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The Word Horde Interview with Christine Morgan, author of The Raven’s Table

Christine Morgan’s viking-themed collection The Raven’s Table will be landing later this month, so our intrepid interviewer, Sean M. Thompson, sat down to compose a few questions…

The Raven's Table by Christine Morgan

What was it about Vikings that first drew you into them? Can you remember what the first story about them you wrote was?

CM: I’d been a mythology nut, particularly for the Greek myths, since I was a kid. As a teenager, I got into roleplaying games and fantasy. I also really liked pirates and tall ships. Each of those things were each great on their own but none quite managed to hit the perfect sweet spot of overlap. Vikings, however, had all the elements I craved, with the bonuses of rich language and sometimes over the top descriptions. The first Viking story I wrote was also the first one I sold, and kicks off The Raven’s Table… “The Barrow-Maid,” which originally appeared in History is Dead.

What would you do if Odin was real, and you happened to meet him?

CM: Hopefully, recognize him without immediately letting on that I knew, engage him in conversation, use my wits and word-wiles to persuade him I was a person of interest, and then try to get the whole entire grand tour. During which, I’d glean as much information as I could about the myths and stories that have been lost to us since the Viking age. And maybe ask him who actually did write Beowulf.

How did you first get in touch with Word Horde?

CM: I knew Ross from way back, before he began Word Horde, through various conventions and anthology calls and other small presses. When he was at Night Shade, he lobbied really hard to have one of my earlier books taken on, and even though it didn’t work out, neither of us had ever forgotten it. Then, at some event or another I happened to mention a Viking novel I was working on (currently back-burnered for other projects but I really want to get back to it) and he perked right up, so when I realized I had enough Viking stories to my credit to make up a collection, I decided to bounce the idea off him.

How do you think the environment you grew up in has shaped your work?

CM: Heh, until age 18 I lived in the high deserts of Southern California, so there certainly wasn’t much in the way of environmental influence there. Except it did create in me this craving for trees and water and cool weather, which eventually brought me to the Pacific Northwest. Which still isn’t Norway or Denmark or England, but has enough similarities to satisfy.

What are your ties to the bizarro community?

CM: Chosen family, closer than blood. I love the Bizarros. In a way, now that I think of it, they’ve got kind of a Viking spirit among them … there are rules, but there’s also a fierce independence, a value on merit and deed, a warrior’s bond. Besides, they write some of the most amazing stuff! People may think it’s only just calculated outrageousness, tawdry sleaze and tacky crudity for shock value and offense, but I’ve found a level of erudite intelligence and genius in the bizarro community that I’ve never encountered anywhere else.

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you at your job?

CM: I have been, in my 25+ years of working residential psych, incredibly lucky in that department. I’ve had coworkers who were physically attacked on the job; one guy got stabbed in the head with a broken lightbulb. Another coworker was very nearly sexually assaulted, and then further given the victim-blame treatment by our own supervisors and agency who were supposed to have her back. Me personally, I’ve been yelled at a lot, sometimes threatened, sworn at in some pretty inventive ways, but that’s been about it. Knock on wood.

You’ve written in a lot of genres. Why do you think that is?

CM: I started out writing fantasy because of my roleplaying game hobby, but even then I was a big horror reader. I’d go to fantasy and sci fi conventions, even be on panels, and more often than not, the other panelists would be talking about books I hadn’t even read. Then I got into writing fanfiction (shhh don’t tell, shameful secret under my own name for decades now) and smut, which got me exploring other types of setting than your basic traditional fantasy, and made me confident enough to try writing horror. From there, I’ve kept on trying new things; I love the challenges of themed anthology calls, for instance. But, ultimately, I tend to gravitate toward historical horror and dark fantasy.

What’s your favorite swear?

CM: I’m a big fan of the classics, but, my current go-to when I am particularly exasperated is “Loki’s goat-tugged NUTSACK!” Which, admittedly, sometimes gets looks.

What’s your favorite food?

