Tag Archives: Interview

Et gammelt interview med rotternes herre

Jeg skriver lidt om James Herbert i øjeblikket, der døde tilbage i 2013. Det førte mig fordi dette lille, underholdende interview med manden, der er optaget i 1995. Interviewet stammer fra et tidspunkt, hvor Herberts forfatterkarriere i et eller andet omfang fortsat kørte nogenlunde på skinner. Det ændrede sig imidlertid hurtigt, for han var en af de relativt mange skrækforfattere, der havde været aktive siden 70’erne, som oplevede både kreative og salgsmæssige vanskeligheder ved udgangen af det gamle årtusinde.

Noget litterært geni var Herbert ikke, men underholdende var han, og debutromanen The Rats fra ’74 står stadig, som et væsentligt bidrag til skrækgenren.

Vi ses på søndag.

– Martin

 

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En fin lille koncertfilm med Against Me!

Her kan du se en ganske fin film med Against Me! Der er både en koncertdel og en interviewdel, der fungerer godt sammen. Filmen fanger gruppens udvikling og lyd rigtig godt, men filmen viser også med al tydelighed, hvor meget gruppen har flyttet sig siden de første, fantastiske plader. Jeg er ikke nogen kæmpefan af Against Me! længere, men jeg kan alligevel ikke rigtigt lade være med at følge dem. Det må jo nok betyde, at jeg i et eller andet omfang stadig er ret begejstret for gruppen… også selvbom musikken har flyttet sig.

Kast et blik på filmen. Vi ses på søndag, hvor der er akademiske gys på menuen.

 

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Digteren der gik i Lovecrafts fodspor: Et interview med Wilum H. Pugmire

Jeg har været så heldig at få lejlighed til at lave et lille interview med Wilum H. Pugmire, og det er store sager, i hvert fald i min verden. Der er et enormt antal forfattere, der på en eller anden måde påberåber sig inspiration fra H. P. Lovecraft i deres forfatterskab, men kun få har formået at skabe holdbar litteratur på den baggrund. Det har Wilum Pugmire imidlertid, og han må siges at være en af de stærkeste fortolkere af den gotiske tråd i Lovecrafts forfatterskab. Han er samtidig, i et bredere perspektiv, en fabelagtig arvtager af den dekadent-romantiske tradition, som Lovecraft til dels også selv var beslægtet med.

Pugmires poesi og poetiske fiktion har meget lidt at gøre med pulp, tentakler og store monstre. Han væver stemninger frem for os og skaber mystiske vrangbilleder, der efterlader sig som rungende, ofte foruroligende indtryk i læserens bevidsthed.

Selvom Wilum Pugmires fiktion efterhånden har optrådt i en stort antal antologier og selvstændige bøger, er han aldrig blevet en mainstream-forfatter. Det er en synd og skam, men han har konsekvent, uden klynk, valgt kunstnerens vej, og skaber værker, der ikke stræber efter stor almen anerkendelse. Det er en stolt og ædel tilgang til kunsten, som jeg kun kan beundre. Men ikke mere introduktion, lad os i stedet høre, hvad Pugmire har at fortælle os.

***

(Martin) Could you say a few words about your first encounter with the writings of H. P. Lovecraft?

(Wilum) My first encounter with Lovecraft came when I was a teenager. The man who lived across the street from me was a record salesman, and he knew that I loved monsters and so gave me records of readings of H. P. Lovecraft by Roddy McDowall and David McCallum. The first book of Lovecraft’s work that I purchased was a Panther paperback edition, THE HAUNTER OF THE DARK AND OTHER TALES OF HORROR, which I purchased while living in Northern Ireland.

You call yourself a “Lovecraftian writer” and when reading your fiction this certainly rings true, but when scrutinizing the term a bit closer it is not that obvious what it actually means. Lovecraft’s themes and style changed over time and so did his influences. And when reading your fiction it also quickly becomes apparent that you seem to have found the greatest inspiration in certain parts of Lovecraft’s production. Could you say a few words about both the term and what meaning you invest in it?

The term “Lovecraftian” is deliciously nebulous. For me, it’s like a kind of eldritch instinct that is alerted when I’m reading a horror story and come across something that seems to be a wink or nod to H. P. Lovecraft. And yet one single off-hand reference to the Necronomicon doesn’t make a story “Lovecraftian”. My own work is influenced far more by Lovecraft’s non-cosmic weird fiction than by “The Call of Cthulhu” or “The Shadow out of Time”.

Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire (born May 3 1951)

This approach is really important and something which, at least to me, brings a rare quality to your writing which is lacking from most “mythos fiction”. Could you say something about what you perceive as core elements in the poetics of Lovecraft and his use of language?

Now, I’m not a Lovecraft scholar and so I cannot speak conclusively on the poetics of Lovecraft’s language; but we know from his correspondence with other writers that HPL was obsessed with writing good prose that contained poetic beauty in its expression. Lovecraft was attuned to rhythm in prose, in creating a prose style that was concise and sculpted. Those who condemn Lovecraft for “overwriting” or “purple prose” don’t know what they’re talking about. It is because of the perfection of Lovecraft’s prose that S. T. Joshi has proclaimed him one of America’s great writers.

 

I personally find the term “Lovecraftian” rather good – not in the least when discussing your fiction – because it shifts the conversation away from the so-called “Cthulhu mythos” with all its pulpy trappings of cults, dusty tomes and tentacles, which more or less seems to be the general understanding in mainstream culture of the content in Lovecraft’s fiction. What are your personal thoughts on the tension between the reception of the actual writings of Lovecraft and the massive representation of “Cthulhu monsters” in almost all media today?

I have a feeling that a lot of people who have never read HPL’s fiction have heard of Cthulhu and could described what that Great Old One looks like. I love Lovecraft because of his writing and so cannot understand the towering impact of his most infamous monster. I’ve scanned over many Cthulhu stories that were entirely lacking in any element that could be called Lovecraftian.

 

Paperback, Panther Books 1974, with a cover by the always great Ian Miller

To many horror writers and horror readers ‘The Monster’ in whatever form it may have is critical. The hands-on confrontation with some sort of malevolent non-human force is basically the core dynamic of quite a lot of genre fiction. I guess the emphasis on Cthulhu and all the other mythos beings is a way to shoehorn this part of Lovecraft’s fiction into this particular, popular understanding of horror fiction which has to have a recognizable enemy monster. What are your own thoughts on these beings Lovecraft invented and their use in fiction? At times I personally feel that it would have been better if HPL had not invented all these entities and instead focused his creative vision solely on the reception of Gothic tropes.

I think Lovecraft invented his monsters so that they were representations of cosmic chaos, of something completely unearthly. This was also his reasoning behind inventing the name “Cthulhu,” which was to be a clumsy human articulation of a word that no human tongue could correctly enunciate. Some of his races indicate the far reaches of the past, a past beyond human comprehension. Lovecraft’s monsters are fascinating, and they are frightening.

A slightly younger Pugmire

In a sense you write very specialized fiction but the interest and marked for this clearly exists. The amount of works published with Lovecraft or Cthulhu mythos in the title is mind boggling. How do you experience this growing fan enthusiasm and how has being a “Lovecraftian” writer changed over the last decades?        

Over the years I’ve noticed more anthologies that include the name Cthulhu in their book title, and that indicates a growing market for “Cthulhu stories”. I think a lot of Cthulhu fans are disappointed with my own stories because I try not to write typical Mythos fiction, wanting to emphasize the grim Gothic side of Lovecraft. The one thing that confuses me is the growing number of people who think that I write like Lovecraft. I don’t understand this, because I certainly don’t TRY to write “like” HPL. Lovecraft’s work is but one of many influences evident in my writing.

I think you represent one of the strong voices in modern weird fiction who takes the reader on a different path away from the general understanding of Lovecraft’s writing and into other realms of much more subtle fiction where you clearly have created your own literary space. Could you see yourself cutting lose the ties or references to Lovecraft’s fiction?    I have no desire to cut ties with Lovecraft in my weird fiction. Indeed, the main reason I write is to be identified as a writer profoundly influenced by Lovecraft. I am Lovecraftian to the core of my aesthetic soul. My personal belief is that we can be inspired by Lovecraft’s work and yet be true to ourselves as literary artists.

Wilum H. Pugmire and literary scholar and editor S. T. Joshi

I reread your book Dreams of Lovecraftian Horror from 1999 some time ago; a wonderful volume filled with small vignettes of haunted beauty. On reading through these brief tales ‘vagueness’ struck me as a crucial component. Vagueness not only as to what is actually happening in the stories but also in the language, where your prose builds these moments of intense, ambiguous encounters with the irrational. Stephen King famously stated in his Danse Macabre that Lovecraft prudishly kept his monsters in the closet, but he (King) wanted to take the monsters right into the living room of the readers. This is very much the opposite of your approach. Could you say a bit about vagueness, which clearly is an important poetic tool for you?

