Monday, June 28, 2010

Nick Antosca Interview (with Charles Tan)

Nick Antosca

Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. In Midnight Picnic, one of the themes is revenge. What made you decide to tackle this theme?

I wouldn't say that I decided to tackle that (or any) theme. In my experience, themes emerge organically from ideas that are not so abstract. It's an inductive, not deductive, process. I wanted to write a story about a dead child taking a man through the world of the dead in pursuit of his killer; the basic themes are present in the idea. I was more interested in and compelled by the idea of creating a mood. I think of Midnight Picnic as a "mood book." In addition to writing something disturbing and otherworldly, I wanted to create a mood of peaceful fatalism.

What were the challenges in writing the book?

I wrote the book entirely at night. Maintaining a sleep schedule that allowed me to do this and to work at my day job was difficult. I took naps in my office during the summer when I wrote most of Midnight Picnic. I also had very strange dreams.

How did Word Riot Press end up publishing your novel?

The novel was originally to be published by the now-defunct Impetus Press, which published my earlier novel, Fires. The week before it was supposed to have come out, Impetus went bankrupt. (They hadn't printed any copies.) It seemed Midnight Picnic was totally screwed. But Jackie Corley at Word Riot stepped in, and the book was published only a few months late, despite a printing delay. Word Riot did a wonderful job. I thought the book was dead in the water and they came out of nowhere to rescue it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Aimee Bender Interview (with Charles Tan)

Aimee Bender

Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. You've written both novels and short stories, but what is it about the short story format that appeals to you? Which do you prefer more?

I feel a little more comfortable with stories-- I like to race along and then be done. So writing a novel takes a lot of patience for me, but then when finished, I do feel different-- it's like a shirt that has stretched bigger and won't shrink back right away. it's harder for me to remember how to write a two page story. The pace of development is so different.

One of your strengths in "Faces" is dialogue. How do you develop your ear for character voices? Do you find it easy or difficult?

I like it when it just happens-- I can't really force a voice, but I could hear William pretty well. I think eavesdropping is a writer's great tool here. I will assign students to go eavesdrop which is a fun assignment to give. It seems rude, but it really is necessary, and I think a lot of us do it without even realizing. Cell phones are a good new frontier here-- with people talking so unself-consciously in lines and on trains.

What made you decide to use William's problem as the focus of the story?

I'd written that scene as part of a larger book that never coalesced. And this scene was a way into his daily life that felt more like a self-contained story than part of a novel. I just wondered about him: what was he seeing/why and how was he both perceptive and kind of out of it at the same time?

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.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Michael Kelly Interview (with Charles Tan)

Michael Kelly

Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, how did the concept for Apparitions come about, and what made you decide to publish it yourself?

Thanks for having me, Charles! The conceit was simply to put together an anthology of ghost stories and strange tales by writers whose work I’ve admired. The story had to feature some sort of apparition, whether overt or ambiguous. Ghosts, sometimes, can seem a bit cozy. There’s nothing cozy, I thought, about apparitions. I published it myself after the press that was going to do the book became extremely back-logged. Rather than shopping the book around again, (because, frankly, I’d done quite a lot of that) I asked the writers if they’d consider letting me do the book, and, thankfully, they agreed. I’m very grateful to them.

As an editor, what do you look for in a short story?

I’m not sure I consciously look for anything – I edit mostly by feel -- but empathy is something that I’m always drawn to, whether it’s me empathizing with the characters or characters showing empathy. If a story can make me walk in another’s shoes, that’s a great achievement.

What is it about ghosts and weird stories that appeals to you?

Everything! I love the depth and breadth of the genre. I love the language, the mood and atmosphere. Horror literature, more so than film and other genres, has the ability to dig deep and explore the human condition. I’m always interested in that other side. And the weird, ghostly tale seems the perfect vessel for such exploration. I love that little frisson of terror I get when reading a well-told horror story. Maybe it’s a cathartic experience. Horror, to me, with its deeply personal examinations of that other, fights against the drowning cloak of entropy.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Gemma Files Interview (with Charles Tan)

Gemma Files

How did the Jacaranda tree become a central image in your mind and became part of your title in "The Jacaranda Smile"?