CM: Ice cream with crunchy or chewy stuff in. Rocky road, cookie dough, candy pieces, cheesecake bits, that kind of thing.

Sword or axe?

CM: Given my shoulder and upper back nerve damage issues from some past surgeries, I know I’d be pathetic with an axe, or a big sword. But, a short, sturdy, stabbing-blade like a seax or gladius? That’d be much more my speed. If, that is, I wasn’t also a squeamish wuss. The first time anybody’s blood splurted out on me, I’d freak out.

Favorite animal?

CM: My favorite would be various varieties of cat; I only half-joke that I’m training to become a crazy cat lady. I currently have four, plus carry a baggie of kitty treats in my purse for neighbor cats I meet while out and about. Big cats, like leopards, especially snow leopards … lynxes … love them. But the animal I most identify with would have to be the raccoon. Nocturnal, waddly, bottom-heavy, clever, nimble-fingered, fastidious handwasher, often misunderstood.

Do you think if a Raven could read your upcoming collection, it would like it?

CM: I certainly hope so, and if it’s Huginn or Muninn, hey, put in a good word with the big boss, pretty please?

What’s next for Christine Morgan?

CM: Well, let’s see … I will have two other, very different books also coming out this year — Spermjackers From Hell, a succubus-summoning-gone-wrong; and White Death, a frontier blizzard novel based partly on actual events but with added snow monsters. I also edit the Fossil Lake anthologies, the fourth of which — SHARKASAURUS! — will be out in hopefully February maybe March. I’ve got stories coming up in several anthologies. Plus, I want to write my Medusa-smut novella to follow up my previous Minotaur-smut one … and there’s still that Viking novel on the back burner … and two books in a psychic detective series I need to edit and submit … and a sort of hard to classify one about a widow and her kids who go to live with her father-in-law, who’s part of a village of way too dedicated medieval living history types, which I also need to edit and resubmit because it was previously published for like two days before the company folded. So, a lot hanging over my head that I should finish up, but in the meantime there keep being all these tempting new anthology calls and invites!

Preorder Christine’s The Raven’s Table today!

Cover Reveal: Eternal Frankenstein

Two hundred years ago, a young woman staying in a chalet in Switzerland, after an evening of ghost stories shared with friends and lovers, had a frightening dream. That dream became the seed that inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, a tale of galvanism, philosophy, and the re-animated dead. Today, Frankenstein has become a modern myth without rival, influencing countless works of fiction, music, and film. We all know Frankenstein. But how much do we really know about Frankenstein?

This October, Word Horde will be publishing Eternal Frankenstein, an anthology edited by Ross E. Lockhart, paying tribute to Mary, her Monster, and exploring their entwined legacy.

Today, on the bicentennial anniversary of Mary Shelley’s dream, we reveal the cover to Eternal Frankenstein (Cover Design by Matthew Revert):

Eternal Frankenstein edited by Ross E. Lockhart

Table of Contents:

Amber-Rose Reed – Torso Heart Head
Siobhan Carroll – Thermidor
Autumn Christian – Sewn Into Her Fingers
Rios de la Luz – Orchids by the Sea
Edward Morris – Frankenstein Triptych
Michael Griffin – The Human Alchemy
Betty Rocksteady – Postpartum
Scott R. Jones – Living
Tiffany Scandal – They Call Me Monster
Damien Angelica Walters – Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice
Orrin Grey – Baron von Werewolf Presents: Frankenstein Against the Phantom Planet
Nathan Carson – Wither on the Vine, or Strickfadden’s Monster
Anya Martin – The Un-Bride, or No Gods and Marxists
G. D. Falksen – The New Soviet Man
Kristi DeMeester – The Beautiful Thing We Will Become
David Templeton – Mary Shelley’s Body

Preorder Eternal Frankenstein today! Pub Date: October 9, 2016. And for more about Eternal Frankenstein and the cinematic history of Frankenstein, check out this Pacific Sun interview with editor Ross E. Lockhart.

