Q&A with Mike Thorn on Hellnotes
- What authors influenced you growing up? Who are you reading now?
As a young kid, I was really excited by J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and R. L. Stine. Discovering Stephen King as a preteen was a big deal, and the same goes for encountering Hubert Selby Jr. in my teens.
These days, I try to read as widely as possible. I’m currently making my way through Drawn Up from Deep Places, by Gemma Files, which is terrific. I was recently floored by two Henry James novels—The Portrait of a Lady and The Bostonians.
Drawn Up from Deep Places: A Diverse, Cohesive Collection of Genre Tales
It is fascinating to assess Gemma Files’ Drawn Up from Deep Places as a collection, because the book’s construction is so uniquely connective. That is, rather than reading as an assortment of individual, isolated pieces, Drawn Up from Deep Places registers as a carefully designed, cumulative whole, comprised of two re-emerging fictional sequences woven among several standalone stories. With this text, Files displays extraordinary thoughtfulness and craft, both in conceptual and formal terms.
The collection begins with the vivid, haunting “Villa Locusta,” which situates us in an apocalyptic environment laden with mythological and religious imagery. Files further demonstrates her penchant for religious allusion with “Sown from Salt” and its companion story, “A Feast for Dust”: this duo recalls Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter, injecting a somber Western narrative with Biblical and supernatural reflections.
The bulk of the collection is devoted to another ambitious, genre-crossing series of interconnected tales. These pieces (“Trap-Weed,” “Two Captains,” the title story, and the final novelette, “The Salt Wedding”) revolve around a toxic, queer, and (sometimes dangerously) magic pirate romance aboard a ship named the Bitch of Hell.
There is also a queer horror-Western populated with demonic zombies (“Satan’s Jewel Crown”), a dark, culturally-specific love story with supernatural threads (“Hell Friend”), and an assembly of screenplay-formatted tableaus set around Jack the Ripper (“Jack-Knife,” definitely my favorite). With “Jack-Knife,” Files draws adeptly on her cinephilia and film criticism background, designing a narrative that reads both thrillingly as prose fiction and convincingly as visual text.
Drawn Up from Deep Places showcases a highly talented writer who inhabits rich genre histories and always manages to reconfigure those traditions in unusual, interesting ways. Files demonstrates stunning formal dexterity here, and a total command of voice (I am in awe of the sheer range of approaches here). This is a collection meant to be consumed as a whole, carefully designed and artfully executed. Highly recommended to adventurous readers of genre fiction.
Tor Nightfire: This Month in New Horror Books
It’s the worst part of winter (at least in this hemisphere), so why not try insulating your house with books? Even if it doesn’t work, hey, reading material! Read on for 20+ new horror books on sale this month, including new work from C.J. Tudor, Cynthia Pelayo, Ramsey Campbell, Isabel Yap, Gemma Files, and more!
Tor Nightfire’s List of Anticipated 2021 Horror Releases Includes Shelter for the Damned
“We made it through 2020, folks. We did it! As a reward, we’ve got an absolutely stacked year ahead of us when it comes to 2021’s new horror books. There are already over 100 titles on our radar for this year, with more expected to be announced for publication in the fall and winter. New releases include Grady Hendrix, Rivers Solomon, Stephen Graham Jones, Brian Evenson, Cassandra Khaw, Richard Chizmar, Zoje Stage, Josh Malerman, Cynthia Pelayo, Gemma Files, Ramsey Campbell, Catriona Ward, Chuck Wendig, Jeffrey Ford, V. Castro, and many, many, many more.”
Thinking Horror: Volume 2 Now Available
Thinking Horror: Volume 2 is now available to order. It includes Mike Thorn’s essay “Collective Abjection: Social Horror in Stephen King’s It,” cover art by Stephen Wilson, interviews with genre giants (Steve Rasnic Tem, Lisa Tuttle, John Skipp and Nick Mamatas) and essays by many contemporary luminaries (including Gemma Files, Michael Cisco and Christopher Burke).