To me, there's little more annoying than being jolted out of a narrative by an author writing about writing as a process, but not creating anything which seems like a genuine story--you get a look at the "magnum opus" somebody's been working on all this time, and you're like: "That's IT?" With "The Jacaranda Smile", I was working from the germ of an idea I'd had during my last visit to Australia--a story I wanted to write, but wasn't sure if I could. And eventually, the way I realized I had to frame it was as that sort of story--to make myself the protagonist, but also the monster. My description of the story inside the story incorporates a lot of the notes I wrote while on that trip, from architectural details to plot twists and character observations.

Most of the imagery in the story, if not its events, is taken directly from life. The apartment is an apartment my father and his S.O. lived in; there really was a jacaranda tree that you could look straight out into if you stood in the solarium. And during the period of my childhood when I was going back and forth to Australia, my Dad sometimes left me with my grandparents, his Mom and Dad, who had a house in the suburbs of Melbourne with a maple tree in its tiny front yard. I'd climb up there and read through every Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars book, in order, while wavering high above the neighbourhood. It became a symbol to me for the mixture of yearning and loneliness which embodied my trips to Australia in specific, but my relationship with my Dad in particular.

Said relationship remains simultaneously deep, disconnected, and volatile, even today. Frankly, I have no idea how he'd react if he read this story; not well, probably, though at least I have the patented "but it's fiction!" out to fall back on. But I haven't told him about it, and luckily, I doubt he'll go searching. As he's told me roughly a million times, horror's not his thing.

There's a lot of juxtaposition in your story, whether it's the narrator's life compared to her father, or her reality vs. her fiction. What were the challenges in using this technique?

What goes where, when, and why? When you're bending back and forth through time, using memory to inform and comment on two types of action--"real" and otherwise--it's really important to be able to keep a strict tally of pegs vs. holes. I thought about books and stories I'd enjoyed previously which did this extremely well, and tried to pick and choose what elements I wanted to poach from each; Peter Ackroyd's HAWKSMOOR comes to mind, for example, and Muriel Spark's "The Portobello Road".

But equally useful were tricks of pacing and layering I'd picked up from graphic novels and theatrical scripts, or radio plays. Though I haven't read "The Jacarands Smile" out loud in public thus far, I can see it working really well that way--single narrator, different angles, a soupcon of unreliability. It *is* challenging, but it's also fun.

How long did it take you to write this story? To get it published?

Like I said, I got the idea ten years ago, at least. Sat on it until, probably...three years ago, then began to peck away at it. The writing itself went surprisingly quickly after I broke through with the image of the bird in the fountain (again taken from life, though I actually ran across it when I was out with my son, who immediately tried to pick it up!) But I did despair a bit of anyone picking it up, because it seemed almost creepily intimate--a lot like very early stories of mine which were all-too-obviously based on personal experience. I think I was almost embarrassed by it.

Still, those are the qualities Mike Kelly said he liked most about it when he took it, maybe a year later, so there you go. Nobody really does know anything.;)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Christopher Golden, Tim Lebbon and James Moore Interview (with Charles Tan)

Christopher Golden, Tim Lebbon and James Moore

Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. In your foreword, you mention that for British writers, "the lines between genres seem far more blurred". Could you expand more on that thesis?

JM: Whether it's the publishing houses and their requirements for publication, the marketing groups or the writers themselves is a topic for debate, but the US has a very different set of sensibilities when it comes to published works. The authors coming from Great Britain are often better at cross pollinating the genres. A horror novel can also be an epic tale of pirates and a fantasy novel about a tapestry can also be a police procedural at the same time. It sometimes seems that the US has a bit of trouble with the very idea of mixing genres or at least a different perspective on whether or not it's a good idea. I don't know that either group is right or wrong, but there is a definite difference in the end result that was the very subject of the discussion which brought about The British Invasion anthology.