I think part of what affects my work is boredom with normal people, and thus my characters are usually freakish in some way. The societies in which I feel most comfortable are the drag queen and punk rock scenes, where normality is almost a taboo. It’s more important in my mind to be a prose stylist than a story-teller, and thus I concentrate on what some consider an affected writing style. I may indeed be a poseur as an author, but the pose is absolutely genuine as an expression of my soul. Too, I like my horrors to be ambiguous rather than baldly depicted. I would much rather suggest horror than shew it nakedly.

As far as I know your published career as a writer began in the mid-1980s (correct me if I’m wrong). This I find interesting, because it was a time of great renewal in horror fiction in general. The old bestseller authors from the 70’s were suddenly challenged by younger authors with a much more fierce vision of horror. Clive Barker and the splatter punks are obvious examples. On one hand your fiction seems out of tune with this development, but on the other hand the themes of alienation, punk subculture and existence outside the norm seems contained within your works – for instance in the tale “Pale Trembling Youth” (1988) you wrote Jessica Amanda Salmonson. Nevertheless if I should situate your writings within some larger trend, it would be couched next to the works of authors like Kathe Koja, Poppy Z. Brite (as he was called then) and Caitlín R. Kiernan who all had their debuts in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Are these names for you? And do you have any thoughts on your place in horror or genre fiction in general?  

I first began seriously writing fiction in the early 1970’s, right after I first started reading Lovecraft. I wrote a bunch of rather bad stories for a number of small press journals, but eventually became disgusted with what my fiction lacked and stopped writing for a number of years. I’ve never had any interest in splatterpunk or graphic horror, it completely bores me. “Pale, Trembling Youth,” although it features a modern punk lad as a character, is a traditional ghost story in every way, just as the majority of my Lovecraftian fiction is traditional in a Weird Tales fashion. I don’t feel that I have a place in genre fiction, because I am far too minor a writer and most of my work has appeared in the small press.

Paperback, Mythos Books 1999

I would be interested in hearing more about these early tales. Could you say a bit more about them? Where were they published and what was our focus at the time?

When I first began to write fiction I was utterly enamored with the Cthulhu Mythos, and all I wanted to do was writing Mythos fiction. I was keenly influenced by two British writers, Ramsey Campbell and Brian Lumley; and I loved the Mythos fiction of August Derleth, and the Mythos anthologies he edited. I felt I had to invent my own version of Dunwich, and so I created Sesqua Valley. I invented my own Great Old One –Ny-Rakath– and placed him in Ireland. Very few of those early tales were published, and the manuscripts for most of them have since been destroyed. Graeme Phillips recently published a wee chapbook of my early tales, SESQUA RISING, through his Cyaegha Press, but thankfully he printed only 50 copies and most of those were distributed in the Esoteric Order of Dagon apa. In the early days I wrote for the small press horror journals such as GRUE, DEATHREALM, and FANTASY MACABRE. Then Jeffrey Thomas collected some of my Sesqua tales for a chapbook he published. I then had a hardcover collection from Delirium Books published in 2003.

When the stars are right: Pugmire and Lovecraft meet

Do you read horror fiction?

No, I don’t read horror. I read classic literature, poetry, and biographies of writers.

 

How would you describe the developments in horror and weird fiction through the decades where you have been publishing fiction?

Because I read so little horror, I haven’t paid any attention to genre development. Most of the writers I have known are or were horror writers. Billy (Poppy) was my all-time favorite living horror writer, but he seemed to dislike being thus classified. He once bragged to me that in Europe his books are found in the literary section of stories, not in the horror section. I have absolutely no idea if horror is still a widely-selling market or who the modern authors are.

Paperback, Dark Regions Press 2016

What is on the horizon for you? Could you tell us something about what you are currently working on and where we will have a chance to read your fiction next time?  

I’m not doing too much writing of late. I’ll have two new books out this year, one a collaborative novel set entirely in Lovecraft’s dreamlands, and the other a major hardcover collection of my more recent work. Over the past couple years I’ve written for a number of mostly Lovecraftian anthologies, the newest-published of which is THE CHILDREN OF GLA’AKI. I’ve been hoping to write a book of stories influenced by the tales of Clark Ashton Smith, but so far I haven’t finished one story for it. I’ve had so many books published I feel that I can take a nice long break.

Thanks Wilum for taking your time for this talk.

