resort. He had those signature coke bottle glasses on, the frames of which seem to be a favorite among serial killers and computer programmers if you go through pictures of either from the late 80s and 90s. For some reason he also had a mustache, a green button up shirt, and green cowboy boots. I’m not making this up, if you ever happen by The Samoset Resort in Maine, go check.
At some point that year my mom told me her friends used to be neighbor’s with the Kings in Maine. They told her how he owned a pink Cadillac he kept in the driveway, and how there was a black iron fence with bats on the top outside the house.
My grandfather on my mom’s side grew up in Maine, too. We’re pretty close, gramps and me.
So, you see, all of these things, my relatives and my mom’s friends from Maine, our yearly vacation to a resort in Maine King had, it turned out, visited, and my budding young imagination, everything combined that summer to put me in the prime head space for The Gunslinger, the first book in The Dark Tower series.
The Gunslinger hit me like a slap to the face. I was never one of those kids that liked cowboys before this. And suddenly here’s this story about a desert, and a mythical cowboy with hands fast as lighting. Here’s this story about a man in black, a magician who wants to set The Dark Tower to toppling, destroying everything. For the Tower is everything, friends. It holds up our very existence on it. And here’s me, reading about a boy named Jake, who wakes up in Roland’s universe. Jake, who was alive in New York City, until he was pushed into traffic and died.
I became Jake that summer. And King himself was Roland. I was following the path of the beam; a path this man who grew up not so very far away from where I grew up wrote about. And I got the sense that King was never very far off, you understand? It sounds very silly, but it almost seemed that summer like I was meant to read The Gunslinger.
I finished The Gunslinger, and needed to read more of the books in the series. I needed to read more Stephen King. I became down right fanatical.
It all started with that one book my mom probably bought me for Christmas because she wanted to encourage me to read. I’m sure she didn’t think that two decades later, I’d have two tattoos on my body dedicated to King’s fiction. I’m sure she didn’t think I’d spend so much time and energy reading so much Stephen King.
You see, the power of Stephen King has always been that he has put himself into his stories. King has never been afraid to get personal with his fiction. But I would argue another layer of the onion, once peeled, is that for people in New England, especially in the 90s, King was like a rock star, like an actor, like a famous athlete. King was always around the corner, you understand? He always seemed like you might see him at a Red Sox game, or see him getting an orange Crush at a gas station at a rest stop somewhere in the middle of nowhere New Hampshire. So, when you get someone who is so honest with their fiction, throwing so much of themselves into it, and then you come to find out he likes to ham it up in credit card ads, and likes to see his picture in the magazines, and likes to cameo in some of the adaptations of his work into films, or mini series…
I still feel like he’s just around the corner. I don’t think that feeling will ever go away, to be honest. And, I’m also not sure if I should be thrilled, or a little irked out by this feeling. After all, this is also a guy who wore serial killer glasses for many, many, many years before finally switching them up. This is a guy who, when he was about the age I was when I got Nightmares and Dreamscapes, used to collect newspaper clippings of killer Charles Starkweather.
Deep down, down where the memories sit in an album on a shelf in my mind, I know the important thing is the feelings his fiction evoked in me; is the way the fiction, and learning about the man made me feel about myself. The importance of Stephen King in my life, particularly in the 90s, was, and has always been, that he’s made me realize the power of the imagination, and the power of image. The reason King’s fiction was so pivotal, and say, Crichton’s was not, is that Crichton never seemed like he could have been someone like me.
Almost two decades, man. So many words. So many books. That’s a lot of time. That’s a life time for some.
You might be wondering, so what? So a horror nerd got a good PR team, and you ate it right up, so what’s the big deal, who cares?
I gotta’ be like one of those hippies from Woodstock in my response. You had to be there, man. I can’t really explain it to you.
Joe Pulver is the closest thing to an avatar of The King in Yellow that we have in this realm. His work is experimental, sharp as a fucking knife, and longs to expose the true faces found beneath the many colored masks.
And this should be up by Necronomicon 2015, so hopefully I get to chat with the man in person, about stuff other than spirit gum, and beer.
Check out his variety of collections, Blood will have its Season, and A House of Hollow Wounds.
How would you feel if someone uses your likeness to create a comic book superhero called
If the villains have cool uniforms (and names) (and KILLER superpowers) and are skullduggerous bastards that spit NASTY and vile, and I get the action figures and a copy of the DVD (if they make a film – and Eva Green, or Serena Williams, is my girlfriend in it), KOOL! !!