An Interview with Michael Griffin

Happy Walpurgisnacht! Today marks the release of Michael Griffin‘s The Lure of Devouring Light. We’re currently launching the book with Mike at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in San Pedro, but a few days ago, Sean M. Thompson interviewed Mike about the collection.

The Lure of Devouring Light by Michael Griffin

What do you feel the role of genre is in fiction?

Genre is especially useful for booksellers, marketers and publishers. I think genre divisions are useful for people trying to find their way toward work they would enjoy, as a way of herding together works that share certain traits. From the opposite perspective, that of a writer, I would stop short of saying genre is a negative thing, as I’ve seen some other writers say. Some writers gladly align themselves to a genre, wear it like a badge on their sleeve, and go around proudly waving the flag. Many writers, though, don’t want to think about it too much, and look at genre as a necessary thing unavoidably imposed upon them. The writers I most respect pretty much seem to do what they want to do without consciously aiming at a certain genre target. The create the work, and their agent or their publisher or the critics decide what it is. I think this last approach makes the most sense to me, but I don’t want to disparage those who are flag-wavers for their chosen territory, and who exclusively write (and read) within it.

How do you think the weird has evolved in modern fiction, if you think it has at all?

I used to believe the weird had evolved a lot, but the more widely I read beyond the obvious starting point (Lovecraft) the more I discovered examples of weird writers throughout history creating all kinds of challenging and diversely varied stuff. I do feel that in the last ten or fifteen years, the number of people writing truly strong, individual work is higher than it has ever been before. But I no longer believe that the kind of thing being written now is entirely different in kind from what came before my lifetime. Maybe a slow evolution.

You’ve told me before you’re a proponent of a lot of edits. What’s the most you’ve ever edited your work?

There are different kinds of edits. I used to line edit endlessly, second-guessing word choices, adding commas, changing pronouns and shifting around phrases. That’s still important, and I spend a lot of time trying to get every word and every sentence just right. Certainly more important, though, is editing with a wider angle of view. By this I mean looking at the overall shape or trajectory of the story, maybe trimming or adding entire pages or even scenes. Once I start writing, I continue to pause, step back and look at my stories with a wider view. Sometimes I do what I call a “reverse outline,” where I look at the structure of the story as it’s written, and I create an outline from it. This helps me find things like jumps in logic, or especially repetition. Sometimes in a reverse outline I discover something like, “Hey, I don’t really need to have him visit the lawyer’s office and talk about the case in scene 9 because he basically did the same thing in scene 6.” I make sure each piece of the story contributes something, or else it gets changed or removed. I have to say, I read a lot of stories that could benefit from this kind of structural analysis. Very often stories include dead scenes or repetitive sections. But to answer the original question, I have stories I’ve reworked at least 20-30 times, and quite a few that have gone through more than 10 versions. As I get better at this, so I make fewer mistakes and follow fewer dead-ends to begin with, it seems like I’m able to get by with fewer drafts, maybe four to six.

What is the significance of the title of your collection?

First of all, it’s the title of the lead story, so that’s why it’s the title of the collection, not just because it’s the first story but because it’s also representative of what I do, and a good opener, neither too long nor too short, and not too confusing. But to explain the significance of the story’s title, I’d say something that’s important to me is to avoid the too-easy trap of Horror and Weird writers making everything “black” and “dark.” There’s certainly plenty of darkness and nighttime and black imagery in my work, but I’m interested in different kinds of fear and unease. Also, the story makes the point that sometimes people or things that are dangerous or malicious don’t in fact appear horrifying or gruesome. They may be appealing, attractive or seductive. They have something to offer, something to draw us nearer, otherwise we would just run the other direction.

How do you think your style has changed from when you first started writing?

My style hasn’t changed too much, in terms of how I tend to build sentences. What has changed is that my way of conveying to the reader what’s happening has shifted to give a perspective from inside the mind and senses of the point of view character. As much as possible, everything should be filtered through the mechanism by which this person makes sense of their surroundings and what they see and hear unfolding around them. I guess a simpler way to say this would be that I try hard to make the point of view more subjective.

