Brandon Barrows, the author of The Altar in the Hills and This Rough Old World joins us to talk weird fiction, comics writing, and more.
Faithful Frighteners is a series of interviews with persons of faith in the horror and weird fiction scenes. You can read previous interviews here.
Denver native, husband, and father, Thomas C Mavroudis possesses an MFA from the University of California, Riverside, where he studied under Stephan Graham Jones. He is the co-founder of the serial fiction blog Saturday Morning Serial (saturdaymorningserial.net) and his publishing credits include Crosscurrents, Dreaming in R’lyeh, Turn to Ash, and Terror in 16-bits.
How, when, and why did you get into horror culture (film, literature, video games, etc)?
I was into monsters as far back as I can remember: dinosaurs, of course, Greek mythology and the Universal Pantheon. My sister had a poster of the Creature from the Black Lagoon on her wall. The text on the poster read Who peed in the pool?, but still. Seeing Star Wars as a four-year-old when it came out was a huge influence on me. However, I was actually a big crybaby for a long time regarding actual horror. If there was blood involved, or a skull, I couldn’t handle it. I remember coming across the Creepshow comic under my sister’s bed and being physically sick by Bernie Wrightson’s illustrations. I also couldn’t stop looking at it.
What is your faith? How did you come to it (conversion, generational)?
I was born and raised in the Greek Orthodox Church.
What are its fundamental doctrines or principles?
Essentially, the Greek, and other Eastern Orthodox traditions, maintain the form of Christianity established by the Nicene Creed in 325 and the subsequent Ecumenical council. The foundation of our faith in simple terms is we believe in the consubstantiality of the Trinity and the hypostatic union of Jesus Christ. Very funky mystical stuff. To us, the Creed is our calling card, or better yet, our mission statement. The Golden Rule is very dear to us, as well.
How does your faith inform your consumption of horror culture?
I think being a believer in a faith tradition, especially one that celebrates mysteries, allows a degree more of freedom in suspending measures of belief. Because I believe in transubstantiation, for instance, there is a part of me that believes sometime in human history, vampirism may have been a real condition. That sounds kooky, I know. But in a way, like Special Agent Fox Mulder of the X-Files, I want to believe, and I think people of faith are more open to believing than not.
How does your faith inform your creation of horror art?
The traditions of my faith are very mystical, and that has had an overwhelming influence on my work. The symbolism of the liturgical rituals, albeit often time-consuming, are beautiful, powerful and virtually unchanged over many, many centuries.
Do you see a conflict between your faith and horror culture or your own work?
I actually don’t. And in my family, my interest in monsters never conflicted either. However, any sort of devil or Satanic imagery of course terrified me. Now, this is a funny story that maybe says I’m wrong: the priests offer home blessings after the new year, and the year I had several members of my family die, when the priests came to bless the house, the head priest noticed the skulls and other morbid artifacts in my office—my wife was happy my tarot cards were put away, and I don’t think he knew what my plush Cthulhu was, which is probably a blessing. Anyway, he said we needed “to talk.” The other priest was impressed by my guitar pedals, so I don’t know.
How does being a person of faith affect you amidst the weird lit community’s prevailing popular notions of cosmicism, atheism, anti-natalism, etc.?
As I’m just coming into the community as a writer, it hasn’t affected me yet and I’m not sure how it will, but that is why being a part of Faithful Frighteners really struck me. I wanted to be a positive point of view from the other side.
Do you view the horror/weird lit communities as hostile or welcoming to diverse perspectives on faith, including more traditional viewpoints?
I don’t know yet. From personal experience, unless they are close friends or acquaintances, the atheists I’ve encountered in my daily life are hostile; particularly because I’m educated. Hostile is too strong—condescending is more accurate.
Do you see your faith as being a part of your work in any way, including a missional sense?
My faith is a big part of my work. Not necessarily the actual text, but choices I make in writing. Sometimes, I get too caught up in the esoterica of my faith, and have to back out of it a little on the rewrites. A very specific place my faith does appear on the page is in my stories that attempt to reconcile Greek Orthodoxy with ancient Greek paganism. The majority of Greece is Eastern Orthodox, but the people are still so tied to the Olympians because their temples and statures are everywhere. Greek mythology is so universal, I’m not sure how much the rest of the world realizes how close we (Greek people) are to it still. The blend of the two is a very cool, fun space to play in.
How do others in your faith group view horror culture?
I think in general it’s similar to my views. Except for that one priest who gave me a talking to.
How do they react to your own work, or your profession as a horror writer?
