Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Laird Barron Interview (with Charles Tan)

Laird Barron

Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. As a contributor to both Poe and Lovecraft Unbound, how have Poe and Lovecraft influenced your writing?

Hi, Charles. Thank you for the interview.

I’ve read Poe since forever. We had a set of classical literature lying around the house -- those old, fancy clothbound books featuring Browning, Burns, Coleridge, Poe…As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of my obsession with madness, decadence, and live burial beelines directly back to Poe. The Cask of Amontillado has stuck with me all these years. It probably frightens me more now than ever, his brief illumination of betrayal and sadism, how you never know anyone.

Lovecraft loomed on my horizon a little later. I think he’s attributed as my most overt influence because one can’t really approach cosmic horror without being compared to him, its most infamous practitioner. One is blessed or doomed, depending on one’s mood, with the Lovecraftian label for approaching the topic too closely or too often. Critics seem indifferent to the fact cosmic horror in its various manifestations was around long before modern authors such as Lovecraft and his circle perfected the genre. Close scrutiny of the Bible is a manifold revelation on that score.

Frankly, much as I admire Lovecraft’s devices, the foundation of my writing is based upon the psychological horror of Poe and latter day noir and supernatural traditions than anything else.

What are the challenges in writing a story that goes beyond pastiche yet still evoking Poe/Lovecraft's style?

The trick is to avoid evoking their singular styles and instead concentrate on exploring their themes, amplifying them. The big flaw I see in much of current updates of classical masters is that contemporary authors are often content to simply modernize, to paraphrase and recycle. If you go digging in the lagerst├Ątten of weird fiction and simply take molds and impressions of those artifacts, if you do nothing more than reframe them, it’s a sin. What we often end up with is watered-down M.R. James, diluted Blackwood, knockoff Lovecraft. The exceptional exceptions aside, if you’re going to enter the realm of these archetypal giants, you need to bring something of yourself to the table -- a fresh perspective, your own techniques and devices. Your own fear. The canon has no need for Poe 2.0.

Your writing technique has certainly been evolving over the years and yet horror has been the topic of your stories. What makes you keep on going back to horror?

I could write a hundred years and not have the opportunity to try my hand at the entire spectrum that comprises the dark genres. But the real reason I return time and again is because fear and dread have become sullen, yet faithful muses. I’m very comfortable with the lizard. I’m in touch with the primordial part of myself that understands the darkened sun is the mouth of a god yawning.

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