Simon Strantzas – The Inquisition
Simon Strantzas is the author of the critically-acclaimed COLD TO THE TOUCH (Tartarus Press, 2009), a collection of thirteen tales of the strange and supernatural. His first collection, BENEATH THE SURFACE (reprinted by Dark Regions Press, 2010), has been called “one of the most important debut short story collections in the genre”. Strantzas’s stories have appeared in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW HORROR, CEMETERY DANCE, and POSTSCRIPTS. In 2009, his work was nominated for the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction. His third collection, NIGHTINGALE SONGS, is due for publication in 2011. He lives in Toronto, Canada, with his wife and an unyielding hunger for the flesh of the living. Please visit him at http://www.strantzas.com
1 – Which book has been most influential in your career?
If I were to be completely honest, I would say that book would be “Prime Evil”, the anthology edited by Douglas E Winter. I say this not because it had any direct bearing upon my style of writing, or the sorts of stories I aim to tell, but rather because it was the book that first introduced me to the work of Peter Straub by way of his wonderfully written tale “The Juniper Tree”. The sheer power and beauty of that story led me to more of Straub’s work, and he in turn pointed me towards Robert Aickman. From there, I descended deep into a world of writers I had never known existed, and in the end that exploration of the other side was what led me to the sort of work I produce today.
2 – Which writer has most influenced your style?
I feel the influence of many masters from many fields upon my fiction, but I imagine in terms of tone Aickman would be the greatest influence, and Ligotti in terms of worldview. In many ways these two writers are opposites, but also share much the same terrain (albeit viewed from different angles). I cannot imagine my fiction without either voice inside my head, and in some ways my constant struggle is to reconcile the two.
3 – What’s the future for the horror genre?
I have hopes for the best, but I fear the genre is destined to become more and more ghettoised. This is not necessarily a unique thing that only horror shall endure. By nature of technology and the way it has bound humanity together, art with widespread appeal grows less and less common every day. Instead, no matter what our interest, we can find a group of like-minded individuals that share it, and by focusing on what we like most, we begin to ignore that which we don’t know at all. In a way, we all become fanatics about our pet loves. This means that as time progresses, only those truly interested in horror will read it and write it, and the genre will risk becoming an incestuous pool of horror writers appealing to horror readers who shall in turn become horror writers, and the world beyond will pay less and less attention. Some might argue this has already happened. Thankfully, there is a wave of writers trying to push the genre to its limits, but I fear those writers are unlikely to lead anyone new to the fold. I can only hope I’m wrong.
4 – Which book do you wish you had written?
When I read the fiction of writers like Matt Cardin or Gary McMahon or Richard Gavin (and a small handful of others) I find myself brimming with the sort of jealousy any writer would feel when confronted by a master of the form. It is the sort of jealousy that makes one simultaneously want to give up and work harder. I am privileged to live and work in a time with writers such as these.
5 – What writing equipment could you not live without?
There is none. As long as I have something to write on and something to write with, I’ll be fine.
6 – Do you plan in detail before starting a new piece of writing?
In the first few years of my writing career, I plotted my tales out extensively, often to the point where my outlines were more or less first drafts. In an effort to explore my skills, I spent a summer trying to push myself to produce more and faster, and to do that I attempted to write without the net of an outline. Through this, I discovered I much prefer to work untethered, and the act of discovery while writing is more thrilling than what I had hitherto experienced. Now, I plot very rarely; instead, I start with a rough idea of what I would like to say, and simply write to discover the tale. Occasionally, this means I am far into a piece before realising that I must discard the work and begin again, but the discovery by this method is invaluable to me, and the destruction of that which does not work is strangely liberating.
7 – Ebooks or Paper Books?
Why should it be either-or? The two can co-exist, and frankly I suspect they will co-exist for a good long while, especially in a genre such as ours. Ebooks will take the place of things like the mass-market paperback, and the periodical, but those books we as reader want to cherish will remain in printed form. I do not foresee the end of paper books for a good while yet, though I do foresee more and more books available electronically only — those books that are often read once and discarded (like so many things in our consumer-based society).
8 – Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
For me, Weird Fiction. It is all I know how to write.
9 – Whom should I read next?
Frankly, I am horrible at this game. My lists tend to be filled with names anyone interested in my work no doubt already knows. Writers such as Laird Barron, John Langan, Livia Lwelleyn, Michael Kelly, Ian Rogers, Barbara Roden, Joseph Pulver, Adam Golaski, Daniel Mills, Nathan Ballingrud, DP Watt, RB Russell, Reggie Oliver, and of course the aforementioned McMahon, Cardin and Gavin. And this is just scratching the surface.
10 – What was your last book and what is your next book?
My next book, Nightingale Songs, is due this year, but as I am still in the process of putting things together it seems premature to mention much more about it. Instead, allow me to direct you to my previous book, Cold to the Touch, available from Tartarus Press (here) which has received a good handful of positive reviews thus far, and from my understanding is running dangerously low in stock. I shall also point you to the recent reprint of my first collection, Beneath the Surface, from Dark Regions Press (here) which is priced for the more budget-minded. The books appeal to different audiences, I would think: the former to the fan of strange, quiet horror such as written by authors such as Robert Aickman or Terry Lamsley. The latter, for fans of giants such as Lovecraft and Ligotti. I am extremely proud of both, and believe the new collection will show an interesting amalgam of both approaches.