Come Freely, Go Safely: Dracula Returns, Scott Handcock Rules!

“Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring.” Today The Voice of Horror is back with a shudder. Earlier this year we were bowled over by Big Finish’s version of William Hope Hodgson’s tales. Now they have expanded their classics again with a major three hour production of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, starring none other than Mark Gatiss. And we have a brand new interview with ace audio producer Scott Handcock, who made it all happen.

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Big Finish have been known for a while for their extensive range of cult audio, including of course Dr Who, but what interests us in particular is their growing range of adaptations based on classic supernatural and horror tales, such as Dorian Gray, Frankenstein, and the afore mentioned Carnacki (see the starkey stratagem).

Their Dracula was released on Thursday 26th May, 119 years to the day after the novel’s first publication. It’s a full-cast production, and we should rightly credit all the talent involved:

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Mark Gatiss (Count Dracula), Joseph Kloska (Jonathan Harker), Deirdre Mullins (Mina Murray), Nigel Betts (Abraham Van Helsing), Rupert Young (John Seward), Alex Jordan (Arthur Holmwood), David Menkin (Quincey P. Morris), Rosanna Miles (Lucy Westenra), Elizabeth Morton (Mary Westenra), Ian Hallard (Renfield), Edward Petherbridge (Mr Swales), and Katy Manning (Sister Agatha).

Before we talk to Scott, we’ll share some of our own thoughts, something we tend only to do with audio productions. The audiobook provides three hours and fourteen minutes of drama, plus a bonus fifty minutes of background material – opinions, cast interviews, music and so on. And did we enjoy it? Indeed we did. It was notable because of three things:

  • It drew us away from the many re-interpretations and variants on the Dracula/vampire theme that have accumulated, particularly over the last couple of decades, and made us want to go back and read Stoker’s original for the first time in years. It was something akin to a purging of all the weird re-imaginings. At the end of the audio we thought: Gosh, that’s actually quite a good story. We’d almost forgotten.
  • Gatiss is excellent, as we’d hoped and as you might expect, and it’s a great cast in general. However, Deirdre Mullins is outstanding as Mina Harker. From beginning to end, her performance is so striking and engaging that we were rooting for her more than for anyone else in the story, and towards the end our main concern was that she, of all of them, would survive. This was a real surprise, and we can only hope that she does more work in this area.
  • We are admittedly becoming the strangest of creatures, Scott Handcock groupies, if such a thing is possible. Carnacki was terrifically well done (not forgetting Dan Starkey’s outstanding performance as Carnacki himself, of course). This adaptation of Dracula again asserts the value of a well-produced audio play as compared to film and TV. The atmosphere, and the immediacy of engagement with the characters through their voices, made it a pleasure.

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Mark Gatiss, famed for his involvement in Sherlock, Dr Who, The League of Gentlemen and other series, has played a vampire before  – Mr Snow, in TV’s Being Human. He has a long association with horror, including examinations of M R James’ work, and made a three-part BBC documentary series entitled A History of Horror, a personal exploration of the history of horror cinema.

(As a trivia aside, Gatiss  met his League of Gentlemen co-writers and performers at Bretton Hall, a drama school not that far from the greydog kennels in  Yorkshire.)

“(Dracula) is a part I’ve always wanted to play – and I’ve been rehearsing for 48 years,” says Gatiss.”You may be able to tell that in the relish and bloodied glee in which I approach this role!’

He also commented in a Dr Who-related interview for scifibulletin, when asked about his role in Dracula:

“…I had a wonderful time. It was all very close-mic work and I loved it all. I watched a few Hungarian language things – [Transylvania] was actually Hungary not Romania at the time – and they all sound just like Bela Lugosi but you’ve got to be careful, I think, because it has been mocked so much. You either go the urbane Christopher Lee route or do the Hungarian thing – I’ve settled for something in between.”

Gatiss delivers a subtle performance, full of quiet threat rather than mad cape-swirling, and all the better for it. And as he says, his accent is enough to give depth but not so much that it becomes a stereotype. You genuinely get the feeling that people have no choice except to do what he says. When he tells Jonathan Harker to start writing letters home, and you realise that Harker may be doomed, you get a real chill.