CG: Jim's got it right. But I think there's even more to it. In the U.S. marketing concerns have caused publishers to create strict categories for fiction over the years. The definition of what is a "horror story" is more narrowly defined here. In fact, it's often broken down into sub-sections delineating what KIND of horror story it is, and writers have naturally been inclined to include certain trappings or follow certain formulae in order to let publishers and readers identify what sort of story they're telling. This is unfortunate and self-defeating, creating these kinds of limits on storytelling. It hasn't affected every writer, of course, but it's part of the consciousness of most of us. I know that the UK hasn't escaped this phenomenon, but I do think it's far less an issue there, at least based on my own reading of British supernatural fiction. The edges of horror, and other genres, are simply more blurred, and I think that feeds imagination in the sense that there aren't as many ruts worn into the path that a writer might fall into, not as many elements that are familiar and easy for a lazy or distracted writer to fall back on.

Since there's three of you, what was the collaboration process like? Did all three of you, for example, had to like a story before accepting it? Or was it more like dividing the anthology into three parts?

TL: We split the reading duties, but if there was a story one of us liked the other two had to like it as well for it to be used. I don't think there were many disagreements, actually, but it was an interesting process to see who favoured what.

JM: It was a very different process, but I think it worked very well. I think, in the end, we had a very solid list of stories. And yeah, there were a few minor disagreements, but I think it stuck to the spirit in which we originally discussed the anthology in the first place, which was sitting in a bar and chatting about what we do and don't like in stories.

CG: There were certainly things about which we weren't in complete agreement. I think if we ranked the stories in order of preference, those rankings would vary considerably. But as Tim says, if a story didn't impress us all, it didn't make the cut.

What was your criteria for choosing a story? And related to that, how did "British Horror Weekend" find a place in the anthology?

TL: 'British Horror Weekend' was a genuine submission, but the writer thought it would be good writing it as Anon. We loved that idea. And it's a very funny story, and we were delighted to include it. As for criteria - it had to be a good story, well told, as simple as that. Good stories not well told, or average stories beautifully written, didn't make it in. And we think we managed to assemble a wonderfully diverse, consistently first-rate collection of modern horror tales.

JM: I tend to think a better question is how could "British Horror Weekend" NOT be included. It was hilarious and it was decidedly original. As for the criteria, Tim nailed that on the head.

CG: I should add the obvious, that the author had to be British (or Irish) by birth. And yeah, "British Horror Weekend" is one of my favorite stories in the book. It's a love letter to the UK horror community, and a blast to read. As far as I know, the identity of the author is still a secret, but I can tell you that the story was written by an author who is (1) NOT one of the three editors, as has been suspected, or any combination thereof, and (2) British. It's an homage to horror novels and films of a certain period, and a great deal of teasing as well.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sarah Pinborough Interview (with Charles Tan)

Sarah Pinborough

Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. What is it about the concept of family that made you decide to write "The Language of Dying"?

I wrote The Language of Dying as a kind of cathartic process - and also so certain memories wouldn't be lost to me as time went by. Although the piece is a work of fiction, I drew heavily on experiences I had when a friend of mine came to stay with me when he was dying. The last week was quite awful but also a fascinating family study. I think this 'waiting for someone to die' is a terrible time, especially as with each day that passes that person often becomes so much less like the person you knew. I think we all worry we won't remember the real person and only the unrecognisable mask of illness - but I've found that when I remember that particular friend now I always see him when he was whole and healthy. This makes me happy. I think he'd have been very pleased with the novella and that makes me happy too.

Your novella is unlike anything I've ever read before--and I mean that in a good way. What were the challenges in writing such a story, especially for the novella-length?

I knew that the subject matter was too emotionally strong perhaps for a full-length novel, and didn't have a huge amount of action in it, and so it was natural that it would become a novella. I'd never written one before (or since in fact) but I was pleased with that length. The challenges involved were mainly personal and stylistic. I chose the first person/second person present tense because I felt it fitted that sense of living in the moment that comes towards the end of a life and I also wanted the power to be behind the words as it were. I didn't want too much description but went for, what I hope is, really clean prose. Some things are weakened by too much description and I didn't want to patronise any reader who may have been in the same situation at some point.

Your second to the last paragraph, in my opinion, is very important as it makes a drastic impact on your story. What made you decide to include this scene?