Cheers

Martin

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Douglas E. Winter, Stephen King. The Art of Darkness (1984): Kongen blev hyldet før han faldt

 

paperback-new-american-library-1986

Paperback, Signet 1986. Bogens anden, reviderede udgave

 

Douglas Winter er en vigtig skikkelse i 80’ernes genrehistorie, fordi han med stor ildhu kastede sig over at dokumentere den litterære gyserscene, som den tog sig ud på det tidspunkt. Vel at mærke på et tidspunkt, hvor gys og gru fortsat var ekstremt populær, og familien af forfattere med mindst én skræk-bestseller i bagagen var voksende. Winter lagde imidlertid heller ikke skjul på, at hans største oplevelse med skrækfiktionen kom, da han i ’74, i et venteværelse, faldt over en novelle af en ”Stephen King”. Et navn, der var ham totalt ubekendt, men historien gjorde indtryk, og Winter gik på jagt efter mere. Og mere, det fandt han, for kun få måneder senere slog King igennem med debutromanen Carrie. Det blev startskuddet til en lavine af fiktion, som forandrede skræklitteraturens vilkår for bestandig, og Douglas Winter var med fra begyndelsen.

Winter skrev flere artikler og anmeldelser af Kings bøger i 70’erns anden halvdel, og efter et møde med forfatteren på en kongres blev det også til en form for venskab og arbejdsfællesskab. Winter fik nemlig lov til at lave en række timelange samtaler med King, der resulterede først i en lille biografi om King (1982) og efterfølgende bogen Stephen King. The Art of Darkness, der så dagens lys i ’84.

 

paperback-new-american-library-1986_bagside

Paperback, Signet 1986

 

Bogen er en lidt sær sammensyning af interview, biografi, litterær analyse og bibliografi. I de glade dage før internet og Google har bogen utvivlsomt været guld værd for Stephen King-samleren på jagt efter hans romaner og spredt publicerede noveller. I dag har den omfattende bibliografiske del af Winters bog desværre overlevet sig selv, og de fleste ville nok nu ønske, at der i stedet havde været et par kapitler mere med bogens andre aspekter, men det kan man jo ikke ændre på.

Fra første side er det tydeligt, at Douglas Winter elsker Stephen Kings værker, og The Art of Darkness er en lang og komplet ukritisk hyldest til Kings forfatterskab. Det gør bogen til en ganske ensidig affære, der har det dobbelte formål dels at udlægge Kings tekster for hans mange interesserede fans, dels at modgå den etablerede presses lunkne modtagelse af King. Winter går dermed til kamp for Kings litterære kvaliteter og demonstrer meget tydeligt, at der skam er alvorlige tematikker hos King, der i Winters univers sidestiller King med en skikkelse som eksempelvis Mark Twain.

 

douglas-e-winter-anno-1985

Douglas E. Winter (født 30. oktober 1950)

 

Jubelbegejstringen kender med andre ord ingen grænser, men Winter har blik for litterær analyse. Han formår derfor at trække de bedste og stærkeste elementer frem i forfatterskabet. Bogen er således interessant læsning, selv for den, der ikke har synderlig megen begejstring for Kings bøger, fordi Winter faktisk beriger forståelsen af King.

Mens Winter lægger vægtige argumenter for Kings litterære kvaliteter, kan man samtidig læse en række mildest talt problematiske udsagn fra forfatteren selv i bogens interview-dele. Her sammenligner Stephen King sin egen skrivestil med intet mindre end en Big Mac. Han ser sig selv som et brand, en stil eller et udtryk, som læseren præcis ved, hvad er. Hvordan Winter kan arbejde for Kings litterære status, når forfatteren selv tydeligvis bevidst sigter ganske lavt med sit arbejde, er lidt af en gåde for mig.

 

paperback-new-american-library-1984_1ed

Paperback, New English Library 1984. Bogens 1. udgave

 

King beskriver et andet sted sine bøger som hængekøjer, som læseren kan slænge sig i. Igen fornemmer man den komplette mangel på kunstneriske ambitioner hos King, der tydeligvis hellere vil omfavne og behage sine læsere med det, de forventer, end at udfordre dem med noget uventet. En anti-intellektuel og anti-kunstnerisk selviscenesættelse fra Kings side, som også vil være bekendt for den, der har læst hans Danse Macabre.

Winter får ganske enkelt ikke enderne til at mødes i sin bog, fordi alt ved King synes at modsige den litterære forfatterperson, som Winter gerne vil ophøje ham til. Men at King alligevel gerne selv vil ses i det litterære lys, kunne måske ligge antydet i nogle af hans mere ambitiøse bøger (eksempelvis The Stand og It), men det er gætværk fra min side og under alle omstændigheder irrelevant, fordi Kings bøger i min verden er og bliver den Big Mac, han sammenligner sig selv med.