But let us move on to producer/director Scott Handcock, who makes a welcome return to greydogtales to give us a view from the inside…

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greydog: Great to have you back with us, Scott, and with such a cool production – Dracula. We’d normally ask you how you’ve been and chat a bit, but we suspect our listeners are here to get the low-down on this new adaptation, so we’ll be business-like. Firstly, Mark Gatiss. How did you get him on-board (apart from paying him, of course)?

scott: I’ve known Mark for a good few years, ever since my days at BBC Wales. He’s one of those people who’s effortlessly pleasant. No matter what your role or status on a production, he likes to know who you are and what you do, so I’ve encountered him on and off since my days on Doctor Who Confidential.

I then heard on the grapevine, following my production of The Picture of Dorian Gray, that he’d rather liked to have played the part of Harry Wotton, so naturally I started forming ideas to get him on board for something else. Following my production of Frankenstein with Arthur Darvill, Dracula was the next logical step for the gothic trilogy, and obviously there was no better fit for the role than Mark! So I dropped him a quick note, sounded him out, and he instantly came back to me with a yes.

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greydog: We can certainly see him in the role of the older, hedonistic aristocrat Wotton. So, for this production did you negotiate the take you wanted on the character between you, or did Mark already have his own ideas of how he wanted to portray Dracula?

scott: I think characterisation comes primarily from the script, and it was clear from Jonathan Barnes’ brilliant adaptation that this was a very straight take on the character. Mark came in with his own interpretation and ideas, but they pretty much matched my own. Neither of us wanted this to be a caricature, so although there is an accent, it isn’t too pronounced. Rather than make him a monster, he’s very much a man, which in a way makes him more frightening.

greydog: We’ve heard his performance, reminding us that he has that ability to convey a deep, disturbing menace. We imagine that this works particularly well in a sound studio.

scott: The advantage of the audio medium means you can really measure a performance and lend your performance an intimacy you might not otherwise have on screen. Mark’s Dracula is terrifying because he’s so contained. He knows how powerful he is, so he doesn’t need to rant or rave. It’s brilliantly judged!

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greydog: The adaptation was written by Jonathan Barnes, who already has an eye for Victorian period detail. Not only did he write the period horror The Somnambulist, but are we right that he did the dramatisation for your production of Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus?

scott: Absolutely! We had a blast working on Frankenstein, and it was out of the success of that production that we got the green light for this one. Jonathan really knows his stuff, and how to pace a potentially unwieldy novel over the space of three hours. And like his previous work, the joy of his script for Dracula is how identifiable the world and characters are. It’s a period story, yes, but by focusing on the characters and their relationships, it draws the listener in. You really care about the characters and the hold that Dracula has over every one of them.

greydog: Dracula has been adapted and re-interpreted many times. From the length of this offering (three hours) and the size of the cast, this seems to be a pretty faithful adaptation. Were there sections which you and Jonathan had to cut or re-interpret to fit the running time?

scott: By its very nature, any adaptation requires a degree of compromise. You can’t include absolutely everything from the original work – otherwise you’re just doing a reading – but Jonathan’s been very smart in including all the things people think they know about Dracula, whilst also working in a lot of the forgotten details and characters too. So we have Mr Swales, the wolf enclosure, and all manner of other sequences that are easily omitted from most modern interpretations. Plus we have all three of Lucy’s suitors. It really is a packed and faithful retelling – and one that really makes the most of its extended run time.

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joseph kloska (jonathan harker)

greydog: As far as the cast goes, we see that you’re back with Joseph Kloska (playing Jonathan Harker), who was Dodgson to Dan Starkey’s Carnacki in the Hope Hodgson stories you released earlier this year. Deirdre Mullins is playing Mina, Nigel Betts is van Helsing and even the smaller parts include some intriguing contributions – you have Edward Petherbridge, for example, who we remember for his stylish Lord Peter Wimsey at the BBC, and Katy Manning, immortalised as Jo during Jon Pertwee’s Dr Who.

scott: I’ve been hugely lucky with my cast on Dracula. With the exception of Nigel Betts and Edward Petherbridge, I’ve worked with most of the others a few times before, so it created a real sense of family. Everyone who comes in to work with Big Finish loves the company atmosphere. We work very hard, but we have a lot of fun doing so, and tackling something as well-known as Dracula really focussed everyone even before we entered the studio. Each of us has an idea of the story, and the weight of the characters and narrative, so it was remarkably easy to form the relationships between characters that guide the listener through. Deirdre Mullins as Mina is especially impressive, literally holding the story together from the very beginning. But everyone else is magnificent too! I couldn’t ask for a single line to have been played any differently…

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deirdre mullins (mina harker)

greydog: Deirdre is a marvellous Mina Harker indeed. So, you’re both producer and director. Is it somewhat nerve-wracking doing a full cast production like this, as compared to readings or limited-cast dramatisations?