In fact, a few years back a buddy of mine made a custom action figure of The Pulverizer. It’s pretty damn neat—looks like The “FF” Thing in a Deadhead t-shirt.
Skittles or Starburst?
No no—NO! Not a big candy fan, and when I do, it’s chocolate!!!!!!!!!!! Reese’s Pieces, yeah, I’d do that. Or, white chocolate… mmmm soft creamy—Yeah, white chocolate, yummy! !!
If you could ask Robert W. Chambers one question, what would it be?
Were there lost notes, sketches, outlines, drafts, plans for other King in Yellow works? And if allowed a second, do you think mine are of any merit?
I love night. I love birds. I was a nut for Archimedes in Disney’s The Sword in the Stone when I was a kid. For a hundred reasons, owl! Is there anything as beautiful as a Snowy Owl?
Ever used spirit gum?
Once. Was going to a Halloween party and we used it to glue a cheap fake beard on my girlfriend at the time.
How do you feel about The Spirit?
I’ve got it! Love Eisner and the character. The Octopus and Mister Carrion were great – wish I had come up w/ the name, Mister Carrion. Myabe i can still steal that? Dr. Carrion. Yeah, I just might.
Ever seen Spirited Away?
There was a bar, a hole-in-the-wall bikerjoint, it was next door to a used bookstore that closed at 9pm. Me, sitting there w/ my beer. A woman sat down. Bought me a beer. Looked in the bag of used books I had just purchased. She liked a bunch of them, told me about others she had that I would like. She had a scar on her knee and long legs, very nice legs, the voice of a seductress, and magical green eyes. She told me she had a bottle of whiskey w/ my name on it
in her apartment…
Wait, maybe it was swept away? ??
Whatever it was, I wrote about in it my tale, “And this is where I go down in darkness”.
Oops. Sorry, please forgive Mr. Stupid, I read that wrong. Thought it said “Been” spirited away.
No, I have not seen it. Just checked the trailer, looks kool.
Have you ever written a story and been utterly and completely surprised with it, both in where it went thematically, and in its characterization?
Yes, my novel, “The Orphan Palace.” Going in, I knew where and how it ended and next to nothing else but the main character’s name.
Who do you think would win in a fight, Shirley Jackson or Anne Rice?
Shirley! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She has everything you could ever want, power, vision, darkness! She has created plague and bloodshed and delirium stretching its strange over heart and soul, Shirley could win this with her eyes closed and without even getting up from her
Part 2 of my answer: Anne Rice is OK, but Shirley walks on water. ‘NUFF SAID!
What’s the shortest turn around you’ve ever had on a story, from idea to completion of first draft?
Not sure this really counts, but for a short short, 25:17. I put on John Zorn’s “Spillane” and wrote as it played, and the second it ended I was done (it helped that I knew Zorn’s composition well and knew what was coming). For a regular tale, say, 3000+ words, about 3 hours.
You’re stuck on a desert island, and you can only bring 5 books. The catch is you have to share your reading with ancient lizard creatures.
Anyway, which 5 books do you bring?
World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time by Washburn, Major, and Fadiman
The Complete E. E. Cummings Complete Poems, 1904-1962 (Revised, Corrected, and Expanded Edition)
The Weird by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer/The Centipede Press Michael Cisco box set (Yes, I know that’s cheating, but you know, I’m not one for following the rules)
Flicker by Theodore Rozsak
The Complete Dramatic Works of Samuel Beckett
And then I cry, as 5 is not enough!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh wait, there’s a koolass bookstore here and they’re having a SALE on CISCO and Laird and ANNA TAMBOUR and Alice Fulton and Jack O’Connell—! I’m saved!!!!!!!!!
Like most, most used is Fuck! But “Go to Hell” carries the most venom to me.
You used to work in a record store? What are some of your favorite memories from that?
Robert Fripp sitting there on a chair in the store playing Frippertronics. Meeting Clapton and having a beer w/ him. Getting backstages and meeting Herbie Handcock—what a great generous cat he is. Getting tickets to a very-early-in-his-career Stevie Ray Vaughan show (during a New York flood) and hanging out in the bus w/ him after.
If trees could speak, what do you think they’d say?
Stop allowing assbags to burn books – we died once, that’s enough! !! And it’s just plain WRONG!