 

stephen-king

Stephen Edwin King (født 21. september 1947)

Winters fascination af King og bogens udgivelsestidspunkt er også interessant at se nærmere på. The Art of Darkness udkom, som sagt, i 1984, og på det tidspunkt gik Kings kurs stadig mod stjernerne. Han havde udgivet stort set alle de romaner, der i dag betragtes som hans hovedværker, og King var for længst blevet et verdensomspændende synonym for horror.

Det fører Douglas Winter til, i et lille efterskrift, at filosofere over, hvad fremtiden mon vil bringe for King. Winter er ikke i tvivl om, at der ligger store ting ude i horisonten, men her skulle han vise sig at tage fejl. Der lå ikke store ting i vente, snarere det modsatte. Der kom bare mere af det samme, og Kings forfatterskab overlevede ikke 80’erne med kreativiteten i behold. Ved indgangen til det nye årti – 90’erne – var han blevet en forstenet dinosaur, der var blevet overhalet af yngre, kreative kræfter på skrækscenen. Kings bogsalg gik fortsat fint, men hans popularitet har været faldende lige siden storhedstiden i 80’erne.

 

 

paperback-plume-1986

Paperback, Plume 1986

 

Douglas Winters bog er først og fremmest et tidsbillede af Stephen King på toppen, da han enerådigt regerede skrækscenen. Et billede på den entusiasme og friskhed, som en generation af læsere oplevede, da de mødte værker som The Shining og ’Salems Lot for første gang. Den begejstring er bestemt ikke uberettiget eller ubegrundet, men Kings momentum forduftede hurtigt, mens han sled sig op på tusindsiders romanfortællinger. Winters bog er derfor et bittersødt gravskrift; en lettere løgnagtig ligprædiken, der pynter på Kings forfatterskab ved at ignorere alt det, der umuliggør at måle hans bøger på den kunstneriske vægt, som Winter gerne vil anbringe King på.

Man taler ikke ondt om de skindøde.

 

paperback-new-english-library-1989

Paperback, New English Library 1989

 

 

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Flabede punks på slap line i ´78

Jeg faldt over det her lille program forleden fra 1978. Det er et stykke smukt undergrunds-TV fra New York, hvor Sid Vicious fra Sex Pistols (som han havde forladt på det tidspunkt), Nancy Spungen, Stiv Bators fra The Dead Boys og en Cynthia fra bandet The B Girls, som jeg ikke kender, bliver interviewet. I første del af programmet er de fire i samtale med værten, men så begynder det for alvor at blive sjovt – seerne kan nemlig ringe ind til programmet. Det udvikler sig til en ret underholdende affære, hvor den ene mere outrerede seer efter den anden retter overraskende mange sjofle spørgsmål og beskidte kommentarer mod punkerne. Alt imens opfører de fire punks sig som snotunger, hvilket de vel egentlig også er.

Alt i alt en fest, som man ikke må snyde sig selv for. Og som værten Efrom Allen, der har lagt programmet online, selv skriver, så var tre ud af fire deltagere døde inden for nogle måneder efter optagelser.

Vi ses på søndag, hvor zombierne indtager bloggen.

 

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Når al latter forstummer: En snak med Kathe Koja om The Cipher

For nogle uger siden skrev jeg lidt om Kathe Kojas fantastiske bog The Cipher. En milepæl, som kom til at definere tonen for en hel genre af skræklitteraturen i 90’erne. Nu har jeg været så heldig at kunne udveksle nogle spørgsmål med Kathe om hendes debutroman og det at skrive. Resultatet er blevet en sjov lille samtale, der måske stedvist er lidt indforstået for dem der ikke har læst bogen. Ikke desto mindre kan det måske inspirere dig til at få fat The Cipher, for det er en roman, som absolut bør læses.

Nuvel, her med går vi over til det lille interview. På snarligt genhør.

Could you tell a bit about your original thoughts or ideas for the book?

Everything I do begins with a character, a person I see in my mind’s eye and begin to follow. Nicholas was the seed of THE CIPHER: talented, aimless, resentful, self-deluded. And on his heels came Nakota/Jane/Shrike/etc., who was everything he wasn’t, and a lot more, too. And the story was off and running.

I was delighted to hear you call THE CIPHER funny – I’ve always thought it was, on one level, a very black comedy, the laughter at the edge of the pit; and Nicholas is always using humor as a deflecting weapon. And the thing itself is called the Funhole, you can’t have a funhole without fun .