scott: Every project’s different, if I’m honest. Something like Dracula isn’t any more nerve-wracking than a more straightforward reading – you still have to pay the same attention to detail, so the process in studio is much the same whatever you’re recording. The difference comes beforehand. A project that spans three days usually means leaping around the narrative to make the most of different people’s availabilities (no point keeping people hanging around if they’re not needed), so as a director, you really need to know the script inside-out, so performances match from one scene to the next, even if they’re recorded days apart. But I love that aspect to the bigger productions. It makes it a bit more of a challenge…

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nigel betts (van helsing)

greydog: And given that we have no experience in this area whatsoever, how much studio time do these longer productions need? Are we normally talking a couple of straight, one-take performances which are then edited, or weeks of calling people in, separate recordings and re-takes?

scott: We usually record an hour a day. Sometimes the studio days can be spread out over a few weeks, as with Frankenstein, but we were lucky on Dracula to have three consecutive days to really focus everyone. Rather than one big read through of the entire three hours, which would most likely wear everyone out, we tackle a scene at a time. Read it through, then record, with several takes to work with in the edit. It’s a brilliant way of working that really helps keep the energy up, and I honestly couldn’t tell you which sequences were recorded on which day any more! It’s just one long terrifying story…

greydog: We’d better let you get some rest. Many thanks for your time – you are, of course, now our favourite audio producer – and we thoroughly enjoyed immersing ourselves in Dracula. We also hope that you’ll keep in touch over anything you do on the dark and supernatural side.

You can buy Dracula here:

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And Scott has since promised to come back and talk about the final series of his Confessions of Dorian Gray production in the autumn, so we might go Dorian-mad later in the year.

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Back in a couple of days, and do subscribe if you want to know when we have a new feature out. Take care out there…

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Cthulhu May Not Live Here Any More

Welcome, dear listener, to our final Lovecraftian feature of the weekend. Today we mark the recent release of The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, with exclusive commentary by authors John Langan and Michael Wehunt on their contributions to the anthology. And after that we bump into Bobby Derie’s Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos, more of a reference book but no less interesting. Both books might be called post-Lovecraftian, but in quite different ways. Oh, and we drift off into HPL and Hamlet later, but that sort of thing happens here…

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We’ll start with Paula Guran’s new anthology of recent fiction by a terrific range of writers – The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu. Paula is senior editor for Prime Books, and edits the annual Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror series as well as other anthologies. Her work has won many plaudits – she has twice received the Stoker Award and twice been nominated for a World Fantasy Award. In her introduction to TMBoC, she says:

What I term “New Lovecraftian” fiction seldom attempts (although it does occasionally) to emulate Lovecraft’s writing style – a style that’s faults are, admittedly, many. Written with a fresh appreciation of Lovecraft’s universe, its writers do not imitate; they re-imagine, re-energise, renew, re-set, respond to, and make Lovecraftian concepts relevant for today.

New Lovecraftian fiction sometimes simply has fun with what are now well-established genre themes. Authors often intentionally subvert Lovecraft’s bigotry while still paying tribute to his imagination.

Yesterday we featured Dreams from the Witch House, edited by Lynne Jamneck (see voices from the witch house), and three of the writers from Witch House are also represented in this collection – Caitlin R Kiernan, Lois H Gresh and Amanda Downum – alongside other familiar names such as Laird Barron, Michael Shea and W H Pugmire.

Long-time listeners will know that this isn’t a review site, though we admit that we are enjoying the anthology. We thought that rather than rattle on, it would be more interesting to hear from a couple of TMBoC’s contributing authors. We were therefore delighted when John Langan and Michael Wehunt kindly agreed to say something about their stories especially for greydogtales. Both, purely by coincidence, reference music, and both give insights into the tales they spun for the collection. Here they are, for your listening pleasure…

Notes on “Outside the House, Watching for Crows”

John Langan

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I wrote roughly the first half of this story six or seven years ago, possibly a little more. Up until this point, I had studiously avoided writing about adolescents, in large part because so much horror fiction focuses on this age bracket (think Something Wicked This Way Comes, It, Shadowland, A Boy’s Life, Ghoul, etc.) and I wanted to distinguish myself by doing something different. But I had an idea I would write about music, about a cassette tape whose songs come to inhabit the listener’s consciousness. And for reasons I’m not certain of (my twenty year high school reunion, which I’d skipped but was still in my mind?), when I started writing the story, it was about the tail end of my junior year in high school. I powered through the story until the narrator attends his junior prom, and read most of what I’d written at that year’s Readercon—after which, my friends who’d come to the reading asked me what came next. I told them I didn’t know: I was still writing the story.