Do you think a horror writer could have a career if they didn’t write about anything supernatural in their stories?
Yup. I see folks like Laird Barron easily writing crime and noir. With the vast talent in the field right now—Livia Llewellyn, Molly Tanzer, S.P. Miskowski, Paul Tremblay, Brian Evenson, there are many who could write anything that catches their interest.
When I used to drink, Beck’s. In a frosted mug, of course. And when I was near broke, well, Genny Cream Ale.
Deep ones are crashing your party. One of them knows a lot about philosophy, does that make him a really deep Deep One?
Nah. Makes him gone if he can’t shut up. It’s a party, not a lecture on Heidegger, or an overwrought exploration of the periodic table.
Also, how do you deal with them if they try to steal the women to breed with?
Please don’t fool w/ mine… or you’ll be on the menu at the sushi bar around the corner in the morning.
What is it about crime mixed with horror that you like? What is it about the mix you don’t like (if there is any aspect of the commingling you don’t like)?
Mix crime/noir and horror and wham-bam, the moon is in the gutter, and you’re alone. Now that is a dark passage that’s irresistible. To me, they are natural bedfellows, birds of a feather, born to be partners in lowdown skullduggery. The criminal carries around darkness and pain
(schemes or fears or cravings, or a festering brew of them all) inside, look at Poe, or Caligari, or Jack the Ripper and Bloch’s Norman and Juliette, in them, we get the best of both worlds.
Mixing crime and horror is like pizza (or Mike Griffin’s chili), I can’t get enough. I mean Goodis and Ligotti, they’re brothers, right? Laird and Ellroy, don’t they drink together and swap yarns?
When it is done right, there’s nothing about mixing them I don’t admire.
You ever known anybody who went really off the reservation?
Sadly, yeah. Cat I knew (he was few years ahead of me in HS) came back from The Nam, part of
him came back, became a small time contract killer. Wound up shived in a prison shower. He was in for attempted murder.
Do you ever worry your mustache will gain sentience, and start feasting on the blood of the innocent?
Never on innocents, they need protecting. But so many nasties and viles and trolls need culling, that could take lifetimes for the stache to properly equalize things.
What projects you got coming out, Joe?
Cassilda’s Song. An all-women tributes to Robert W. Chambers’ King in Yellow
The Leaves of a Necronmonicon. A novel-length round robin that follows the travels of a Necronomicon for 120 years or so.
I just edited the Necronomicon Providence 2015 round robin, The Doom That Came To Providence.
I’m guest editing another all KIY issue of the “Lovecraft eZine”.
And I have three more anthologies I’m working on at present.
Also working on a new novel, and have 5 tales sold for upcoming anthologies next year. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things . . .
I’ve always been a fan of finding out about the creator behind the creations. Most of my favorite writers seem like people I’d love to read about, even if they didn’t write compelling stories. King, Barker, Crichton, Ketchum, Oates, and look, these are just the ones off the top of my head.
The thing about Laird Barron is, he’s one of those writer’s who makes you want to write. Barron is one of those people that makes you want to create, and that goes out of his way to spread the word about other writers, and influences on his work.
A lot of people may mistakenly assume what I’m talking about when I say “people I’d love to read about,” in reference to Barron means I’m talking about his years of dog racing, or the growing up in Alaska part. And here’s where I spill the beans: yeah, that’s certainly intriguing, but I don’t mean that. Oh, of course, when I first heard about his upbringing, his history, I read up on it. But, this research was in the same way I’d read up about any writer. I like to learn what people have done, what has informed their art.
What I mean, specifically, is when you hear the man in an interview, he seems like a cool person, a good dude. He seems like a man who doesn’t let his reputation go to his head. And make no fucking mistake, Barron will soon be an even larger looming shadow over the horizon, being the genre giant he is.
But fuck all the genre stuff. Fuck all the stuff about how he combines genres, and cross-blends, and how he has this sensibility, and how this, and that, and on, and on. No, I say, let’s strip all the genre bullshit for right now, and look at Laird Barron as a writer.
Simply put, Laird Barron is an incredible writer, and it doesn’t matter worth a damn what he chooses to write about. He has a quality about his work, where you can pick any page at random, and usually find something wonderfully poetic, or frightening, or funny. The point is, the man can move you, and what more could you ask for in a writer?