As far as I can tell, they are proud to have a Greek on the bookshelves that isn’t a political or economic analyst or comedian. Of course, I’m not on any bookshelves so I don’t know who I’m talking about.
How would/do you evangelize or explain horror to other, perhaps more conservative, persons in your faith group? Can a faith-based argument be made for engaging with horror?
I think the easiest way to evangelize horror to any group of people is in supporting its most basic level: entertainment. And the entertainment value is conjoined to horror’s sense of wonder and mystery. This allows for recommending gateway works like Frankenstein or Poe, works considered classic English literature as much as horror.
What are your past or future projects that are informed by your faith? How have your past projects with these themes or ideas been received?
Both of my works (Bergdorf & Associates and Dragon Fall) with Saturday Morning Serial (https://saturdaymorningserialblog.wordpress.com/) are steeped in religion; Dragon Fall is more reminiscent of my Christianity, however, but entirely different. Ritual and tradition play a big role in the novel I’ve been assembling for a few years now. I find the development of religion as a character trait lends itself better to longer works. As I think about it, my short work so far doesn’t contain many references.
Jeremy Robert Johnson joins us to discuss horror-as-influence on a not-necessarily-a-horror-author, SKULLCRACK CITY, ENTROPY IN BLOOM, night terrors, rural vs. urban, and so much more. Dude’s an excellent writer, humble and hungry AF, and you’d do well to read his work. Also I mumble-mouth my way through the opening description, and at some point we talk about drugs.
Music by Terrortron: terrortron.bandcamp.com/
Faithful Frighteners is a series of interviews with people of faith in the horror and weird fiction scenes.
M.S. Corley is a freelance illustrator and graphic designer specializing in book covers and character design. His work also includes video game concept art and comic book art. His clients include Simon & Schuster, Thomas & Mercer, Crossing, Skyscape, 47North, Valancourt Books, Henry Holt Macmillan, Dark Horse Comics, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Microsoft, and Random House.
JR: How, when, and why did you get into horror culture (film, literature, video games, etc)?
MC: I never thought of it exactly as a culture, but I remember being very young and going into libraries and I’d go to the ‘paranormal’ section of the books, look up things like bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster, UFOs, ghosts, etc. I’ve always had a fascination with the supernatural and unexplainable but I’m not sure of the root cause for that, I’ve had my own experiences but that didn’t come til much later in life so I don’t know the exact genesis…
But since the beginning, literature in specific has been what I’ve been interested in, I’m not a huge fan of horror movies (can’t stand gore of any kind) but I do really enjoy the classic universal monster movies—would those be considered horror? They have monsters and stuff but they aren’t scary, great atmosphere. At the end of the day that’s what I like. Give me the fear without having to kill things in an absurd manner.
Alex Smith is the author of Muzzleland Press’ latest novella, HIVE, a Cronenbergian descent into urban paranoia, reproduction, body horror, abortion, and so much more.
What is HIVE?
HIVE is a short book about a couple that move to a nice new apartment in Queens, only to find their darkest fears about parenthood, life, death, and birth will be realized. HIVE is so short that saying more gives it away. I had this great experience of reading a short book called The Beckoning Fair One from start to finish on a flight from New York to Las Vegas. I wanted to write something that could be read in one or two sittings (with or without air travel) but that had enough substance to feel like a light meal, not a snack. I like to think of HIVE as a horror story where the characters matter as much as the horror.
Author and editor Tom Breen of Orford Parish Books joins us to talk his career, life, DIY, his childhood travails with horror, and more.
Faithful Frighteners is a series of interviews with persons of faith in the horror and weird fiction scenes.
Leeman Kessler is a Nigerian-born American actor who, since 2010, has been depicting H.P. Lovecraft on stage and online as part of his popular web-series, Ask Lovecraft. He is a co-host on the horror podcast Miskatonic Musings as well as the Christian/Pop-Culture podcast Geekually Yoked. He is a missionary kid married to an Episcopal priest and spends most of his day chasing after his daughter Amanda. His short fiction has appeared in Resonator, Cthulhu Lies Dreaming, and Weirdbook #32.
JR: How, when, and why did you get into horror culture (film, literature, video games, etc)?
LK: I was a Blockbuster junkie in high school and even wound up working there over many summer and winter breaks during undergrad. The horror section was one I returned to again and again. I loved the cheese and the ridiculousness and the sense that those movies were getting away with something. I was more a fan of the comic supernatural series like Leprechaun or Child’s Play or Night of the Demons than slashers or suspense horror. Continue reading “Faithful Frighteners: Leeman Kessler”