In fact, I would be writing it for the next half a dozen or so years. Beyond what I’d already set down, I couldn’t work out where the story was supposed to go. I knew the weird tape the narrator was listening to, the music that had become his personal soundtrack, was going to lead him somewhere, but I could not work out what that destination was. So I pretty much left the story to percolate, returning to it every now and again to tweak a word choice or sentence, waiting for the Fornits to work out the rest of it.

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This didn’t happen until I finished my second novel, The Fisherman. There’s a long story in the middle of the book—a novella, really—which involves some pretty far out stuff, including an old, frightening city on the shore of a black ocean, whose police force is not quite human. In the process of writing several other stories (including “Bor Urus,” “Mother of Stone,” and “Shadow and Thirst”) I had found connections between them and the material of the novel, particularly the neighborhood of that city.

When Paula Guran invited me to contribute something to the Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, I thought about that unfinished story and realized that the answer to its second half lay in The Fisherman and those other stories connected to it. There’s no need to have read any of the other stuff to appreciate this story (honestly, even if you do go through it all, it’s as much a series of hints and suggestions as it is anything more coherent at this point). What that material did was provide me a way to reflect on the desire—so strong in adolescence, but not absent from the rest of life—to break out of this existence, to find a way to something else, something different, something (maybe) more. Sometimes, the answer to the challenge you’re facing now comes from something you haven’t done yet.

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Notes on “I Do Not Count the Hours”

Michael Wehunt

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When Paula Guran asked me to write a story for The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, I fainted. When I came to, I started thinking that I wanted to use music as the backbone of what would become “I Do Not Count the Hours.” I also wanted some creepy video footage, and I wanted to use a main character Lovecraft would not have approved of.

I wanted this latter because Lovecraft’s protagonists tended to be academics and men of science. Invariably white men. Ada Blount is a young black woman, short and petite, a deeply sheltered and codependent woman. And the story is entirely about her. She plays music, and in light of Lovecraft’s views, I thought the viola was a good choice, as it is the forgotten sibling of the famous violin and cello. But it features in nearly every string quartet, and it is just as essential.

My intent was not truly to address Lovecraft’s racism in this story. Others have done so wonderfully. I really only tried to give a voice to someone he would not have given a voice to. Otherwise the story just wants to be creepy as hell with a little beauty in the darkness. Several months later I would write a brother to “I Do Not Count the Hours.” It’s called “Drawing God” and it will be published late this year, I believe. There are slight parallels between the two stories, a sort of shared world, but in this newer story Lovecraft himself is brought more into the foreground, and I’m not particularly kind to him. Writing this second story exorcised my thoughts on the matter.

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But he did give us a deeper fascination with the cosmos and our granular role in it, and for all his unforgivable warts as a man, his fiction does live on for a good reason. I don’t think cosmic horror will ever truly leave my bloodstream, and he’s an indelible part of it.

As for Ada, she has had a hard life. A singular life, really, and the way she grew as a character and as a woman fascinated me as I wrote the story. She was raised to be weak, and she grows strong. She goes deep into the woods and does what no one else can. Erich Zann wouldn’t have been up for it. Let that be a lesson to Howard’s ghost.

Meanwhile, I still get a little shiver when I think of those video files on that computer…

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We thank our talented contributors, and point out that you can pick up TMBoC right now:

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As we said on Friday we’re not academics, but we do like to delve deeper sometimes. A number of times we have turned to a very helpful fellow, Bobby Derie, for original material on HPL and his circle, including extracts from correspondence, so it seemed appropriate to mention his book Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014) in this medley about Lovecraftian books.

We’ll quote from the blurb, because it seems silly to rewrite it:

In this pioneering study, Bobby Derie has presented an objective and scholarly analysis of the significant uses of love, gender, and sex in the work of H. P. Lovecraft and some of his leading disciples. Along the way, Derie treats such matters as Lovecraft’s relations with his wife, portrayals of women in his work, and the question of homosexuality in his life and work. Many Lovecraft stories are subject to detailed examination for their sexual implications.

There are two aspects of this substantial and fascinating book which we like in particular. Firstly, it’s meticulously researched and draws on genuine source materials as opposed to collating third-hand opinions just to stir things up. Secondly, it’s not an attempt to create one of those cod-psychological studies of Lovecraft – you can make your own mind up about what Derie presents, and there’s plenty of thought-provoking stuff.