I just had to go and have a quick read to see which you meant! I think the story was always heading to that point right from the start. I can't remember exactly why I included it now as is always the way a couple of years after you wrote something, but i think I wanted to create a sense of terrible liberation and freedom. It's up to the reader to decide whether it's a good thing or a bad thing.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Quentin S. Crisp Interview (with Charles Tan)

Quentin S. Crisp

Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, what made you decide to set your story in Japan?

Thank you.

To answer your question, it was in Japan that I encountered the shrike, and the shrike, particularly the shrike's sacrifice, was the imagistic impetus behind the whole story. Some time after I had encountered the shrike I made one of those creative leaps that are so necessary to writing anything of depth, and pieced that initial image together with something else that I wanted to express. The 'something else' could have been set anywhere, really, but the shrike made a Japanese setting most natural. Of course, this setting ended up as something that seemed inevitable, in that it then took me into areas of cultural and aesthetic comparison and synthesis between east and west as if that had been part of the plan from the beginning.

What are the difficulties in structuring a narrative where most of the conflict is internal?

As far as I'm aware, they are very much the same as the difficulties in a narrative where the conflict is external. The only difference is, one kind of narrative might have more appeal to a different kind of reader than the other. I am very much influenced by Japanese zuihitsu and other forms of writing where essay, fiction, autobiography and so on are mixed, however, when one leans to the fictional then one knows that the strict essay form of argument, which must be thorough, would be too heavy handed. You only have to gesture lightly towards the various points you wish to rally in your 'argument'. I've read Ligotti say in interview that he assembles his plots rather like an essay (or I seem to remember that), and that he is very careful in this process of moving towards a conclusion, and therefore baffled when people say his stories have no plots. I tend to write stories in a similar way. I know precisely what points need to be made to support my 'conclusion', and, as long as they are all there, in their right places, in my mind and in the story, I need only gesture towards them lightly. Or that is how I feel. Others may disagree. Also, I would say that, although there is not much action in Shrike, with this and all of my stories, I try to keep things sensual, and most especially visual. A flower can be dramatic. Or it can to me.

In a previous interview, you mentioned how you like playing around with categories, such as "demented fiction". Could you elaborate more on your definition of demented fiction and how it applies--or doesn't apply--to your writing?

Sometimes I have this clear in my head and sometimes I don't. About two weeks ago, I would have been able to give very fine detail on this question, as I was much preoccupied with it. But I didn't write down the thoughts I had at the time, and they have passed. I think that there's a kind of expectation of writers that they are somehow omniscient. At the very least, the art of writing fiction (particularly the novel) often seems to be the art of pretending to know everything. Dazai Osamu once wrote something like, "It's ridiculous to feel that one should straighten one's collar while reading a novel." To me, being demented in fiction not only means freedom to be imaginative rather than knowing, it means honesty about the fact that ultimately one knows nothing. Being demented by no means precludes being beautiful or elegant. One can very well be dementedly elegant, or elegantly demented. Demented fiction is also related to 'dadaoism', which Justin Isis and I have been championing on the currently sleeping Chomu blog. I think underlying dadaoism is the recognition that words are not the things they signify. The intention is not to give an account of reality, it is to create something new, outside of reality.

Demented fiction and dadaoism should be available in abundance from Chomu Press, which is just starting up. The first novel Chomu releases will be "Remember You're a One-Ball!" by me. It would have been included in my Rule Dementia! collection, but it was too large.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Karen Joy Fowler Interview (with Charles Tan)

Karen Joy Fowler

Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. How did you settle on your premise for "The Pelican Bar"?

I knew of a girl who'd been sent to one of these places, and I've been haunted by her story for years. But "The Pelican Bar" is equally about the current torture debate in the US. I will never quite believe that torturing people is now something to be calmly discussed and argued about, much less the policy so many prefer.

I saw a posting online about torture that referenced these offshore jail/schools, and said, basically, why should we be surprised to learn people are fine with shutting foreigners away and torturing them? We've let these facilities do the same to our own children and never raised a fuss.

A few years back I went with friends to Jamaica and realized, in the midst of our wonderful holiday, that we were only a few miles from one of these places. It seemed like the torture situation writ small. We know what's going on at Guantanamo and in more secret prisons. We are sorry about it, but our own lives remain pretty comfortable. What really can we do?

