RESONATOR: New Lovecraftian Tales From Beyond is in the world! We’re preparing to ship out the fine quality prints of Nick Gucker’s cover art to the lucky four winners of the Pre-Order Contest, and readers are beginning to receive their books in the mail! Can a wholesale dimensional breakdown and general apocalypse be far behind? Gosh, we hope so! While you’re waiting for doom to rain down, though perhaps take a read through this insightful interview that anthology editor Scott R Jones did with RESONATOR author Leeman Kessler! (We’ll be rolling out interviews with most of the contributors over the next two weeks or so, so check back often for added awesome.)
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Well, trust the man who reformats and reinterprets Lovecraft himself for the 21st Century to put a truly unique spin on From Beyond! It’s all there in the title of your story, Deresonator: a machine to counter the effects of Tillinghast’s original contraption. I especially enjoyed your narrator’s voice; he’s essentially an old-school grifter. So, do you come by this voice honestly? Any criminal history in your family?
No criminal history as far as I’m aware although there are an awful lot of pastors and preachers in my family tree and they employ similar showman-like qualities as your average flim-flam man so perhaps I’ve just hit on that racial memory of patter and rhetoric which both helps me as a performer and gave me a fun voice for our hapless narrator in this story.
It’s safe to say you’ve had to steep yourself in Howard (the Man, the Myth, the Mythos) in order to do what you do for Ask Lovecraft. Also, you’re one of the newer writers in this anthology. Have you found that playing a writer on TV has pushed you towards writing? More seriously, is Howie’s phantom hand gently pressed to your writing arm(s)? Is this like a ‘Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore in Ghost’ thing going on? Be honest. We can take it.
Oh man, now I really want to find a way to film or photograph that image so everyone has to experience the horror along with me. I wonder how much Unchained Melody costs these days? Oops, got distracted there. Funnily enough, reading Lovecraft’s fiction and his letters did not in any way give me any sort of writing itch. In truth, I blame the fact that Ask Lovecraft has widened the number of writers I now know and when you spend time with those people, you’re bound to get infected with something. I’m just lucky that this time, I only came away with a mild case of literary inspiration and there are creams for that.
You’re taking Ask Lovecraft on a bit of a festival circuit in 2015. Where will you be seen, and when? Do you have a favourite aspect of live performance?
This year will see me at Cthulhucon in Portland, Oregon this April and then back in Providence for NecronomiCon in August. Live performances are really my favourite part of this whole shebang. My background is in stage acting and while I don’t really work off of a script for my live shows, that energy and immediate feedback one gets from having an audience right in front of you is still so gratifying. I also love being kept on my toes and having to come up with answers for questions on the spot. For the web-series, I mull and I ponder questions and it can take me forever to hone what I think is an acceptable reply but when you’re staring face to face with your inquisitor, you really have to think fast. It’s a completely different part of my brain, almost more muscle memory and reflex than conscious thought and I can’t get enough of it.
RESONATOR: New Lovecraftian Tales From Beyond is in the world! Pre-orders have been filled and shipped, and that tingle you feel between your eyes is anticipation! Also, your pineal gland. DOING IT’S THANG. No, no, the ointment won’t help this time… but perhaps this insightful interview that anthology editor Scott R Jones did with RESONATOR author Matthew M. Bartlett will! (We’ll be rolling out interviews with most of the contributors over the next two weeks or so, so check back often for added awesome.)
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Matthew, you’re the author of maybe the most genuinely weird collection of stories I (and many others) read and enjoyed last year, Gateways to Abomination. Can you speak a little bit about your strange locale of Leeds, MA,and its connection to your story in the anthology, Machine Will Start When You Are Start?
In reality, Leeds is a village in the western part of Northampton, Massachusetts. The fictional Leeds is Northampton viewed through a funhouse mirror…or maybe a spookhouse mirror. Northampton still looks very much the way it did in the 1800s – most of the buildings are still there; only the banners and signs change. That visual proximity to the past is a daily source of inspiration for me. It is an art town, a liberal town, and as such it attracts a lot of New Agers, psychics, and weirdos in general. The Leeds of Gateways to Abomination is a place that draws witches, revenants, and wicked men. In my imagination I live on a line between my fictional Leeds and the real Northampton.
The guiding force behind the bad juju in Leeds (and beyond) is a corporation called Annelid Industries International (A.I.I.). In Machine Will Start When You Are Start, A.I.I. is the manufacturer, or, perhaps the distributor, of a knockoff of the Tillinghast Resonator. Or maybe it’s the “real” thing, acquired, repurposed as an “adult toy,” and then sold. Who can say?