Examination of Lovecraft and his work in such a context does raise some fascinating issues, so it’s helpful that this book includes further material on sex, gender and the mythos in the works of later writers. It’s an absorbing read.

Back here in our less-than-expert kennel, we find it hard to get away from the fact that Lovecraft had an unhinged bee in his bonnet about inter-breeding and miscegenation. It’s as if he feared the Outside breeding its way in to ‘normal’ society and ‘decent’ people – through blasphemous couplings with entities (The Dunwich Horror), through incestuous practice (The Lurking Fear) and through miscegenation (The Shadow over Innsmouth and so many more). The frequency of ‘unholy’ unions, be they with gods, Deep Ones or Polynesians, in his stories, and his dislike of what he saw of as mixed-race peoples, seems in retrospect to be less a matter of prejudice and more an obsessional issue.

It’s easy to despise his views on some areas of life (and right to reject them). We have a professional background in psychiatric treatment and research, and we’re inclined to say that he could have done with help. Some of the prejudices expressed in his letters, had they come out in a clinic session, would have been ones to mark for lengthy exploration with the old gent. We’re not great proponents of needless therapy, but at times we feel sorry that he had to carry such thoughts in his head for so long.

But that’s only our passing pennyworth. Our other worry is that lurchers, who only exist because of a particular aspect of cross-breeding discovered centuries ago, may not have won his approval.

Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos by Bobby Derie is available here:

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As one of our many asides, we were moaning about the ditherings of Hamlet during our interview with SFF writer John Guy Collick (see a colossus of mars)a few weeks ago, and John commented at the time:

Watch the Russian film of Hamlet directed by Grigori Kozintsev… That’s how the play should be done, not as an introspective study of a procrastinator with his head up his bum but as a vast, brooding Piranesi-esque Gothic tale of politics, double dealing and passion.

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hamlet, kozintsev

Bobby Derie subsequently provided us with something we’d not come across before – HPL’s views on the Prince of Denmark. We extract a section because, well, it’s interesting:

I find in Hamlet a rare, delicate, & nearly poetical mind, filled with the highest ideals and pervaded by the delusion (common to all gentle & retired characters unless their temperament be scientific & predominantly rational–which is seldom the case with poets) that all humanity approximates such a standard as he conceives. All at once, however, man’s inherent baseness becomes apparent to him under the most soul-trying circumstances; exhibiting itself not in the remote world, but in the person of his mother & his uncle, in such a manner as to convince him most suddenly & most vitally that there is no good in humanity.

Well may he question life, when the perfidiousness of those whom he has reason to believe the best of mortals, is so cruelly obtruded on his notice. Having had his theories of life founded on mediaeval and pragmatical conceptions, he now loses that subtle something which impels persons to go on in the ordinary currents; specifically, he loses the conviction that the usual motives & pursuits of life are more than empty illusions or trifles. Now this is not “madness”–I am sick of hearing fools & superficial criticks prate about “Hamlet’s madness”. It is really a distressing glimpse of absolute truth. But in effect, it approximates mental derangement. Reason is unimpaired, but Hamlet no longer sees any occasion for its use.

Whether or not this is also a reflection of Lovecraft’s view of himself, and of some of his protagonists, we leave to cleverer people than us poor mutts.


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Finally, as the I that is greydog supposedly runs this site, it would be foolish not to mention that I also have what Paula Guran might call a “New Lovecraft” story in the recently-released Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis. This is a cracking collection of dark and thought-provoking tales about the real nature of those who accept the Mythos into their hearts, edited by the great Scott R Jones – writer, editor and overlord of Martian Migraine Press.

Cthulhusattva is currently riding high in the Horror Anthology charts, and I don’t think that you’ll be disappointed by it – but I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Over the next week or so, we’re back to lurchers, weird art, Victoriana, Dracula and lots of things which are decidedly non-Lovecraftian…

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Voices from the Witch House: An Interview with Lynne Jamneck

Greetings, dear listener. This weekend you find us in a rather post-Lovecraftian mood, and poking a stick at two new collections – Dreams from the Witch House, edited by Lynne Jamneck, and The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, edited by Paula Guran. Plus we’ll throw in a few H P Lovecraft-related musings and extras as well. We start with a terrific interview with the talented Lynne Jamneck, exploring her own writing, her editing role, themes in LGBT fiction and other topics.

