By Brian Sammons and Lynne Jamneck
Lots of Hardy Boys books as a kid and a series of Afrikaans books called Trompie and Saartjie, the latter kind of the South African incarnation of Pippie Longstocking (Trompie was the boys’ version). I read Stephen King and Dean Koontz from about the age of 11/12. Used to scare the crap out of myself (“We all float down here!”) but I couldn’t help it. My mom used to give me her adult library cards to get them out, because you only used to get adult cards at about 16. My mom is cool.
When did your love affair with books begin and what led to it?
I’ve always liked my own company; never felt an intense need for having other people around (though I seem to have become more social over the past few years). I just remember always loving books. Here was an object that told a story, and I could interpret that story in whatever way I chose. No-one else could interrupt and say “No, the duck was white, not blue!” What more could you want?
What led you to start creating your own stories and books?
The idea of telling my own stories was terribly exciting. I started seriously considering this around the age of 17. What’s the psychology behind wanting people’s attention like that? Reading a book is a significant commitment. You’re letting yourself be led blindly, and though you can sometimes guess where a story is headed, it’s still kind of no-man’s land, you know? It’s a big risk you’re taking! You might even meet some blue ducks. Something about that sort of commitment appeals to me.
I’m always curious to speak to other editors and learn what caused them to go down one particular rabbit hole… Why did you start putting together your own anthologies?
It’s a very involved process. You get to work alongside all sorts of creative people—publishers, writers, illustrators—and you learn a lot about the publishing industry. It also makes you a better writer, I think. When you’re engaging with others in creative criticism, you cannot not learn from the experience.
On a more selfish level, it gives you the opportunity to set very specific parameters in which you want your final stories to exist. In some ways, it’s very similar to why many writers decide to write—because they want to write the books they want to read. But with anthologies, you get to share the work of other writers rather than your own. It’s like buying Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill in 1995 before your best friend, listening to it on repeat and calling her on the phone and asking, “Have you heard this shit?!”
What is the most rewarding or best thing about being a fiction editor?
Discovering a writer you’ve never read before (who possibly hasn’t even been published previously) and being enthralled by the fact that they wrote this story for a project you’re working on. Again, commitment.
What is the hardest or least pleasant aspect of being a book editor?
Authors who don’t bother to read submission guidelines. Or they read them and promptly disregard them. Or they try to convince you that their story DOES fit the anthology’s theme when clearly, it doesn’t.
Your newest anthology is Dreams from the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror, published by Dark Regions Press. Can you give us a little taste of what the book is about?
I wanted to do a Lovecraftian anthology that (a) had all female contributors and (b) that was Lovecraftian, but moved away from traditional mythos elements. The first was not for any feminist reason as such, but because I believe women often convey and relate to fear differently than men and wanted to tap into that.
Secondly, I think people often lose sight of the fact that ‘Lovecraftian’ encompasses more than simply the geographies, monsters and characters that Lovecraft created. The cosmic sense of horror that Lovecraft’s writing manifests relates to so many aspects of terror. I’m curious to see how writers interpret this cosmicism within a contemporary context.
What was the genesis for the idea behind Dreams from the Witch House?
Some time ago, (beginning 2014?), there was a lot of guff going on about women “simply not writing Lovecraftian fiction”, an inane response to some people questioning the lack of female writers in anthologies with Lovecraftian themes. The impetus for WITCH HOUSE arose from that discussion. Again, I didn’t particularly take this up as a feminist issue (other people did that much more eloquently than I could have); to me, it seemed that male writers (I’m generalising, I know) tend to remain within established mythos traditions, while women appear more comfortable moving outside of those parameters, yet still remain unquestionably Lovecraftian.
What made you want to contribute to the ever expanding universe commonly known as the Cthulhu Mythos?
Considering what I noted above, I don’t know that I specifically wanted to contribute to the Cthulhu Mythos, per se. I’m a big fan of inferring. I guess in that sense, I want to contribute to Lovecraft by exploring his sensibilities, rather than expanding his universe…or is that expanding it, too?
What first led you to Lovecraft and what is your opinion of his work overall?
I only began reading Lovecraft in my early twenties, after a steady diet of King and Koontz as a teenager. I guess I was looking for something a bit more sublime. Is Lovecraft sublime? Hah.
You know what Lovecraft is? Maybe this is what attracts me to his work: I have an anxiety disorder. Lovecraft reminds me of a panic attack. It builds and it builds and all this stuff, this bad ju-ju-history he’s referring to, you know there’s some bad shit in there. But he doesn’t give you the whole picture, and really, you don’t want to actively think about it. But it sits there, regardless. Suppurating. You know something awful is going to happen, but you’re not sure when it’s going to happen. But because you know it’s going to happen, you anticipate it, making it worse. Then finally, there’s the reveal, or maybe not even a reveal just the inference of a reveal, but by then, the tension and coalescing fragments have manifested into something so godawful that the only option is to run away screaming (or go insane) at all the inferences that are just waiting to bloom violently in your mind.
My opinions on Lovecraft himself range widely. At times, he resembles a genius, at times a jerk. I wish he’d lived longer; it would have been interesting to see how his thought processes and stories developed with age and as the world changed around him. As for his stories, his talent as a writer—I think he had a phenomenal ability to tap into the primal recesses of our brains, to poke and fester at things that modern civilisation manages to ignore with iPhones and distractions like virtual reality. The fact that a gazillion anthologies are published every year that are somehow related to him or his work testifies to this. He’s still prodding us, despite being dead. Pretty impressive.
Where and how can people learn more about your work and books?
I’m pretty active on Facebook, somewhat less on Twitter and have a semi-regular blog at
http://lynnejamneckdiaries.blogspot.co.nz/ where I post about everything from books to homebrewing my own beer.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
An anthology I co-edited with S.T. Joshi, Gothic Lovecraft, is due for release from Cycatrix Press soon, and includes stories by Lynda E. Rucker, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Orrin Grey, Gwyneth Jones, Lois Gresh, John Shirley and others. Wonderful stories, all of them.
I’m also working on a concept for an anthology of Weird Nature stories. Writing wise, I have short fiction forthcoming in Black Wings of Cthulhu V and Nameless Magazine.
I’ve been working on a novel for ten years. Would someone like to finish it for me?