You can go on certain websites and see the more than 200 bodies that litter all the routes up Mount Everest today. They don’t remove the bodies. Anybody who pays their fifty or sixty thousand dollars—or more now—to be guided up Everest, essentially you’re using a Jumar—a mechanical ascender on a fixed rope—while your guide helps you get up the hill. They go by dozens of bodies, and the damage to the human body from a high fall is comparable to what my character, Richard Davis Deacons, saw in World War I when artillery shells landed right among men. Just blows people to pieces.
Writers rarely achieve international and multi-genre renown on the basis of just one short story, but that was exactly what happened with Margo Lanagan and “Singing My Sister Down,” which appeared in her collection Black Juice (published by Gollancz in 2004 and HarperCollins in 2005). “Singing My Sister Down” is written from the point of view of a boy watching the slow execution of his sister, and is a spectacular example of how Lanagan’s work provides “a glimpse into weird, wondrous, and sometimes terrifying worlds” (from the starred review for Black Juice in School Library Journal). In 2008, her novel Tender Morsels defied easy categorizations, melding European fairy tales with her own brand of dark fantasy, and once again achieved extraordinary cross-genre success. She has since published three more collections (including Cracklespace in 2012), and the novel The Brides of Rollrock Island, which expanded an earlier novella, Sea Hearts. She is a native of Australia.
It seems slightly unfair (if hardly inaccurate) to label Joe McKinney one of the reigning kings of zombie fiction, because his work has extended beyond the walking dead into ghost stories (his novels Inheritance and Crooked House), virus thrillers (Quarantined), and hardboiled noir (Dodging Bullets). However, McKinney has found the greatest success with his Dead World series, which consists of Dead City (2006), Apocalypse of the Dead (2010), Flesh Eaters (2011), and Mutated (2012), all published by Kensington Books. In addition to being a Bram Stoker Award-winning (for Flesh Eaters) horror writer, McKinney is also a lifelong Texan, a husband and father of two, the holder of a Master’s Degree in English Literature, and a San Antonio police officer who has also worked as a homicide detective and disaster mitigation specialist. McKinney’s next book, The Savage Dead, comes out this month from Kensington.
Joe Hill is the author of the horror novels Heart-Shaped Box and Horns, the short story collection 20th Century Ghosts, and the graphic novel series Locke & Key from IDW. His latest novel NOS4A2 is out now. [Read Part 2 August 28!]
My inspirations were books about supposedly true hauntings and the fact that there was a “haunted house” in my neighborhood . . . right next door, as a matter of fact. But I actually was a big fan of science fiction, and I was doing those kind of stories too, as well as “war stories” starring kids in my classes. Those made me fairly popular because everybody either wanted to survive or die as heroes, and I had their fates in my hands.
Q: You once said, “There’s a true innocence about monsters.” Is there something innocent about the monsters (vampires) in 30 Days of Night? A: In a way, I suppose. They are very pure and honorable among their own kind. They have about as much respect for us as we do cows, so killing humans doesn’t make them any less innocent than us for eating cows and chickens. I think animals and children under two years old are the only innocents left in this world. Monsters are often treated like animals, so . . .
Buildings, and lives, are shaped by their authors. I love the idea of an architect creating a building without Euclidian geometry, where balls always roll into odd places, and floors creak, and when you look at the structure from outside, you have no idea how it stands. A Gaudi without the beauty or respect for nature. For me, that’s a metaphor for a life shaped by uncertainty, like our hero, Audrey Lucas’ life. She’s drawn to The Breviary because it’s familiar. Once inside, she’s shaped by it. Like a plant inside a small, glass cage where light comes from only one direction, she grows crooked.
I read a lot of science, and to me it’s scarier if the horror is backed up by believable science because then it’s part of our world as opposed to something that’s so outré that it’s not a part of our world, it’s not connected to us. It’s not that I don’t like those other kinds of fictions—I read them. But for me as a writer, I want to tell something that would scare me. I’m not scared of supernatural monsters. I am frightened of a bacterial or bio-weapon that is misused, so I write what scares me.
I’m good at this, and I can—just barely—make a living doing this. Now, I try to do it very well, as well as I can do it. There’s no point doing anything unless you bring your best to the effort, and I care very deeply about literature. So, I’m not cranking out crap for a paycheck. I’m bashing my head against a keyboard for a paycheck. I’m scraping out my brain and soul for a paycheck, and I don’t care who finds that analogy overwrought or melodramatic.