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by daniele serra

As we’ll be talking about Lynne’s work during the interview, we’ll just say that she’s of a Kiwi disposition, based in New Zealand, with many writing and editing credits to her name. She has been nominated for the Sir Julius Vogel and Lambda awards, and holds an MA in English Literature from Auckland University. She also shares our interest in home-brewing, but we couldn’t quite fit that in. Let us meander in her direction…

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greydog: Lynne, welcome to greydogtales and our relentless efforts to weird the world wide web. It’s no secret that we contacted you initially to talk about your role in putting together Dreams from the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror, but like many of our guests, you have a number of strings to your bow. Let’s start with your editing work and move on from there.

When you first took on the editing role for Witch House, what did Lovecraftian mean to you?

lynne: “Lovecraftian” to me has always been more about mood than about Cthulhu, or Azathoth or any of the deities that populate the mythos. It’s about the uncanny, weirdness and cosmicism – the things we hide from behind ignorance and reality TV.

greydog: Did that change after going through the submissions and making your final selection?

lynne: My focus for Witch House was always on stories that somehow reflected the elements I mention above. I wasn’t specifically looking for stories that included deliberate reproductions of Lovecraft’s geographies or characters. Those spaces and places are definitely in the final stories, but in versions that feel more contemporary and therefore, more removed from imaginary Arkham.

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greydog: Did you have a specific ‘feel’ for Witch House, beyond the core premise of Lovecraftian tales written by women? By that we mean was there a mood or tone that you wanted the anthology to convey?

lynne: I wanted stories to instil unease, and not necessarily as the result of violent, external elements. I think elements that involve apprehension toward humanity are sometimes neglected in Lovecraft’s work – in his case, arguably most explicitly conveyed in his views about other races and ethnicities. We don’t always need tentacles to be scared. Sometimes all we need to do is look in the mirror. That’ll drive a good lot of us insane.

greydog: Absolutely. How do you feel about being an editor? You’ve edited before (Periphery, for example). Is it a nerve-wracking job, or one where you sit back, kick off your boots and simply enjoy being able to browse other people’s work rather than have to write?

lynne: It’s exciting in the sense that you never know when you’re going to discover an absolute gem of a story. But it’s frustrating in the sense that you have a finite number of stories that you can include in the final book. There have been instances where it took me days to decide between two stories because they were both equally good. That’s not a fun task.

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jabberwocky 3, with lynne’s tale the morphology of snow

greydog: You’re also in the editor’s seat with S.T. Joshi for this year’s Gothic Lovecraft anthology, is that right?

lynne: Yes. That was a great experience, working with someone whose knowledge about Lovecraft is so vast and who has a well-trained eye for the uncanny. S.T. and I have slightly different tendencies when considering stories, but we also appreciate many of the same elements, sometimes just rendered a little differently. We ended up picking a great collection of stories.

greydog: Witch House is out now, with a great line-up that includes Elizabeth Bear, Joyce Carol Oates, Caitlin Kiernan and Storm Constantine. We’ll link to where people can get a copy at the end of this interview, but we want to talk about you and writing. Looking at your back catalogue, your range is fairly wide – crime, queer fairies and Lovecraftian horror, for example. Enjoyable diversity, an artist in search of a spiritual home, or part of a grand plan?

lynne: Those phases can likely be linked to whatever I found myself asking questions about at different times in my life. Or what I felt a specific kinship with. I read a lot of crime in my late teens and early twenties, and possibly considered writing crime as being a challenge. Then I discovered that as a writer, plot comes secondary to me. It’s characters all the way down!

As to fairies, in my experience, many queers go throw a period in their life where it almost feels that their sexuality defines them, whether they want it to or not. Fantasy lends itself well to addressing such issues because you’re working in a genre where the Other is often celebrated. This phase didn’t last long for me, though; heterosexuality doesn’t define anyone, so why should being queer define me? Like we say in New Zealand, yeah-nah, bro.

One thing that has always been part of my writing process is the act of asking questions. Questioning is an act of defiance; all of us can be rebels this way. We must never stop questioning –not ourselves, not other people, and not those who effect control over us. It also lies at the heart if what the Lovecraftian addresses. Specifically, it asks uncomfortable questions, some of which we don’t have answers for. But that’s okay. Sometimes you dont need an answer. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask the question anyway. I think maybe I’ve found my home here in this cosmic pool. Its comfortably uncomfortable.