Your story has a dark scenario yet your protagonist also develops a certain strength due to her ordeals. What are the challenges in juggling these two elements? Do you perceive the story as bleak or optimistic?

I hate and love the world with absolutely equal force. Sometimes one feeling is in the ascendant and sometimes the other, but mostly I'm teetering right on the edge between the two. My own life has been filled with so much beauty and love and good luck. Great friends, great food, great family. Health and happiness. How can I hate the world? It would be unthinkably ungrateful.

And yet, I know what lives of horror others live, often for no better reason than that someone is making (or saving) money off their misery. How can I love a place where that's allowed to happen?

As to my character Norah, she had a lot of problems before being sent off, but I'm not sure lack of strength was among them. I don't think she's gained much of value from this experience. But I'm just happy she's out! Albeit into this problematic world of ours, see above. I have no idea what will happen to her next. So the story strikes me as neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but on that edge between. Probably tipping toward bleak, if I'm being honest.

In some of your stories, the fantastical element is subtle. What is it about fantasy or science fiction that appeals to you, and how does it affect your fiction?

Although I traffic in the strange, I don’t think of myself as leaving the real world behind when I do so. I think that I’m acknowledging how bizarre and unlikely the real world is. I’m a political person, not a spiritual one. I don’t believe in magic or ghosts or gods or the power of positive thinking. I believe that Elvis is dead. I’m not happy about it, but there it is. But what I believe most of all is that the world will always exceed our ability to understand it.

Fantasy, science fiction and other fantastical approaches seem better suited to convey this fact than realism and so, in my attempts to depict the real world, that's what I use. The word you've chosen is subtle, which is kinder than ambiguous (which I hear a lot, but is also totally fair.) Here's the thing though: if I'm using fantastical elements to convey the parts of the world beyond our understanding, then ambiguity is unavoidable. Clarity would make the completely wrong point, that even the strange parts of life are comprehensible.

However, in the case of "The Pelican Bar," there is no doubt in my mind that the people running the facility are actual aliens. I have my reasons, but they're unpleasant, misanthropic reasons and I should probably keep them to myself.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gemma Files and Stephen J. Barringer Interview (with Charles Tan)

Gemma Files and Stephen J. Barringer

First off, “Each Thing I Show You Is a Piece of My Death,” is a collage of information. What made both of you decide to use this technique?

GEMMA: The funny part is that I was going through the Afterword in one of my short story collections the other day (THE WORM IN EVERY HEART, Prime Books), and found a large chunk in which I was talking about the appeal of an epistolary novel like DRACULA…this boring/voyeuristic mishmash of documentation which challenges you to read between the lines in order to figure out what’s “really” going on. M.R. James does that too, though far more subtly, and he’s one of my baseline inspirations.

And then, when I thought about how to best update that idea, it cross-bred somehow with my experience reviewing mock-doc horror films, as best embodied by low-res ‘Net-hype sensations like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and (most recently) PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. After I added in stuff that I’d learned about experimental film when covering that community here in Toronto to root it in a reality I was familiar with, and made up a suitable “urban legend” to base it around, I felt like I was ready to go.

But the thing which really dictated the story’s form was the concept of the Exquisite Corpse, which I stumbled upon quite late in the game…on the Internet, as I recall. So there you go.

STEVE: Another influence which deserves to be mentioned is Eric Heisserer’s ‘Net-only horror story “The Dionaea House” (www.dionaea-house.com), which really brought home to me the serious potential for creep and dread in the Internet medium--like Gemma says, the wonderful subtlety of implying the horror between the lines in what the narrative *doesn’t* say, through the utterly familiar format of text messages and e-mails. Combined with that was the opportunity to use what I think of as my “business voice”--that deliberately impersonal and bland style of professional writing and documentation any office-worker knows, with which I made much of my living for many years--to talk about utterly horrible things in the way I imagine police and medical clerks must have to; I wanted to see if the juxtaposition of an incredibly mundane style with an incredibly appalling subject would be as effective as I hoped it would be. (Check out Ramsey Campbell’s story “A Street Was Chosen” for an inspiring example of this principle in action.)