I can’t say I set out to write “a horror novel” with CIPHER, as I didn’t set out to write “a historical novel” with the UNDER THE POPPY trilogy, or “YA books” with my novels for FSG, or “a biographical novel” with my current Marlowe project, CHRISTOPHER WILD. I write the book and then my agent Christopher Schelling and I figure out what kind of book it is, though everything I write is solidly situated in the Kathe Koja genre.

I think genre itself can be a wonderfully helpful construct if the writer wishes to use it so; and genre readers are, across the board, quite welcoming, extending the courtesy of their interest to a new voice in their field—I’ve found that to be true over and over.

Kathe Koja (født 1960)

Kathe Koja (født 1960)

Any works of other authors that inspired you?

Shirley Jackson was a guiding star in the lands of the discomforted and disturbing, and Flannery O’Connor, too. Writers whose work I love and whom I respect and revere include Christopher Marlowe, the great Emilys (Bronte and Dickinson), Arthur Rimbaud  . . . Too many to list, so many who have helped and inspired along the path.

 

You very much circle around the classic notion of art and pain as being entwined. What are your thoughts on this aspect of the book today?

is pain necessary to the making of art? They are so often concommitant that it would be hard to say no. But pain is concommitant to life; is it necessary for life? That’s a dreadful question for the ill, the refugee, the tormented . . . My answer today is I don’t know.

Paperback, Dell 1991. Romanens 1. udg. med forside af Rick Lieder - Kathe Kojas mand

Paperback, Dell 1991. Romanens 1. udg. med forside af Rick Lieder – Kathe Kojas mand

The Cipher seems to address the inability to communicate and latch on to the world emotionally and creatively. This fear of existing without engaging or creating something was that particular concerns for you at the time or were you projecting feelings, I guess, we all share?   

I think everybody who ever lived or ever will has a funole with his or her name on it. We’re all a few steps away from our own bottomless fears or anxieties, that’s the human condition, but the ways we choose to confront or flee or smother these fears and anxieties are as varied as we are, as toxic or beneficial.

 

Could you say a few words about the two main characters?

Oh, what a couple! I have a great fondness for both Nicholas and Nakota, since each of them are so entirely who they are: and of the two, I have far more sympathy for Nakota, as dreadful as she is, because she’s trying so hard, she sees so clearly what Nicholas refuses to see: it doesn’t work without him, the Funhole’s generative process and his own are somehow intertwined. It’s all been given to him, and all she can do is . . . react.

And I can’t hate any of my characters, no matter how much I might dislike them or deplore their actions—hatred tends to produce caricature, in real life as well as on the page, and I want to write about actual people.

Paperback, Dell 1992

Paperback, Dell 1992

The artistic milieu, in which the novel is set, albeit perhaps slightly exaggerated, rings true. Was (or is) it your own circles you mirrored in the book?

No, but I didn’t have to. We all know those people and those scenes.

 

Could you have written the same story set in a suburban middleclass neighborhood with the Funhole appearing in a backyard or garage? What I’m asking is really how important it was to you that this takes place among artists of a sort living on the fringe?  

It would certainly be a different book if it were set in that suburb, but there’s no way either Nicholas or Nakota would have been living there. And since the story followed them, and not the other way around, it could only have happened where it did, on that grimy, frightful, dangerous fringe.

I personally have am affinity for the fringes, the outskirts, the odd places—the places where lines cross, the liminal spots. Things get in that shouldn’t, escapes are successful, the authorities aren’t looking too hard (until they are). Things happen there that the safer places can only guess are true. And the most interesting people always pass through.

 

The tone of The Cipher is extremely bleak and you continued to explore that vein for some time, but then you (to my knowledge) stopped. Had you exhausted this atmosphere creatively or was it simply time to move on? 

To my thinking, KINK is maybe the bleakest, most claustrophobic book I’ve ever written – certainly deluded Jess and deluded Nicholas are brothers in self-inflicted misery. http://www.kathekoja.com/blog/archives/we-all-have-a-kink/

Hardcover, Henry Holt 1996

Hardcover, Henry Holt 1996

We learn at some point that Nakota is reading a lot of Ben Hecht and you have this wonderful Hecht quote at the end. Did it all spring from that quote? I cannot really get my head round the idea of Nakota reading Hecht though. Could you tell us a bit more about this Hecht-element in the novel?

Hecht passed jauntily through the room, but that was all—no greater resonance. But what a quote!

