Interview: Gabrielle Harbowy

Name: Gabrielle Harbowy

Author of: “Descent of the Wayward Sister”

Age: 30-something

Geographic Location: SF Bay Area

Original Hometown, if different: Like Lovecraft, I’m originally from New England. But I mostly grew up in the suburbs around Washington, D.C.

Twitter: @gabrielle_h

Website: www.gabrielle-edits.com

Past publications: A short story called “Swimming Lessons,” written for PG Holyfield’s “Tales of the Children” anthology, which was a 2010 finalist for a Parsec Award for Speculative Fiction Podcasting. “Descent of the Wayward Sister” is my second published work of fiction, with much more planned and forthcoming.

What’s your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story or other Mythos story? “The Colour out of Space” is my favorite, I think. It stands out for me because there’s such a strong speculative science fiction component to the horror, compared to the other stories of his that I’ve read. Watch out, Earth, this could really happen.

What comes to mind when you think “Lovecraft” + “Erotica”? What they have in common, to me, is a hunger so obsessive that people are happily willing to be consumed by it to the point of madness. In Lovecraft’s writing, it’s usually knowledge, or power, or both. In erotica, of course, it’s usually sexual desire…but also sometimes power. The longer I thought about the combination, the more it made sense.

How did you hear about Cthulhurotica? I saw the call for submissions on Twitter and thought, “That’s a cute idea,” and didn’t think much more about it. Then my story concept snuck up on me and I decided that I had to give it a shot.

What inspired your story? It isn’t my favorite Lovecraft story, but the image that sticks with me most strongly is from the 1970 movie version of The Dunwich Horror, which I saw when I was in high school. It was dated, campy, and to be ridiculed in the best B-movie tradition. There’s a scene with a woman chained to an altar with an open book propped between her thighs. We all made fun of that scene when we saw the film (“It’s not safe summoning unless you use a book cover!”), and it became iconic of cheesy horror. When I thought of mixing Lovecraft and erotica, I knew I wanted to sexualize that scene; redeem it, maybe, by transforming it into something else. Something arousing. So that was the inspiration. Then it was a matter of realizing that it needed that sort of “Victorian erotica” voice to make it work.

What music or movies helped you to write this story? None. I wrote during a power outage. My tools were a green felt pen and a hardcover journal. It was a morning power outage, so I can’t even claim that there were flickering candles or menacing shadows. Just a couple of restless cats.

How many rewrites did you do before submitting? I rewrote and did a lot of polishing when I transcribed from journal to computer, and a little more polishing and clarifying after I let a trusted reader take a peek at it. The core of it hasn’t changed much.

What is your favorite bit?

It had been kind of him to attempt to turn me into a lady of society, and within a matter of days I had learned enough of the protocol to put on an eager show of it when I was in his presence – it would have been ungrateful to do otherwise – but in truth I was not taking naturally to it. Needlepoint and music were tiresome to me, and the tutors he had called upon to school me in the domestic arts were as dull and sour as old milk. I had been too long on my own, or perhaps I had simply seen too much of the lively underbelly of the world to be content sitting still.

Interview: Leon J. West

Name: Leon J. West

Author of: “Amid Disquieting Dreams”

Age: Honestly around 40

Geographic Location: Eugene, Oregon

Original Hometown, if different: Reno, Nevada

Twitter: Chitter.

Website: http://leonjwest.wordpress.com/ It used to have a whole bunch of stories of horrible thing I’d done as a teen, but I took them all down so I could get a job, and now all that remains are some book covers and a couple videos of a robot I built in school.

Past publications: Writers of the Future, Polyphony 3, Fundamentally Challenged, Robots and Time

What’s your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story or other Mythos story? The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath. I lived in a martial arts dojo and religious commune when I read it at age 14, and I had been reading lots of books on shamanism and practicing techniques to induce lucid dreaming and stuff like that, so I guess it really resonated with me.

What comes to mind when you think “Lovecraft” + “Erotica”? Phallic tentacles and gaping holes with teeth.

How did you hear about Cthulhurotica? My writer’s group, The Wordos.

What inspired your story? Depravity, drugs, and the dreams both induce.

What is your favorite bit?

You cook the powder down to a brown puddle and inhale the smoke with your straw.  You feel like a whore with a mouthful of someone’s hate, and you hate yourself for loving the feeling.

Interview: Mae Empson

Name: Mae Empson

Author of: “Between a Rock and an Elder Goddess”

Age: 36

Geographic Location: Seattle, WA

Original Hometown, if different: Frederick, MD.  Other cities I’ve spent time include Chapel Hill, NC, and Bloomington, IN.

Twitter: @maeempson

Website: http://maeempson.wordpress.com

Past publications: The first will be “The Frog Princess” in Crossed Genres issue 23 (October 2010).  I also have a piece of flash fiction, “Woodside Waxing Gibbous” in Daily Bites of Flesh 2011 (December 2010.)

What’s your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story or other Mythos story? It’s definitely “The Whisperer in Darkness”.  I think it is one of the most engaging and most horrifying.

What comes to mind when you think “Lovecraft” + “Erotica”? First, I think Lovecraft loved scholars, history, and research, and I think those things can be very sexy. I identify with those things. I want them to be sexy! Smart = Sexy! Second, I think Lovecraft’s style is to build the drumbeat of tension by keeping the occult largely off-stage as the story starts, and offering hints and glimpses, as the story builds, with the biggest reveal at the end, but even then, often only a brief, distorted, partial glimpse. The message is – this thing is beyond the power of words to convey, and I think that is captivating. The mind fills in the gaps. I think that has wisdom for erotica.