Ultimately what do you hope readers take away from The Lure of Devouring Light?

Aside from the obvious, like wanting to provide entertainment or enjoyment, the outcome I most hope for is that readers will find the characters believable, convincing human beings. I also hope some of the images or situations will linger in the mind after the reading is done.

An Interview with T.E. Grau

We’re back! And here’s a brand spanking new interview Sean M. Thompson conducted with author T.E. Grau. Take it away, Sean…

What do you think the role of genre is in fiction?

The role of genre is that everything is genre, and nothing is genre. That might sound faux philosophical and ridiculous, and probably is, but it’s what I’ve come to believe, in analyzing how I classify books and stories in my own head based on outside pressures, coming the realization that a) it doesn’t matter, and b) too much is made about genre vs. non-genre, the latter of which is usually referred to as “literary fiction,” as if stories and books tainted with the genre smear are any less literary. I’ve read some poor, incredibly dull writers who are incredibly popular in the “literary fiction” grouping, and read some brilliant, heartbreaking prose that’s been cast down into the basement of genre. I resent the labels, not because they mean anything to me, but because they mean so much to the outside world, and – as a proud writer of so-called genre fiction – I think there is a huge dupe going on, and a tragic disservice.

In a recent “year in review” blog posting, horror author Adam Nevill wrote about recently buying a house through the proceeds of his writing, noting: “Over two decades of commitment to the most unfashionable, and second most derided, genre of fiction eventually paid dividends that I never expected.” Why must one feel this way? Why are very successful horror writers moved to mention such things, even when celebrating success? Because of the very real lack of respect for horror fiction by the outside world, while those on the inside can’t figure out what everyone is not seeing. This was reinforced by a conversation I had just this morning with horror writer Ray Cluley, during which we discussed our frustrations at the reputation worn by “genre fiction,” the near-apologies – or long explanations at the very least – horror writers must make when discussing what they write in mixed company, especially if that company includes writers of what is considered more “literary” fiction. Ray writes some of the most “literary” tales, most of which also happen to be classified as “horror,” that I’ve ever read. But he, too, feels the stigma, the guilt by association. It’s nonsense. But it’s real.

Another example, and more specific to the point: I just finished John Connolly’s masterful Night Music: Nocturnes Volume 2, and the last piece in the book is an essay titled “I Live Here,” in which he discusses how horror fiction, from as far back as its first inception as gothic and supernatural fiction, was seen as somehow lurid and obscene, nearly akin to pornography, or worse – something cheap and certainly not to be taken seriously. This reminded me of how mainstream critics perceived hip hop when it first emerged into the wider public sphere, that it was just some sort of cheap trick, a fad, and not something that merited serious interest or examination. Horror, just like hip hop, is STILL dealing with this sort of second class citizenship, and it angers me greatly, as both are just as worthy – if not often more worthy – of esteem and veneration as weighty and influential members of their particular art form. In looking for an exact quote from this Connolly piece, I came across this bit from the author issued in 2011, published by June Caldwell on her blog Shakespeare Couldn’t Email: “Novelist John Connolly gave a talk at the Irish Writers’ Centre recently on the history of crime writing in Ireland, our problematic relationship with criminality and publishing trends. ‘We have a very peculiar relationship with genre in this country,’ he explained. ‘So few reviewers want to engage with it, they’d rather categorise books they don’t quite get as literary fiction instead.’ Avoiding the subject leads to a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of fiction, a distrust of popularism. ‘Genre is embedded in fiction, if you don’t understand it, then you don’t understand fiction. Novels were always the great populist form, designed to be read by a lot of people; it wasn’t drama or poetry. The idea of high-brow literary fiction as a separate identity is a recent enough (20th Century) notion.’

And these examples of the fallacy of genre occurred just in the last two days, so they are fresh in my mind. There are thousands of examples of this genre-shaming going on, and the reaction to same by those within the genre.