 

The Cipher was deservedly a huge success but it’s an intense, draining piece and also a very youthful work with a strong misanthropic strain and the youngish cast of characters. How do you feel about the book today? Do you still identify with the book and its characters? Could you write The Cipher today?

I don’t know that we need to be young to be misanthropic . . . The characters in my books are not linked to the life stage I currently find myself in – I recently completed a new novel, THE BALLROOMS OF MARS, whose man character is just turning 18, and Christopher Marlowe’s life was cut short at 29.

Could I write THE CIPHER today? No. Not because it’s dark, but because darkness means something else to me now, represents itself in much different ways. Will I always be glad I wrote it? Oh yes.

Hardcover, Roadswell 2014

Hardcover, Roadswell 2014

Finally, what are you working on now?

I just finished directing a commissioned performance based on Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights”, to celebrate his 500th anniversary  https://vimeo.com/178860595 Here’s the making-of video: https://vimeo.com/172790364

I have a performance entity called nerve, to create immersive/performative events: http://gonerve.com/gonerve/

http://www.kathekoja.com/blog/events/

Right now I’m working on an adaptation of Marlowe’s FAUSTUS that we will perform in January 2017, called  “Night School.” It’s a companion piece to my Marlowe novel, CHRISTOPHER WILD http://boingboing.net/2016/03/11/get-inside-kathe-kojas-chris.html

 

Thanks for your time Kathe and the best of luck with your future activities.

 

 

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En con-gænger krydser sit spor: David Drake fortæller

Efter jeg læste Davis Drakes lille essay (se sidste indlæg) om hans oplevelse af den første World Fantasy Convention i Providence i 1975, slog det mig, at det ville være spændende at høre hans tanker om dette essay i dag. Jeg spurgte derfor Dave, om han ikke ville genlæse teksten og måske fortælle lidt om tiden og hans syn på oplevelserne set med nutidens briller. Det sagde han heldigvis ja til, og det er der kommet en ganske fascinerende beretning ud af. Et stykke underholdende personhistorie, som jeg er ganske sikker på, at I vil sætte pris på. Jeg sluger i hvert fald den slags fortællinger råt. Jeg giver derfor her ordet videre til fantasy/SF/horror-forfatteren og redaktøren David Drake, som tager os ved hånden og fører os med tilbage til Providence anno ’75.

 

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[David Drake] I hadn’t read that essay in forty years, to the best of my knowledge. I did a better job than I was afraid I’d find that I had.

First, this [The World Fantasy Convention] was my second convention and my first, the 1974 Worldcon (DisCon II) had been a very difficult time for me. I would not have come to another convention except that my agent, Kirby McCauley, wrote that he was starting a completely different sort of con and I had to come. Second, I returned from Viet Nam and the army in 1971. I had resumed and graduated from Duke law school, but I was very screwed up in 1975 as well as being a newbie writer. All this colored my perceptions.

 

[Martin] Very screwed up?

Ah. I was drafted out of law school and sent to Viet Nam (and Cambodia, as it chanced) as an interrogator with a crack armored unit, the 11th Armored Cavalry. I was extremely angry at the world (and myself) when I returned. America wasn’t kind to Nam vets, which added insult to injury. I wasn’t on drugs or booze. I wasn’t doing anything that would reduce my self control. But I was dangerously angry and occasionally carried a gun. (Not at WFC.)

 

David Drake (født 24. september 1945)

David Drake (født 24. september 1945)

What was your situation as a writer at that stage?

I was a hobbyist as a writer. I expected to continue working as a lawyer for the rest of my life.

 

Had you met any of the young or old authors before going to the con?

Manly Wade Wellman, whom I’d read since I was 13, and Karl Wagner lived in the NC

Triangle. The three of us had become friends and were Kirby’s clients. Both were going to WFC. Karl was trying to make it as a full-time writer; Manly was a former Weird Tales mainstay and professional writer who was edging back from mainstream into the fantasy market, at least partly because Karl and I were working in it.

I’d been a correspondent of Ramsey Campbell ever since I sent him a fan letter (Aerogram back then) when I read his Demons by Daylight. He was visiting the Triangle ahead of WFC. My wife and I drove him from the Triangle to Providence (and he crashed the last night in our room).

I should mention that none of us had much money. It was a hell of a long drive, and Ramsey had to have the passenger side seat of our 1965 Mustang because he got carsick. The back seat didn’t have much room at all.

Ramsey Campbell anno 1973

Ramsey Campbell anno 1973

What moments from the con spring to mind when thinking back on the event today?