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greydog: We frequently slide back to writing Edwardian supernatural tales, despite our best intentions. Do you have a favourite genre or thematic area that you like to explore in your fiction?

lynne: I have a fascination with snow. Especially snow-covered landscapes. It’s not the Edwardians for me but the Romantics. William Blake wrote about how snow – something that is usually associated with purity and cleanness – can serve as a cover up for heinous crimes and other terrible things. Wordsworth and Coleridge’s depictions of Nature are the stuff of beauty and nightmares all at once. We often move through life without paying attention to the environments in which we exist, without being present. I’m interested in that moment when we see for the first time, are completely unravelled by it, and how we return from it. Or not.

greydog: Earlier this year we spoke to Cameron Trost, an Australian writer/editor who’s active in the Australian Horror Writers Association. Is there a similar scene in New Zealand?

lynne: The NZ speculative fiction scene is fairly small, but nonetheless very active. We have AuContraire each year, a week-end convention for speculative writers and other artists. This year will be its 37th iteration, so it has been going for a while! One thing I’d like to see is larger NZ publishers taking a more active role in promoting local speculative writers.

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greydog: This site rambles on about gender and sexuality in fiction from time to time, so we thought we’d try a few thoughts out on you while you were here. For starters, we read somewhere that while you do write queer fiction, you don’t describe yourself as a queer writer. Is that because you see it as a limiting description?

lynne: This tags on from what I mentioned previously. I’m a writer who happens to be queer. That doesn’t mean I want to connect only with other queer readers. In that way it is limiting, but only in the sense that it confines me to writing within very specific parameters, which doesn’t challenge me as a writer.

greydog: In the past six months, we ourselves have written protagonists who included a teenage boy who liked wearing properly ironed skirts, a lesbian couple facing Lovecraftian horror and an Edwardian Virginian questioning both his sensual and sexual nature. None of these were written to make a point, except that people are interesting. Are we finally at a stage, do you think, where LGBT characters in fiction can just be characters like anyone else, rather than political symbols?

lynne: That’s the way I write queer characters but… I don’t know. Maybe not? It’s still very political to a lot of people and I completely understand that, because people are still being killed just for being gay. How can we not make that an issue? On the other hand, as a writer, I don’t want to talk about the same thing every time I write a story because I’d feel like I’m repeating myself.

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greydog: We enjoyed your 2005 interview with Nicola Griffith, a terrific writer. We knew Nicola and met her a few times before she and her partner Kelly moved to America. In the interview, she said “There’s a limit to how many Coming Out stories—or Tales of Oppression, or whinges about How My Family Done Me Wrong Because I’m Different—can be interesting.” Do you think it’s true that many of these tropes or themes are getting worn out?

lynne: Yes. It’s difficult to explain this and I always seem to upset people with this answer. I’m not trying to devalue anyone’s experience of a horrible situation they may have lived through as a result of being queer. While we have made significant social and political strides in terms of gay rights, people still turn their backs on their kids for being gay; queers are still murdered simply for being. Nonetheless, I’d rather read a book with queer characters doing all the same things straight characters do in “normal” stories, experiencing the same problems (because we do) and having to navigate solutions to these everyday issues. Because we live everyday lives. I find that a lot more empowering.

The news and other media are always going to tell us about the horrible things people do to other people. I believe books can act as a countermeasure, a form of transcendent inspiration that moves beyond what the rest of the world constantly throws at us. The connection between reader and word is extremely powerful and it can work both ways, I believe. It can either empower or disenfranchise.

greydog: We’re reminded of our interview with Richard Mansfield last year. He and his partner Daniel make LGBT films (and some great supernatural adaptations as well). He said: “I think we were both feeling frustrated with gay cinema. There seemed to be very few releases with something different to say. Personally I wanted to make a film where the couple were secure and happy with themselves. I wanted to show a snap-shot in the lives of two men that had found a place to be themselves… Lots of gay cinema deals with self-loathing or homophobia but I wanted any negative influence to be external…”

Right, we’re running out of space. We always like to give our listeners a trail or two to follow. Who stands out for you (as a reader) amongst contemporary writers – genre or otherwise?

lynne: What a question! So many. But I’ll try. I adore Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and I cannot wait for the sequel. The Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer – like an extremely weird version of LOST but with a better ending. I just finished Jacqueline Baker’s The Broken Hours: A Novel of H.P. Lovecraft which was haunting and beautifully written. I’m currently reading All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, and it’s magical. Not to mention all the terrific short fiction out there – I highly recommend The Year’s Best Weird Fiction anthologies published by Undertow Publications.