So, of course, I chose to ask him about swears, Hello Kitty, and made terrible Old Leech puns.
Have you always considered yourself very science-minded, or is it something you have to work at for your stories?
I’m an abstract thinker. Nuts and bolts, granular science frustrates me. The big stuff, where it transcends math and morphs into conceptual fantasy, is more my speed. I’m less interested in cold facts and more so in potentiality.
Favorite pizza topping?
Skis or a snowboard?
Skis. I’m no good on either, but skis appeal to my sense of tradition.
When each was in their primes, who do you think would win in a fight, Cormac McCarthy, or James Dickey?
Two of my favorite writers. Both gave a lot of thought to violence. Dickey was a big, mean guy. His cameo in Deliverance? Holy shit. Menacing. Look at those enormous murderer’s hands. He’d be difficult. But maybe, maybe they’d belt some tequila and hold each other close to a Hank Williams song.
Connery. Accept no substitutes.
“Don’t Fear the Reaper,” Blue Oyster Cult; “Buenos Tardes, Amigo” Ween; “Big Iron” Marty Robbins; “Sixteen Tons” Tennessee Ernie Ford; “Ruby” Roger Miller
Favorite Bond songs?
“Live and Let Die,” and “Nobody Does It Better”
What if your doppelgänger was actually you from the future? What does that even, like, mean, man?
Past selves are actually doubles of your future selves.
If dogs could talk, what do you think they’d say?
Nothing. They know too much. We’d be forced to silence them forever.
You seem to have a love of art? Goya, in particular. What drew you to art, and incorporating it into your stories?
My mother was an artist. She had a lot of natural talent and I wish she’d been encouraged to cultivate it. Sometimes the trick in solving a problem is to look away and refocus— the answer is always there if you’re patient enough to reframe the question. Photography and painting, as examples, music would be another, distract my consciousness and permit my subconscious to do the heavy lifting.
Would you be upset if I tried to get a campaign off the ground, which is essentially a series of rip-off Chuck Norris jokes, except with an emphasis on cosmic horror, with your name involved?
No, but Chuck might be.
Follow up: I heard Old Leech traveled to another dimension, after one time when you drank a bottle of expensive Scotch, and punched it in its slimy face, after it insulted your dancing abilities.
Is this true?
Old Leech would not insult my dancing abilities.
Have you heard about the story in which the children of Cheech Marin have to smoke a lot of strange pot, and put on a rock show, to pay for their rent?
It’s entitled “The Children of Old Cheech: Up in Ineffable Smoke.”
Please send applicable royalties to my agent.
Do you ever go to a gun range?
Who do you think would win in a fight, Johnny Cope (from Hand of Glory) or Conrad Navarro (from The Light is the Darkness)?
Navarro is an immortal. Lacking divine intervention or some supernatural edge from the Corning Sisters, Cope would be up Shit Creek if it came to blows. On the other hand, Jessica Mace would find a way to destroy both of them.
You ever watched The X-Files? It occurred to me the other day most of that show was filmed in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Vancouver, specifically.
I enjoyed “The X-Files,” particularly the monster-of-the-week episodes. One of those shows that isn’t very good (and the writers had no problem ripping off source material), yet succeeds due to a miraculous chemistry between the leads and to a lesser extent the supporting cast. It’s a classic.
You ever thought about writing a fantasy novel at some point down the road?
I trunked a grimdark fantasy novel sixteen years ago. Fantasy is an appealing genre. It is the mother of science fiction and horror and it kept me alive as a kid. I’ve begun working on a weird, fantastical alternate Earth. Paula Guran recently acquired a short story from that setting. I plan to write more. If these are well-received I’d like to take a swing at writing a novel based on characters and places in that universe.
Would you ever put poems into a short story collection, and or release a collection of poetry?
Comedy is hard. So is poetry. No to mixing poems into a short story collection. I’d need to get better at poetry before contemplating a book of them. I love the discipline and years ago wrote a significant number of poems. It improved my prose and sharpened how I think about prose.
How do I know you aren’t in cahoots with your doppelgänger, and he isn’t actually answering this right now? In fact, how do I know he doesn’t handle all of your public appearance stuff?
I might be the doppelganger’s doppelganger. It gets confusing for everyone.
Do you believe in any cryptids, i.e. The Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, etc.?