When you truly think about it and parse it down to the atoms, what is genre? Romance? Action? Mystery? Science Fiction? Noir? Western? Horror? What if a story has all of these, in equal measure? Where do you place it on the shelf? What if it has none of these, but nods toward one or more of them? Is that then Literary Fiction? Who decides, and how are these determinations made? Who benefits from these determinations in the end? I think it’s a bunch of malarkey.

All fiction is inherently “fake,” and all well-crafted writing is considered “literature,” so a well written book about a bored suburban househusband who takes up quilting to bring meaning to his life is no better example of “literary fiction” than brilliantly rendered story about alien gods bent on destruction of humanity. A gibbering, six armed monster dismembering a jogger is no more or less “horror” than a businessman doing the same over his lunch break. Which is genre? Which is what subgenre within Genre? It’s all unreal, it’s all fantasy. That one can “actually happen” while the other cannot (are we sure about that?) makes no difference to me.

So, neither does “genre.” What matters, truly matters, is this: Is it good? Does it move you? Are you transported? Does it resonate? Are you entertained? Being boringly realistic, or excessively fantastical or gory or bizarre, can’t hide substandard writing, or save a story that probably shouldn’t have been written, as it’s a complete waste of time for everyone involved. That “genre fiction” is held in the same contempt as B-Movies or straight to video indies in Hollywood irritates me, to say the least. The squares and snoots don’t know what they’re missing.

Wow, didn’t think I’d spend two complete pages on that answer. I guess a bit of venting was in order. So, while my long-winded answer to a very straight forward question might have been a tad temperamental, I think it shows my irritation at the treatment of horror authors in the overall publishing industry.

Your story from The Children of Old Leech “Love Songs From the Hydrogen Jukebox,” seems to have, for lack of a better term, rapscallions who take mouth candy and suck at the happy sauce. Is it fun to write beatniks? Also, what inspired you to write this story?


It’s fun to write about Beatniks and their scene to a point, as the enterprise can easily fall into clichéd, 1960’s Beatniksploitation, but I do admire that whole movement, and hold it close to my heart, as reading the Beats inspired me to change my major from pre-law in college to English Lit, which led to me eventually turning my interest to writing books. So, the Beats blessed and doomed me at the same time, which is sort of a Beatnik thing to do.

The inspiration for the story was a tribute to the Beats and City Lights literary scene, coiled inside a tribute to Laird Barron, who has influenced me most recently in my writing. It all seemed to fit together well.

What does the “E” stand for? Are you allowed to say?

Edamame. My full Christian name is Theodore Edamame Grau III.

Do you have anything one might call a ritual you go through when getting into the headspace to play the keys? For instance, do you listen to music, work out, or sit in silence when reaching deep into the ether to pull out configurations of words stitched together for our amusement?

If I’m going to be writing after I get home from work, I listen to music on the way. Something heavy, martial, as I like to gear up mentally. That’s for the actual writing part. Most of my ideas and pre-production have come just after the gym, in that time of walking, showering, and driving between getting ready for work and arriving at the office. Almost everything good I’ve come up with has been created during that morning time period before my brain is pulled into the details of the day job. My story “Clean” came to me almost fully formed in the 90 second walk from my car to the gym. Mornings are important to my initial creative process, that first blush of story. Nights are for finishing.

Do you feel like your surroundings motivate you to write about a certain place?

I don’t know about motivate, per se, as motivation usually comes from within. But, I do feel like my surroundings and the places where I’ve lived and visited have hugely impacted my stories. I live in Los Angeles, and have for many years now, longer than any other location in my life. Because of this, the city features heavily in several of my stories, such as “The Screamer” (Century City, Echo Park) “MonoChrome” (Pico Union, downtown LA), “Twinkle, Twinkle” (Pasadena), “Low Hanging Clouds” (Hollywood Hills, Century City). I’m hammering out a crime (genre!) novel in my head that is set in Highland Park (a section of northeastern Los Angeles), that is mostly about murder, but also explores gentrification and hipsterization of historically blue collar or non-white (I despise the term “ethnic” used as an adjective) neighborhoods. I have two more Noir/crime novels that will be set in Los Angeles, as well, in vastly different parts of the city. LA is such a fertile ground for the dark, the weird, the brutal, and the beautiful. It’s got it all.