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greydog: What will we see from you in the next year or so? More fiction, more editing, or do you have quite different endeavours planned?

lynne: I’m currently working on a proposal for a collection of stories that will centre on the weirdness of nature. Because the natural world is STRANGE. I’ve been working on a novel for longer than I care to remember but I have some nefarious plans in that area that will hopefully come to fruition soon. The forthcoming Black Wings of Cthulhu V features my story “In Bloom”. And there’s some more stories in my skull banging away looking for an exit. Who needs sleep, right?

greydog: Lynne, thank you – it’s been a pleasure to meet you, and we look forward to your future works.

You can find out more about Lynne and her work on her own blog, here:

lynne jamneck diaries

And you can also dig into Dreams from the Witch House, which is available now, and sample the many interesting tales within.

dreams from the witch house (us link)

by daniele serra
by daniele serra

Later tomorrow – The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos, and a few extra snippets.

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On Post-post-Lovecraftian Signposts

What are post-Lovecraftian stories? What is their purpose, and what are they doing in our living-room? This weekend we’ll be mentioning two new anthologies which might be described as post-Lovecraftian. We’ve always said that greydogtales is a ‘signpost’ site, which spends more time pointing out interesting stuff than it does analysing it. A signpost does not have to have been to the places it names.

Despite that, we try never to put anything up without some cogitation behind the scenes. So before we hand over to others, we’re throwing in a few thoughts that came up while editing the features.

We at greydogtales are at heart Edwardians more than we are worshippers of the era of Weird Tales. Followers of William Hope Hodgson, Conan Doyle and Wells more than H P Lovecraft, Ashton Smith and Howard, however much we might enjoy some of the latter group’s work. This may make us less suited to comment on Lovecraft, and certainly other writers have more scholarly or critical knowledge of the issues than we do.

As Edwardians, we recognise the late-Imperial theme that it was all coming to an end, that something dark was on the horizon. The world, the society, to come was difficult to envisage. In Britain, with scientific optimism there also came deep political and social fears. Joseph Kestner noted:

In Edwardian detective fiction there is often a repudiation of closure to reflect Edwardian doubt, uncertainty, complication and indeterminacy.

The Edwardian Detective 1901 – 1915

Many had the uneasy sensation that the Empire and the carefully organised strata of privilege and rank were about to be swept away. It was a period of great change, and thus great threat. Psychiatry, women’s suffrage, and the telephone as a form of mass communication; the rise of the motor car, the abandonment of the corset and the erosion of aristocratic rights. Politicians, publicans and playwrights alike were concerned that the cost of maintaining Empire meant a level of poverty and injustice for so many citizens that it could not be sustained much longer.

And these societal issues often inform my own writing, when it isn’t done for pure amusement or just to vex someone. Lovecraft’s issues of malign or indifferent entities, cosmic horror, miscegenation and personal alienation are different matters. HPL isn’t big on society. I only write ‘Lovecraftian’ stories at all when I see a really intriguing prompt from a publisher. Even then, I have to question why I’m going there, and be satisfied that I’m offering something new. I like money very much, but that’s not enough in itself to go Mythosian.

There’s no doubt that ‘Cthulhu’ sells – the label has its own popularity or notoriety. H P Lovecraft’s personal beliefs have been aired a lot recently. It’s our general view here that, perversely, without some of his screwed-up attitudes, he may never have reached some of the more spine-chilling moments in his fiction. We don’t believe that Lovecraft was (or had to be) typical of his times. Perhaps his own troubled mind kept him from expanding beyond his prejudices. It also made his work unusual in that the term ‘post-Lovecraftian’ exists, and that there is such a large – and growing – body of Mythosian fiction (yes, we know about August Derleth etc, but the roots had to be there beforehand).

I have no score to settle with a dead man from Providence, but it’s no bad thing to look at how aspects of his cosmic horror can be developed into a far more inclusive body of work, some of which you’ll see in the two anthologies we’re going to cover. There are concepts in Lovecraft which deserve better, which deserve to relate to people of all colour, religion, gender and sexuality. We all know fear at some point in our lives, or experience a sense of our own unimportance. The enterprise of more inclusive writing can be a liberating, worthy, or amusing one. At what point we discard any relationship at all with Lovecraft is another matter…

As you can guess, we here are outsiders, crawling from the catacombs. We negotiate our way out of the vaults only to stumble upon a Lovecraftian party in the castle above. As people at the party flee in horror, we see ourselves in a mirror and realise the truth – that the beard really does need a trim.

See you tomorrow, hopefully.

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