How did both of you end up collaborating for this story? What were the challenges--and rewards--working together?

GEMMA: I had had the basic idea for “each thing” some time before, but when the CLOCKWORK PHOENIX 2 deadline approached, I found it really difficult to both jump-start and carry through, probably because of the slightly non-linear nature of the narrative itself. I started discussing it heavily with Steve, who had some great character and structural ideas. Pretty quickly, it became obvious that the story would got faster and work better if we were both involved, trading back and forth on the actual writing. Steve has an amazing mind for organization, research and realistic detail, and by the end, I felt he had more than earned co-authorial credit.

The challenge is that you’re writing with your husband, but the reward is that you get to write with your husband. Though Steve hasn’t been published as many times as I have, he’s very much a capable, professional writer with years of experience; personally, I see this story as his introduction into the community, something he’ll hopefully build on when he starts sending more things out on his own. And the fact that we now also get to share a Shirley Jackson nomination? Crazy!

STEVE: What Gemma calls a knack for organization, research and detail I tend to think of as obsessive nitpickiness, but hey, it worked for Tolkien--who is, unsurprisingly, one of my favourites and inspirations; I love the detail and scope of classic worldbuilding, and the conviction and verisimilitude involved in getting everything right is as useful in horror as it is in fantasy.

Writing with Gemma is on one level remarkably easy, because unlike so many people, when she asks you what you think, she actually wants to hear your answer and is willing to work with it. On another level, it’s tremendously challenging; not only in that her standard of quality demands an equally high standard of contribution, but because she’s so open to ideas that it can be hard *not* to throw in my two cents’ worth more than absolutely necessary. (The hardest thing for any writer to learn is the distinction between “what will make this better” and “what will make this more like something *I* would write”, which is why writing and editing *are* distinct skill-sets.) But the sheer potential, and room for play, in this particular idea and format was just too much to resist; with impending deadlines as an excuse, we both went all-out at whatever occurred to us and just fit the result together afterwards. It seemed to work. ;)

In your opinion, what is it about the "horror in film" motif that resonates with readers (and writers)?

GEMMA: Well, I was a professional film reviewer long before I became a professional writer, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about this, and I do think it’s something inherent in the medium itself. Film, the literal “moving image”, is like a ghost; flat yet vivid, charged with an unnatural sense of life. The reaction many people had to the Lumiere Brothers’ seminal film of a train arriving at a station, when it was first shown in public, was almost universally one of stark terror.

Add sound, color, F/X, and the universal tropes of horror-thriller-suspense, and film also becomes not only capable of capturing the image of a human being which can endure, apparently unscathed, long after the person who originated it is dead, but also of allowing an actor to play out an infinite variety of fake deaths that often look more “real” than the real thing.

At its heart, though, we somehow know that ALL film is an illusion: Shadows on a wall, mostly blank space. It lies sixty times a second, and it routinely tricks your mind into filling that empty space with whatever your subconscious wants to see. That’s very frightening as a concept, no matter the genre involved.

STEVE: Film also, and somewhat ironically given our awareness of its illusory nature (as Gemma notes), has a unique claim to *authority*; the belief that “if someone photographed or filmed it, it ‘really’ happened” is more seminal to Western culture than most people realize even now. For a comparatively brief but utterly transformative time--basically, from the newsreel footage for WW2 to just before the theatrical release of STAR WARS--photography and film were the ultimate “proofs” of reality, the things that changed a narrative from a mere story into the Telling Of Truth, and could even change the course of nations, as certain iconic images from the Vietnam War still demonstrate.

This power’s been weakened considerably by the ease of modern CGI and Photoshopping, but it’s not yet lost, which is why films like CLOVERFIELD or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY pack such a punch, and why “real-time” footage of UFOs, ghosts and demons gets such high view-counts on YouTube. We want to *see* something, to have proof of Something Out There; and yet if a ghost or an alien or a werewolf or some other impossible supernatural phenomenon was caught on camera in full focused detail, we would all write it off as “special effects” in an instant--the alternative being too horrifying to contemplate. “each thing” is, in a way, simply a story about someone faced with exactly that situation who doesn’t have the option of explaining it away, and what happens when he tries to deal with it.