I have also lived in Nebraska, and in Pennsylvania (at both ends of the state), and those places show up in my work, too. My novella “The Mission” takes place in the Nebraska Sandhills west of Fort Robinson, and introduces the fictional town of Salt Creek, Nebraska, which is a location that I will be returning to several more times in the future. “Beer & Worms” is set in Nebraska on a farm pond, around the Douglas/Washington County line. The featured couple in “Return of the Prodigy” (from Cthulhu Fhtagn!) is from Omaha.

Cthulhu Fhtagn! edited by Ross E. Lockhart

I think place can have a huge impact on a story, and help color it. As for motivation, and living in Los Angeles, daily witness to one or more of the forty-seven billion screenwriters hammering out screenplays at every coffeehouse and cafe within the city limits can either motivate you to sit your ass down and write along with them, or it can make you never want to commit another sentence to paper, just to avoid the whole cheeseball affectation of it all. It’s a double edged sword, living in a creative town. The energy is palpable, but the execution can be off-putting. Or maybe I’m just jaded.

Do you feel there are any themes you keep going back to in your work?

I do, yes, and it’s not usually conscious, but definitely there. Innocence adrift in a cruel, dangerous world. Individuals alone in a crowd. Failed parenting. Travel as a form of life renewal. The terrible nature of human males. They hypocrisy and tragedy of religion. Misanthropy. Cosmic nihilism. Not all of these are always on the surface, but most of these themes show up in the bios of the characters in my pieces, and therefore inform their actions and reactions.

Thanks for your time, and do you have any plugs for our mugs?

Thank you for the interest! I’m such a huge fan of Word Horde, so I’m stoked to be included on the site.

As for plugs, my first fiction collection, The Nameless Dark, is currently available in paperback and e-book through Lethe Press. Stories that weren’t included in the book can be found in the anthologies In The Court of the Yellow King (“MonoChrome”), and Dark Rites of Cthulhu (“The Half Made Thing”), as well as a few other sources that are now out of print and floating around eBay.


I’m finishing the first draft of a novella titled They Don’t Come Home Anymore, a tale of obsession, mortality, and the myth of vampirism, that will be published in 2016 by This Is Horror. A second novella for This Is Horror is also in the works, taking place in a doomsday seed vault near the North Pole, which will also be released in 2016.

Everything else is still too undercooked to discuss, but I’m sure I’ll be yapping about it sometime in the coming year, which promises to be a busy one.

Xmas Hiatus / An Interview with John Langan

We’ll be taking a short break this week in order to spend the Xmas holiday with family, but we’ll be back to shipping orders on December 29. In the meantime, we’d encourage you to order Word Horde from the better bookstore near you. And to fill your stocking with Holiday Horrors, here’s Sean’s interview with John Langan.

What do you think the role of genre is in fiction?

I think of genre as a fundamental component of narrative (and here I’m using genre as Michael Chabon does in his introduction to Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands, to indicate regions in a country, as compared to countries on a globe). It’s inescapable: every story has a context, has a set of texts to which it is related. To me, this is something to be celebrated and explored.

Your story from The Children of Old Leech, “Ymir,” deals with the Norse myth of, well Ymir. Do you often like to draw from myths in your work?

I love myth; I love comparative mythology. No doubt, I was led to it via comic books, The Mighty Thor in particular. When I was a kid, most of the books I could find dealt with Greek and Roman myth; although there were a couple about the Norse pantheon. I picked up a copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology when I was eleven or twelve, and it laid the Greek and Roman myths out in order; there was also a brief section at the end about the Norse deities. Hamilton remains my go-to; though I loved Roberto Calasso’s The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (so much I named a character in a story after him [actually, he’s shown up in a few stories]). I suppose the differences between the Greek and Roman treatments of a figure such as Ares/Mars were what led me to an interest in comparative mythology, which was fed by reading both in other mythologies and in literary critics such as Northrop Frye, who pointed out the underlying similarities among mythic narratives. Especially given the current predominance of the Cthulhu mythos in fantastic fiction, the older myths can provide a welcome alternative narrative context.