I’m skeptical regarding Bigfoot and Nessie. Deep sea cryptids and cryptids purported to dwell in jungle regions seem more plausible. I’m open to the notion of interdimensional entities— ghosts, or what we call ghosts. Reality is a band on a radio dial. Sometimes there’s overlap.
Would you ever think about owning land, so you could change your title to: Laird Barron, Land Baron?
My name pretty much means that already. I’ll take some land, though. A farmhouse near the Catskills would do fine.
Do you think people will figure out I just use random questions to pad out my interviews, amidst completely legitimate, in fact not random at all questions?
It’s more a question of whether they care.
Better band, Foghat, or Styx?
“Foghat,” all day.
When it comes to swearing I don’t play favorites.
If you could be any monster, which would you be?
Wait, does that mean… uh, nevermind.
Have you ever thought about writing a Western novel, with no horror or science fiction elements?
I’ve considered writing in many genres. My grandfather was a failed novelist. Westerns were his favorite. If I do it, and I just might, it would be a sprawling epic in the spirit of Leone and Peckinpah, full of bloody revenge, heaving bosoms, and men who love gold and horses and guns and come to bad ends. And there’d be something fucking weird going on in the periphery. Sorry.
Hello Kitty, or Teletubbies?
Why are most post it notes yellow? Is it because they’re easier to find? Or, because usually, you write completely mad things on them, and yellow is the color of madness.
Post it notes originally came in pink, blue, and green. Yellow post-it notes were discovered bundled in variety packs several years later. No one knows the exact details of the yellow post-it note’s provenance. A detective specializing in industrial security reported that a miss-filed USPS pickup address matched an abandoned corporate office complex of Gale Research in Florida. The detective’s voluminous report was recorded on several hundred yellow post-it notes stuck to every available interior surface of a rusted out Airstream trailer. The detective is unavailable for comment.
Damn. That’s heavy.
You ever want to be in a rock band? I know I did/ still want to.
No, that’s never been on my wish list.
How the Hell do you write for twelve hours a day? Do you do breaks every couple of hours or so? Break down a twelve-hour writing day for us?
Five or six hours a day goes into fiction. The rest is non-fiction and editing. It’s every day, week after week, month after month. Bukowski said to let it kill me, so I did.
Maybe it’s best to frame my life (and I don’t separate writing from life) this way: You move somewhere remote and primitive. Every day, you look out your window and there’s a mountain. In the winter it has a snow cover. In the summer it doesn’t. The mountain is always there and after a while you become accustomed to its presence. After a longer while, you accept its presence. Sometimes a visitor will say, “My god! Look at that mountain!” And you won’t know what the fuck they are talking about for a second.
Your blog has a lot of great advice for writers. Do you think the best advice for a writer is simply to write, and ultimately to do what works for each writer individually?
Prescriptive advice may be fatal if swallowed. Best practices? Read widely, read critically. Everybody always lists the dead white guy gallery of literary inspiration. Take a look at what people are doing right now—Stephen Graham Jones, Livia Llewellyn, John Langan, Paul Tremblay, Jeff VanderMeer, Sofia Samatar, S.P Miskowski, Usman Malik, David Nickle, Victor LaValle, Kelly Link, Anna Tambour, Adam Nevill, Gemma Files, and Ian Rogers. And on and on.
Write. Train your subconscious to provide material. You train it by feeding it and heeding even the craziest ideas that surface. Always be writing, even when you’re not. The youth I wasted makes me a better writer today. The hours you spend living and not bolted to a desk are important. Toughen up. If you’re serious, you’ll never be tough enough. Toughen up anyhow.
Possibly, there are shortcuts to getting published. There isn’t a shortcut to writing anything worth a damn.
Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Anything coming out soon you want to plug, and or your doppelgänger wants to plug?
My next collection, “Swift to Chase,” will appear in mid to late 2016. This one is largely set in Alaska. In addition to stories of ultra-ghouls, genius loci vampires, Black Dogs, and black magicians and their retinues of flat affect psychopaths, it gathers several tales in the Jessica Mace saga, including an original slasher novella about her parents during their senior year in high school. Meanwhile, keep an eye out over the next year for around seventeen new stories in anthologies such as “Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond”; “Autumn Cthulhu”; “I Am the Abyss”; “The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft,” and “Seize the Night.”
Another one of those risque stories.
Leeman Kessler of Ask Lovecraft stopped by to help me with a live reading of it. Thanks, Leeman!