Your writing has a wonderful visceral quality to it. Machine Will Start… is punchy, almost gonzo body-horror with a high surrealist edge. Who are your influences?
As you might expect, at least as far as Machine Will Start… is concerned, there’s a little bit of Cronenberg in there, a dash of Stephen King, a little Burroughs, even Donald E. Westlake. In general, I like my stuff dark…Ligotti, of course, Mark Samuels, Aickman, Lovecraft. There are too many contemporary authors to list, but I’ve definitely felt the influence of Scott Nicolay, Laird Barron, Scott Thomas, Ian Rogers, and others in the pieces I’m working on now.
This story is one of three in the anthology that pulls inspiration from the overcharged sexuality of Stuart Gordon’s film adaptation of From Beyond. Sex and horror are of course great bedfellows; do you find the pairing of the two easy, or is it a fine line to walk? Is it possible to cross the line, and how would you know if you did?
When I started this story, it was my intention to cross the line, to make myself uncomfortable, to do something that wouldn’t have fit at all in Gateways. In general I prefer to leave sex out of my fiction, or at least any description of sex, unless there’s something deeply twisted about it. This story seemed to unspool onto the page. It was terrific fun to write.
What’s coming up for you in 2015, Matthew?
So far I have new stories due to be published in High Strange Horror from Muzzleland Press, in Xnoybis, a Weird Fiction journal from Dunham’s Manor Press, and in the New England Horror Writers’ third anthology. In the next month or so I’ll be self-publishing an illustrated chapbook called The Witch-Cult in Western Massachusetts. The end of the year will see the release of my follow-up to Gateways to Abomination, a book maybe double the length of Gateways, with longer stories. That will be published by Muzzleland Press.
RESONATOR: New Lovecraftian Tales From Beyond drops today FRIDAY MARCH 13th! Today is the day we pull names from some kind of container to see which 4 of our pre-ordering Migraineers will be the lucky bastards to win the sweet original art by Nick Gucker that we used for the cover! That’s later on… in the meantime read this swell interview that anthology editor Scott R Jones did with RESONATOR author Christopher Slatsky! (We’ll be rolling out interviews with most of the contributors over the next two weeks or so, so check back often for added awesome.)
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Christopher, as I read your story, Film Maudit, I was put in mind of the urban legend that surrounds the 1895 showing of the Lumiere Brothers film, L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat: basically, viewers at the time were said to recoil in terror at the image of the train pulling in at speed, largely because no one at the time was used to the immediacy of the medium. Movies have always had this aspect of altered reality, and a good movie, shown in the black cavern of a theatre, can be completely transporting. Your titular film is of course anything but Good, and the addition of a Resonator-type spookshow gimmick machine makes of the film a portal into hell. You’re clearly a film buff: what movies have had a profound effect on you, and why?
Of course there are dozens, but those that invariably rise to the surface are the usual dark fantasy and noir film suspects: Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, Dawn of the Dead, Kwaidan, Scarlet Street, John Carpenter’s The Thing, The Spirit of the Beehive, anything by Maya Derren, specifically Meshes of the Afternoon. In fact Meshes was screening in my head the whole time I was writing Film Maudit.
I’ve seen you mention elsewhere that you’re more interested in writing stories that chronicle the moment before an apocalypse than the moments that come after. Once the horror is revealed, do you think there is anything more to be said about, say, the human condition, or our place in the universe? Or is post-apocalyptic horror fiction just so much fantasy-fueled gilding of the lily?
I prefer the insinuation of Armageddon, the circumstances and emotions that accompany the descent to the End. There are some who can masterfully chronicle the lives of those after the Fall (McCarthy’s The Road and Tim Lebbon’s Naming of the Parts are two great examples of post-apocalyptic tales that gut-punched me), but for the most part I find such stories seem more concerned with inventories, stockpiling and survival preparation, rather than any meaningful examination.
Post-apocalyptic tales lean towards a literature of comfort, of celebrating the attempt to return to the status quo, or a semblance of some such. I prefer horror that unsettles so profoundly the reader is left wondering why they’d even settled into whatever complacent worldview they held before reading the tale. The plummet down the well is more interesting to me than what happens when they hit the bottom.
What’s coming up for you in the next months, Christopher? Anything special we should be on the lookout for?
I have a tale in the premiere issue of the new weird journal Xnoybis, a story in The Summer of Lovecraft anthology coming up, and a collection in the works, tentatively scheduled to be released at the end of the year. And I also have the usual short stories in limbo and a novel in the works.