Greetings from the Ether,
Our friends at the Shadow Booth are making steady progress with their Kickstarter. This literary journal is going to be out of this world and we are very excited to see the dreams of the editor Dan Coxon and these amazing writers come true. We will be interviewing all of the authors involved to help spread the word.
If you haven’t already, please make sure to stop by and visit their Kickstarter! Some Gehenna & Hinnom products may be awaiting you there.
Alas, let’s begin! We’d like to introduce you to Shadow Booth author Richard Thomas.
CP: You have had wide success in your writing career, appearing in collections such as Burnt Tongues, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, and recently, Doug Murano’s newest anthology Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities, and Undefinable Wonders. You have also had a lot of success with editing, Gamut Magazine being a fantastic publication. What about The Shadow Booth piqued your interest? Why are Dark Fiction and Weird Fiction important?
RT: First of all, I’ve worked with Dan Coxon in the past, and it was a rewarding experience, so when the project was mentioned, I immediately had interest. When I saw the focus of The Shadow Booth, it was a big yes. There is so much exciting work being created in contemporary dark fiction, including the new weird, neo-noir, transgressive fiction, etc., it’s really what I’m most into. I taught a New Weird class at the University of Iowa last summer and it was a blast. Look at the films of A24, and the work that’s in the Best of the Year anthologies. I love the fresh new approach, the way the genres are crossing, expanding, and evolving. From my Contemporary Dark Fiction class here are four books I’m teaching, each doing something innovative—Bird Box by Josh Malerman, Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, All the Beautiful Sinners by Stephen Graham Jones, and Perdido Street Station by China Mieville (which kicked off the new weird movement).
CP: Could you tell us a little about your story “White Picket Fences?” What inspired it, how did it come to fruition?
RT: Sure. It was written for an open call at an anthology entitled, Shadows Over Main Street. I’d previously tried to write a Lovecraftian story for a different anthology and failed miserably. So when I saw this going on, I decided to take another run at it. I did a lot of research about Lovecraft and the traits of his work, and successors. But to get the right 1950s/1960s voice, oddly enough it came from the Joyce Carol Oates story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” There is a subtle supernatural element buried in that story, which I love, and the language is great for the time period. I wanted it to be about the loss of innocence, and the for the ending to unfurl with some wild reveal, some horrific wonder and chaos. Hopefully what I did here works. The last lines have a lot of impact, for me, that denouement at the end, that understanding, and epiphany.
CP: You have used unreliable narration in the past. Do you find this technique to be useful for certain stories? Why do many authors try to steer away from this style of narrative?
RT: I definitely think it works for neo-noir, and also other speculative genres, such as fantasy, SF, and horror. I see a lot of authors working with that POV and similar themes—gaslighting, slippery reality, ambiguous endings, etc. If anything, I think authors are leaning into these kinds of stories, and in fact most of the books I listed above use some variation on this concept. I see it a lot in contemporary film as well, such as the A24 films Enemy, Ex Machina, Under the Skin, The Witch, etc. There is a lot of great work in genre fiction today that is innovative—subtle clues about the true horror, and reality, layers of story and emotion buried under misdirection, sleight of hand, and red herrings.
CP: What about the genre of neo-noir interests you so? Does it go hand-in-hand with Dark and Weird Fiction?
RT: I definitely think neo-noir goes hand in hand with contemporary dark fiction, and the new weird. New weird evolved out of the old weird (Lovecraft) paired with horror (the visceral body horror of Clive Barker). And neo-noir come out of a mix of the hardboiled and horror as well. So there is a lot in common there. What interests me is the atmosphere, the flexibility you have in storytelling to lead the reader down a path, to manipulate them, to leave breadcrumbs, and to play with POV, perspective, the truth, and reality.
CP: What other ventures do you have planned for the future? What can our readers look forward to?
RT: I only have a few stories out this year, so far. “Hiraeth” in Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders, and “Nodus Tollens” in the premiere issue of Deciduous Tales. Both are using strange titles, as you may have noticed, which ties into my desire to write dark magical realism, to play with the ideas of wonder, fantasy, and the darkness.
Hiraeth means a nostalgia or longing for a place you have never been to before; a place that may not have existed. That story is a bit of a risk, the format something I’ve never done before, cutting of the whole first scene, the ending a bit of a hard right turn.
Nodus Tollens is a little more complicated. It’s the realization that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore—that although you thought you were following the arc of the story, you keep finding yourself immersed in passages you don’t understand, that don’t even seem to belong in the same genre—which requires you to go back and reread the chapters you had originally skimmed to get to the good parts, only to learn that all along you were supposed to choose your own adventure.
The only other thing I think I can mention is a story out with Cemetery Dance in 2018, entitled, “Battle Not with Monsters,” definitely an unreliable narrator, with some classic horror elements at the end, the first 2/3rds a paranoid thriller.
Oh, and I’m part of a shared word novelette, “Golden Sun,” written with Damien Angelica Walters, Kristi DeMeester, and Michael Wehunt that just got into Chiral Mad 4. Very excited about that, as well.
Thank you as always for stopping by and please make sure to visit The Shadow Booth and follow us on social media!