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Ghosts, Ghouls, and things that go bump in the night…

October 23, 2011

Arts & Literature, Interviews

by Alex Mcdermott:

Gothic horror was a staple of the 1800’s and early 1900’s with everything from short stories and poetry to full-length novels. Master storytellers like Lovecraft, Poe, Maupassant, and Stoker haunted the literary world. Writers like Yeats even dabbled in the genre! Where did this tradition go in the modern world? Right into the pages of a new anthology! Enter at Your Own Risk: Old Masters, New Voices is a unique combination of the greatest Gothic writers of yesteryear and the best of today’s modern Gothic authors! Literary horror as it’s known today still haunts the pages and Dr. Alex Scully searched the crypts, mausoleums, and haunted houses for the creepiest collection you can find this Halloween. I sat down with the mad doctor to discuss this disturbing venture!

Alex Mcdermott: What inspired you to step into publishing with this anthology?

Click here to purchase Verland: The Transformation on Amazon.com

Alex Scully: As I mention in the introduction to the anthology, this all started over a bottle of wine! Seriously, as I ventured into marketing with AS Promotions and Verland: The Transformation, I began to realize that the horror genre had a huge hole in it. There were people out there who loved the classic Gothic literature–literary horror, in modern terms–but there just wasn’t enough available. Reviews of Verland often pointed out the powerful thematic elements instead of excessive violence and gore. I then read several collections of Gothic literature from the 1800s and I knew there was an audience out there for this sort of material. Soooo… off I went on this mad adventure!

AM: How did you select the classic stories?

AS: I wanted names people would recognize… Poe, Stoker, Maupassant, Lovecraft. After that, I focused on two elements. First, I wanted stories that weren’t widely read. As brilliant as “The Tell-tale Heart” is, we have all read it countless times! Poe’s “The Ligeia” is one of his earliest stories, first published in1838, and not widely published now. Who knew Yeats wrote horror? Second, I wanted stories that matched the modern writers. I chose a variety of different styles… ghost stories, hauntings, and of course, the vampire!

AM: There’s a theme to the anthology. Can you give us more details?

AS: I started off with just this crazy idea to publish an anthology. As I really thought about it, I developed the idea of pairing old masters, like Poe, with new voices—hence the title! There are quite a few authors out there writing stories that don’t fit the violent, gore/ splatter market. I did a short stint as a slush reader, and I saw great stories overlooked in favor of more graphic material even though the magazine said it wanted material more like Poe and other Gothic writers! These writers were capturing the tone, atmosphere, attitude, and themes of the Gothic masters. So as you read the anthology, each modern writer has an old master as his/ her counterpart!

AM: There’s a short story by Stoker that closes out the anthology. Tell us about the unique history of that one!

AS: Every great author edits, cuts, and edits a bit more. I’ve had authors tell me the editing process can be as long as the writing itself. Stoker was no exception, of course. Scholars believe that Dracula’s Guest was originally written as a chapter of the full-length novel Dracula. Somewhere in the editing process, it was cut. It doesn’t fit with the epistolary style of the novel at all, but it makes for an incredible short story! It’s paired with a modern vampire tale in a similar vein. Both stories portray the vampire as a creature with compelling, yet ultimately repellent, powers rather than the boyfriend/ sex symbol image.

AM: Tell us a little about the themes you were looking for in the stories.

AS: I wanted stories that inspired thought, debate, and conversation. Gore and violence are a part of horror, but for me the more intense kind of fear lies elsewhere. Literary horror writers blend the fear factor with the skilled writing of literary fiction, and thus create work that transcends the stereotypical horror material. I received a huge quantity of material, much of it excellent horror! I was looking for those writers that could capture the Gothic essence in a modern voice—not an easy feat!

AM: What is modern Gothic literature to you?

AS: Wow… that’s a tough one. When you read Poe, Stoker, Lovecraft, and the other old masters, they had an essence, for lack of a better word. They knew how to write and I’m not sure I can explain it any better! They could manipulate the reader through words, ideas, themes, and tone rather than bludgeoning like a blunt axe. It’s often in what they did not say–the fear of the unknown, the unexplainable–that made their stories so compelling. In “The Apparition” by Guy de Maupassant, for example, no one dies. No one is torn apart. There is no Satanic worship or serial killer. But you are unnerved at the end… what is it? What really happened? Why? The story makes you think as you hesitate to turn out the light… that’s Gothic! Modern writers far too often fall back on cliché instead of skill. It’s easy to write. Anyone can plop words on a page. But to write… that’s different. Modern Gothic is exactly like old Gothic… if the dark feels different… it’s Gothic!

AM: What scares you?

AS: Rotten writing! LOL! On a more serious note, psychological terror is frightening. Stepping into the unknown… the darkness of the mind. When you travel down those paths you are exploring the darkest recesses of yourself. Rip an arm off and you turn my stomach… tap into my subconscious and you scare me to death…

AM: Do you see another anthology at some point?

AS: Yes! I’m a member of the Horror Writer’s Association and there is a lot of talk right now about the demise of the short story market. Magazines are folding left and right. The Absent Willow Review just folded and it’s one in a long line. Anthologies are a great way to get short stories out readers. I love the short story format! In addition, it’s also a great way to get those Gothic stories out to the readers who want literature rather than blood and guts—or at least with their blood guts!

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Alex Mcdermott and Alex Scully are both featured members of DarkMediaCity, a free social network for those who like it Dark.  Whether it be literature or film, horror or sci-fi, paranormal romance or paranormal investigation, we’ve got something for you.  www.DarkMediaCity.com

To purchase a copy of “Enter at Your Own Risk: Old Masters, New Voices” on Amazon.com, please click here.

(All interviews are the exclusive property of DarkMedia, and may not be reproduced or shared without permission, excepting links to the interview.)

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One Comment on “Ghosts, Ghouls, and things that go bump in the night…”

  1. B.E. Scully Says:

    I was so excited to be a part of this anthology, as the idea of exploring classic Gothic literature alongside the modern revealed all kinds of exciting similarities AND differences in regard to theme, style, characters… The more the strange and creepy changes, the more it stays insane!

    Reply

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