I know you can’t say a lot about your upcoming novel, The Fisherman, but what can you say about the novel?

The Fisherman tells the story of a fishing trip two widowers take to a haunted river that promises to allow them one last meeting with their loved ones. In the middle of that, they learn some of the occult history of the construction of the Ashokan Reservoir in upstate New York. Terrible things ensue. I hope to have more news to share about the book in the near future.

Have you ever wondered why memory works the way it does? Why some things burn themselves into your brain, but others won’t stay unless you go over them over and over?

Yes, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about memory and the way it functions. It’s at the heart of some of my favorite writers’ works: Ford’s The Good Solider, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Light in August and Absalom, Absalom!, Straub’s Ghost Story and Koko and Mrs. God. Proust and Eliot both obsess over the relationship between memory and time. The nature of memory is at the heart of the way influence functions, I think, which is one of my academic preoccupations. I did some reading of trauma theory years ago—especially Cathy Caruth’s Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History—as a way to approach questions of memory and influence (in light of what you might call traumatic memory, I suppose). Caruth explores the idea that it’s the very wound in your psyche that allows you to speak, which is kind of an updating of the argument that Edmund Wilson made decades earlier in The Wound and the Bow and which I’m not sure I (completely) agree with. At the same time, I think of Kirk’s declaration, in the otherwise-atrocious Star Trek V, that he won’t relinquish the pain in his life, because that’s what makes him who he is. To take things down a notch, it may very well be that the things that lodge in your memory, from annoying tunes to bits of dialogue to images you can’t place, are part of the material from which you construct yourself.

Do you consider yourself a weird fiction author, a horror author, or do you simply think of yourself as an author?

I think of myself as a writer working within the horror tradition. If someone wants to call me a horror writer, I’m fine with that. I’m also fine with being called a weird writer; though, to be frank, much of what has been included under the weird umbrella strikes me as a semantic fig leaf, horror writing looking to rebrand itself with a more appealing name.


I remember hearing in passing that you, sir, are a fan of comic books. What are some of your favorites, and do you think that comics have influenced your work in any way?

Comics played a foundational role in my development, first as a reader, then as a writer. I became interested in comics during the seventies, when Marv Wolfman and Roy Thomas were working on The Amazing Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian, respectively. I followed Wolfman’s work on Spidey, The Fantastic Four, and then The Teen Titans and Night Force; recently, I picked up the black and white reprints of his and Gene Colan’s Tomb of Dracula. During the later seventies, there were paperback reprints of the first issues of The Amazing Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four, and this introduced me to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby. When I was a little older, I discovered Alan Moore’s work on Swamp Thing, which led me to The Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and pretty much anything by Moore I could get my hands on. In more recent years, I’ve been a fan of Gaiman’s Sandman, Mike Carey’s Lucifer and Unwritten, and Bill Willingham’s Fables. The entire run of DC’s Hellblazer was probably my single favorite comic, ever: pretty much every writer who worked on it rose to the occasion and produced some of their best work, ever. Lately, I’ve been reading Eric Powell’s The Goon, which I love for its astonishing, Bernie-Wrightson-esque art, and for the way it swerves wildly between raucous comedy and utter pathos, and the books in the Hellboy universe, especially The B.P.R.D., which seems to me unparalleled in its portrayal of a world dealing with the consequences of an ongoing apocalypse. I could talk about comics all day.
As to how they influenced me: when I was younger, I aspired to work in comics, first as an artist, then as an artist-writer. I think the Marvel comics I was reading when I was very young showed what you could do if you brought a relative degree of realism to your fantastic situations, if your superheroes struggled to balance their private and public lives, if they operated in a world something like ours. At their best, those Marvel books are master-classes in melodrama. Alan Moore’s work built on all of that, deepening the characters’ psychologies and thinking through the implications of their powers and places in the world more thoroughly. Gaiman, Carey, Willingham, and the Mignola crew constructed elaborate mythologies that they followed through long, intricate narratives.

