Well, last week we asked over the various channels for questions that we might answer. We got a pretty good response, I feel! Here’s what we came up with:
1. What, if anything, makes your puttering around in the Lovecraftiverse more compelling and worthy of my money than someone else’s?
Aaron: I like to think that we both have a firm grasp on the concept of cosmic horror and that we’ve done enough variance in stories to entertain anyone. In fact, I would say that a sizable portion of the anthology is untouched by Lovecraftian horror motifs and is more in line with contemporary weird fiction, the abject horror element replaced with surrealism and strange ways to look at the world around us.
Chris: I wouldn’t say we’re “in the Lovecraftiverse”, per se, in that we’re not writing pastiche. One of my stories deals with a cult and a horrible monster, and another uses some Cthulhu Mythos elements, but the thing we’re taking, and what Weird as a subgenre takes from the old stories, is more of a vibe than anything else. The main theme of this collection, as I see it, is that the world you see conceals a whole other reality, and it’s not always interested in your well-being, if that makes sense.
2. What is it about a place or a situation that inspires you to look for the weird? Following on from that, is there one place above all others that you’ve encountered that inspires it, and if so, why?
Aaron: I like to look for things that are ordinary and even banal, and then come up with weird explanations behind them. Been doing it since I was a kid; goblins making the garage doors go up and down with a complex system of pulleys, closets as doorways to other dimensions once the lights are off, the usual childish stuff. I never really lost that and I have a constant running commentary in the back of my head going “wouldn’t it be cool if…” when confronted with everyday life. I personally find the woods very conducive to this, since you’re out in the wilderness isolated from other people and your paranoia starts taking over the edges of your brain and coming up with all kinds of creative explanations for the noises you hear or the things you see around you.
Chris: For me, at least, it’s not so much an active search for the strange; it’s always there. Trust me, my life would be a lot more comfortable if I could shut it off! As to the second part of the question, I remember this school where I used to live outside of Boston. I’d walk by it on my way back from the subway at night, and I had to resist a very strong urge to run. It was just a normal school building–picture “school” in your mind and I bet you’ll come close to what it looked like. But there was always one light on in the otherwise darkened building, and that scared the shit out of me. It was my overactive imagination, but it also informed a lot of my thinking as far as worldbuilding goes.
3. What made you decide to focus on the urban fantasy instead of the rural for this compilation?
Aaron: Pretty ironic coming after my whole forest spiel, actually! One of the reasons I enjoy urban fantasy is that, unlike the backwoods where I grew up, the weirdness would have to be hidden in plain sight. There’s a billion places for, say, a monster to hide in the woods but you’d have to come up with something really creative for the same creature to survive in a city populated by thousands of people in close proximity, many owning weapons. Having to go that extra mile and bury the weirdness in modern life makes it more believable, in a way.
Chris: Living in inner-city Boston in the 1980s, when recovery from the economic troubles of the past decade was still in progress, was a big marker for me. I remember exploring vacant lots, walking past bad neighborhoods, and blessing myself while walking past abandoned houses, and that really left a big footprint on my brain. When Aaron approached me about collaborating on this, an anthology focusing on the idea of “City”, I couldn’t say no–I was hooked on the idea from the word “go”.
4. You’ve both lived in “Lovecraft country,” what do you think differentiates it from the rest of the USA? Do you try to incorporate New England stuff into your stories?
Aaron: I tend to agree with Lovecraft’s original interpretation of the region and why he liked writing things based in New England: we are one of the oldest established areas of the new world and our predecessors were puritans possessed of a certain morbid streak. We also tend to be woodsy and insular, and that contributes well to a feeling that the people in that quaint little town you just visited were hiding something from you in a genial fashion. I definitely incorporate that into stories; Boston is one of my favorite settings in a variety of genres and I feel that it is often passed up in favor of New York, or Chicago, or even Seattle.
Chris: I think a lot of New England’s creep factor has a lot to do with the length of time it’s been settled by Europeans, as Aaron said, but also with the particular immigrant culture. You get all these different, rich folk traditions, all thrown into the same boiling pot, then ladled over the grim, witch-burnin’ Puritan Yankee mindset, and that’s a potent recipe for a haunted area. Plus, the region has every type of landscape–cities, mountains, ocean, forests–lots of places for Things to hide.
5. What books have had the most influence on your writing, and on this anthology in particular?
Aaron: Quite a variety! My biggest personal inspirations have been JRR Tolkien, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman; I consider the three of them master storytellers and reading their books, having feelings pulled from or shoved into my brain by written words, is what got me into writing in the first place. For this specific anthology though, I would say a blend of Gaiman, Lovecraft and perhaps a sprinkling of Charles de Lint. All very good at folding fantasy and horror into modern life without making it seem insane.
Chris: For me, of course, Lovecraft looms large over my stories. I also read some other, more action-oriented pulp stories in the creating of this anthology, and Burroughs’ Carter of Mars stories informed one of the pieces in it in a big way. Gaiman was another, and Stephen King as well. For me, though, everything in my writing toolbox goes back to Harlan Ellison’s brilliant “Deathbird Stories”. It was the book that made me decide that writing was for me, but also that I was made for writing.