I remember with particular vividness two incidents:

The first night of the con my wife and I had gone down into the lobby, wondering what we would do for dinner (and remember what I said about not having much money). We saw the Wellmans, Manly and Frances, in the same state. And as we were discussing possibilities, another group exited the elevators and the Wellmans saw the deCamps for the first time in over 20 years. They greeted one another with enthusiasm and decided that whatever they’d fought about decades before was dead and buried now.

The deCamps were with a group including Forry Ackerman and had a table in the hotel restaurant. They invited us to join them for a delightful, social dinner.

Catherine & L. Sprague de Camp

Catherine & L. Sprague de Camp

The one aspect of the wide-ranging discussions that I remember was that another of the folks in the deCamp group (I don’t think I ever knew his name) mentioned seeing a porn novel under something fairly close to Sprague’s name. Sprague shrugged and said it wasn’t him; there was general discussion with a consensus among the pros that it was probably by Sam Merwin. At the end of the dinner, however, Forry offered Sprague a list of his books slightly modified to become porn titles. They were hilarious, but I don’t remember a single one.

The other vivid recollection occurred the next night. I mentioned two conventions in the hotel. There was actually a third, of severely handicapped people. I was standing on the mezzanine balcony overlooking the lobby–I believe Charlie Grant was with me–when a group of handicapped people entered from outside in a long conga line (I believe the European term is ‘crocodile’). Literally, the halt leading the blind–staggering, and holding on to one another to avoid being lost. This was a genuinely spooky experience.

 

Have you read Joseph Payne Brennan’s and Donald M. Grant’s Act of Providence from 1979? The action in this novel takes place during the World Fantasy Convention and, though with comic exaggeration, gives a certain sense of the ’70-ish looseness of the whole thing. How would you describe the atmosphere?

I haven’t read Act of Providence, but looseness and all-round collegiality is certainly the impression I recall. There weren’t many people–a few hundred I believe, but I don’t think I ever saw official attendance figures. Fantasy wasn’t big business then and horror certainly wasn’t. Kirby got Stephen King as a client at about that time and it was very much off to the races for the whole field.

Seen from today the Con seems to have been driven by a whole lot of pioneer spirit. I guess this feeling has been lost over the years where things have become much more professional. How would you describe the changes in the convention culture from then to now? … A big question, sorry!

Fra venstre: Robert Bloch, L. Sprague deCamp og H. Warner Munn til connen i '75

Fra venstre: Robert Bloch, L. Sprague deCamp og H. Warner Munn til connen i ’75

The change isn’t bad–I’ve been a full-time writer since 1981 and I’m very pleased with my writing income–but there was good stuff before the money came. I frequently miss things that the field had back then.

But partly what I miss is the opportunity to interact with people who were alive forty years ago. Now I’m an old timer, which flabbergasts me. I recall Ed Price (in 1973; he wasn’t at WFC) saying, “This is the hand that shook the hand of HP Lovecraft!” and shaking my hand.

I knew Ed and Manly and Sprague and lots of other people. I learned a lot from them, but they were friends rather than mentors: at the time I knew them, I wasn’t a serious writer and I didn’t know nearly as much about the pulp world as I’ve learned since. I could have learned much more when they were alive–and didn’t. I didn’t take the opportunity to chat with H. Warner Munn when I saw him walking around with a young woman, because I knew him only from two grand guignol stories–excellent but not to my taste–and not his remarkably imaginative King of the World’s Edge.

Karl Edward Wagner

Karl Edward Wagner

So I regret lost opportunities, but that was my own fault rather than the change to regimented professionalism. I will say that the guy I was in 1975 couldn’t have afforded to go to a con of the sort that WFC has become; and I would have been poorer by many memories.

 

Since then you have done quite a lot of work and made a name for yourself as an author and editor. Did any contacts at the con further your career?

I didn’t go to the con to make contacts–remember, I wasn’t a professional writer. The folks who were there and became important to my early career (Kirby and Stu Schiff in particular) were people I already knew and were instrumental in my coming to the con. It was a wonderful experience for a fantasy reader, though.

Fra venstre: David Drake, Manly Wade Wellman og Dave Shelton i 1971

Fra venstre: David Drake, Manly Wade Wellman og Dave Shelton i 1971

 

What are you working on at the moment? What to expect next from your hand?  

Right now I’m finish the rough draft of an attempt to turn the Matter of Britain (that is, King Arthur) into a space opera for Tor. This is challenging; but if you don’t push yourself, you rot.

 

Thanks for sharing these stories with us Dave and the best of luck with your future endeavors. Never rot!

 

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