How much of a role do you think where you live has to do with the type of fictional landscape you choose to create?

It would seem it has to have some connection, wouldn’t it? In my own case, I wonder how much my use of the mid-Hudson Valley in my work has to do with the fact that this is where I was living when I started to read those writers who made use of their particular places, Stephen King and William Faulkner (though I’m pretty sure I was planning a comic book set in this region before that, so maybe I’m wrong [or maybe I was responding to Stan Lee et. al.’s use of Manhattan and its environs…])? And yet, there have been places I’ve been to, Glencoe in Scotland, the varied landscape of Kentucky, that struck me the moment I saw them, and that have stuck with me since then. It’s funny, Simon Schama wrote an interesting book, Landscape and Memory, that touches on a couple of these interview questions.

Thanks for stopping by. Long live the Word Horde.

Thank you!

For more on all things John Langan, visit his website, or, better yet, read one (or more) of his books.

An Interview with Michael Cisco

For our latest Word Horde interview, Sean M. Thompson tracked the legendary Weird Fiction author and whiskey aficionado Michael Cisco to his lair, and asked him the following questions…

What do you think the role of genre is in regards to fiction?

Genre is a memory image that gathers together a local micro-canon around a given piece of writing. Reading just about anything, you will see how it repeats settings, phrasings, movement through plot points, and so on, from other writings. This isn’t necessarily copying, though. Where there’s just copying, there really isn’t any new writing there, just another older story poorly recollected. The writing is new not just in what influences it combines, but in that it connects with ideas and impulses from earlier works and extends them. So genre is the landscape a piece of writing uses, but it’s also an orientation.


Your story from The Children of Old Leech contains a pretty brutal scene with someone breaking their neck after slipping on frozen urine. How did you come up with such a terrible way to die?

It just occurred to me, the right amount of disdain, with a dim echo of Roald Dahl when it came to the melting evidence. It had to be something that could not be attributed to the main character, so that I wouldn’t have to take us on a sidelight through a prison term. Then again, that might have turned out better than what I did.

The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron

Do you find yourself gravitating to any theme over and over again in your fictional output?

Decay, delirium, some kind of altered monasticism, self-conscious writing and a sort of paranoid universe. Generally I’m looking for ways to invert what seem to me to be common sense notions about things, so I would be looking for a way to make decay or delirium affirmative. That’s difficult to the extent that so much horror fiction valorizes what’s normal.

Do you get up to a lot of stuff of Halloween?

Not really, not any more. I would like to, but all I really manage to do is carve a pumpkin and watch a few movies, read a few stories.

What’s the scariest thing you can remember happening to you this year?

Air turbulence. I don’t fear crashing, but I do fear sudden plunges.

Do you have any writing rituals?

All of writing is a ritual for me. Generally, I listen to music before writing, taking notes if anything occurs to me. I don’t write on days when I have to go to work, because I don’t want to write with any distractions or fatigue. I wear earplugs when I write, but then I live in New York City. And I don’t sit there waiting to find something to say. I write what I have to write, then quit.

Do you believe in the supernatural?

I don’t believe that there is anything beyond or external to nature. I do believe that nature itself is in a continual state of change, and not a body of fixed rules. I don’t like to see anything impinge on the imagination or the reason, so rather than take a censorious view of the supernatural, I would rather think about it. This has been the thrust of what academic work I’ve been able to do.

If you could impart any advice on aspiring writers, what would it be?

Your problems are worth more than your answers. When a compositional or conceptual problem arises as you write, you’ve just found what you were really writing about. Include the problem in the writing. The problem is the motor.


Michael Cisco’s latest is Animal Money, out now from Lazy Fascist Press.

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