Spooklights #17 Charles Martin

We’re broadcasting to you from the Stoned Planet with Charles Martin, the founder and editor of Literati Press Comics & Novels. He joins us to talk small press publishing, indie art, and not eating crayons in the Marine Corps.

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What is High Strange?

What is High Strange?

Well, for starters, it’s the theme of our next anthology, High Strange Horror. It will feature several very talented writers, including Matthew M. Bartlett, Mer Whinery, Charles Martin, Matthew D. Jordan, Doctor Gaines, and more.

It’s a horror anthology. But what kind of horror anthology, exactly? If you spend any amount of time lurking on sites like DarkMarkets.com, you’ll see a new call for submissions every day or so. Typically, some small start-up press (like us!) will be looking for gimmicky stories (“your story MUST contain mutant beaver cyborgs”) or something to do with zombies.

Zombies. Always zombies. Because creativity is dead.

Or, as in the case of Spooklights, the submission guidelines are vague. A story that falls within the realm of “horror” can be anything. So if High Strange Horror isn’t a collection of conventional horror stories—what is it?

There’s never been a time in my life when I didn’t take a strong interest in the paranormal, the occult, the spiritual, the spooky. I may have taken certain subjects less seriously from time to time, but I’ve always been fascinated by strange and bizarre events (“Fortean” events, named after the great alternative philosopher Charles Fort) that are purportedly true. Yes, hoaxes are legion—doctored evidence has only increased with the advent of consumer-level digital photo manipulation tools. That there are pranksters and charlatans out there selling their stories of strange happenings doesn’t disprove all strange happenings. Our oldest and most enduring stories—from dead mythologies to living religious traditions—are often accounts of the bizarre and supernatural. As a Christian, I take the Bible to be a true account of many, many supernatural events. Yahweh Himself is a trickster, confounding the plans of man and spirit-being alike, knocking down towers, raising the dead, and subverting social paradigms. Go read the book of Ezekiel for some really spooky stuff.

Someone you know has probably had a spooky encounter—most likely a ghost experience, or maybe a UFO sighting. Or maybe, just maybe, they’ve had a profound, frightening experience, and they don’t like to talk about it.

That’s the rub, isn’t it? You can dismiss the Ancient Aliens nonsense, scoff at the Ghosthunters, and see the Heaven’s Gate UFO cult for the cranks they were. But that can’t account for the fact that someone you know or trust has probably had an experience they can’t explain.

According to a National Geographic survey from 2012, about 36% of Americans believe in UFOs as inexplicable phenomena. Thats almost 80 million people, give or take. Other surveys put that number even higher. While the popularity of shows like The X-Files and alien abduction films are no doubt contributors to this upswing in the zeitgeist, some of this trend may be due to personal experience, open-mindedness, or the proliferation of baffling accounts in the media. The events in Stevensville Texas in 2008 and at Chicago O’Hare airport in 2006 were major media news stories that attracted the attention of the nation, and, despite the guffawing of mainstream media talking heads and tongue-in-cheek reporting, they defy conventional explanation.

High strange events are not limited to UFO sightings. Almost every region of the United States has its own local legend or monster—Champy in Lake Champlain, the Mothman of West Virginia, Bigfoot in all sorts of places—and, in many cases, these sightings go well beyond implying that there are unidentified animals running around in the hills.

No, not only do Bigfoot sightings happen—but sometimes Bigfoot gets into or out of a UFO. The Mothman flies around your house, and the men in black show up at your place of work. Police chase a hairy half-man across a neighborhood until he leaps over a house. A goblin-like creature warns children away from certain parts of the forest.

High strange is the inexplicable, the nonsensical, the trickster element in the weird and wild. Things just don’t add up, and people are left in the dark with their fears intensified and their worldviews shattered. This, then, is our modern mythology: the fears of the past re-cast as technological angels and demons, the human mind conjuring (or being made to conjure!) dark creatures and psychic phenomena. High strange isn’t just the UFO sighting—it’s the life changing results of seeing and experiencing something that defies any sort of rational understanding of the universe.

High strange is the crumbling of your worldview when you happen to see the small gray men in silver suits running through the moon-lit field. High strange is the fear of the gargoyle creature appearing beside your bed before vanishing in a flurry of your prayers. High strange is the rain of frogs on your wedding day. High strange is the men in Army uniforms with dead eyes that appear at the edge of your campsite, beckoning you to carry a new and terrible message to humanity.

High Strange Horror releases early April, 2015. We hope you’ll join us as we take part in some modern myth-making, and delve into greater and greater depths of fear, paranoia, and the utterly unknowable.

Or, as Charles Fort might put it – we examine the facts of the damned.