How did you hear about Cthulhurotica? Duotrope (www.duotrope.com). When I saw the cover and read the submission guidelines, I made writing a story for this publication my top priority because the cover was gorgeous, and I could see that the vision for Cthulhurotica was “smart, surreal, supernatural and seductive.” That really appealed to me.

What inspired your story? When I read back through some of my favorite mythos stories, I was very much struck how much Lovecraft’s horror is about evolution and devolution – it’s absolutely key. That made me think of Circe. As soon as I had Ancient Greece, I had in mind to map the Elder Gods to the Orphic cosmology, which took definite inspiration from an absolutely brilliant roleplaying universe created by my friend and mentor Jason Andrew (http://jasonbandrew.wordpress.com), set in a mythic Rome, which we’ve been playing about once every other week for the last year.

As I researched Circe, I remembered her role in creating Scylla, and decided that my story was definitely going to include Circe and Scylla, with Scylla as my tentacled monster, though it took me time yet to discover the exact nature of their relationship.

But, then, I challenged myself — did anyone in that time period even have the words to describe evolution in ancient Greece? If not, I didn’t think the story could work. I wanted to be accurate in that, to get the Lovecraftian atmosphere. And that took me to Anaximander. As I read the little that we know about his thought, I was so excited. One of the greatest joys for me in writing is that moment where truth suggests a story. I saw a throw-away fact that Anaximander spent time in Thrace, and I thought – wow, that’s a hot-bed of Orphic thinking. At that point, I knew the basic spine of the story. Then, I asked myself, where could my ancient scroll plausibly be found in the geographic area, and I ran across the Derveni Papyrus, which was another thrill to see how well it fit into what I was weaving. It is a particular joy for me in crafting stories to wed existing myth and history and true fact, and find links that I didn’t know existed until I researched them.

What music or movies helped you to write this story? Honestly, I don’t listen to music when I write. For movies, the movie that has most inspired me as a writer is definitely Pan’s Labyrinth.  The movie does everything that I would like to do in a story – it melds a specific historical place and set of events with elements of myth and fairy tale, and uses that union to achieve something entirely new and beautiful and dark.

How many rewrites did you do before submitting? Two. I do much of my revising and shaping at the outlining stage.  I have an indispensable reader in my identical twin sister, and she gave me a very helpful cold read. She didn’t know who Lovecraft was, or Anaximander, and gave me very thoughtful ideas about how to translate the literary/historic/mythic linkages that were in my head so that they would be accessible to the reader, regardless of what background knowledge they had when they first read the story.

What is your favorite bit?

She looked at him and let the silence stretch.

“Mander, if you will keep me company for the time you have left, I will whisper the secrets of the universe to you, the crazed babbling of flute-accompanied Azathoth, how Helios watches – a Cyclopean eye in a body of stars, how sleeping Oceanus dreams – the tentacled oozing leviathan, and how if both their eyes opened at once, the world itself would cease to be.  I can show you things you would indeed find remarkable.”

Interview: Juan Miguel Marin

Name: Juan Miguel Marín

Title of story: “Riemannian Dreams”

Age: Got stuck at 21, several years ago.

Geographic Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Original Hometown, if different: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Website: http://harvard.academia.edu/JuanMiguelMarin

Past publications: “The Bats in the Walls” Innsmouth Free Press, Multi-Ethnic Issue June 2010; “Mysticism’ in quantum mechanics: the forgotten controversy”; European Journal of Physics 30: 807–822 2010; Annihilation and Deification in Beguine Theology and Marguerite Porete’s Mirror of Simple Souls Harvard Theological Review, Volume 103, Issue 01, January 2010, pp 89-109; “Heterosexual Melancholia and Mysticism in the Early Society of Jesus” Theology and Sexuality January 2007.

What’s your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story or other Mythos story? I’m torn between “The Outsider” and the conclusion to “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.”

What comes to mind when you think “Lovecraft” + “Erotica”? The horrible (but fun) 70’s adaptation of “The Dunwich Horror,” specifically the erotic threesome between the mustachioed magician, the blond scream queen, and a giant tentacled rubber ball claiming to be extraterrestrial deity Yog-Sothoth.

How did you hear about Cthulhurotica? The Innsmouth Free Press

What inspired your story? The weird quasi-Lovecraftian speculations behind Einstein’s theory of relativity and its Riemannian mathematics.

What music or movies helped you to write this story? Movies: Dagon (2002) and Cthulhu (2007). Music: Midnight Syndicate and Nox Arcana.

How many rewrites did you do before submitting? Not enough. Never enough.

What is your favorite bit?

“…leaving me covered in salty sweat, uncomfortably wet, and, unfortunately, awake.”

Interview: Ahimsa Kerp

Name: Ahimsa Kerp

Author of: “Tuning in, Turning On, and Dropping Out at the Mountains of Madness”

Age: 33

Geographic Location: Portland, Oregon

Original Hometown, if different: I’ve moved around a bit.  But Portland is as much home as anywhere.

Twitter: @ahikerp

Website: http://obscureclearly.wordpress.com/

Past publications: My story “Mr. Potato Head” is coming out on The New Flesh next month. My alternate history novella “Blades in the North” appears as part of a mosaic novel called To Baldairn Motte – coming out the second quarter of 2011. I have written a fair few travel articles that are scattered around the web, as well.

What’s your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story or other Mythos story? It’s hard to choose just one, but I think “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” holds up the best in terms of what we as modern readers expect from a story.

What comes to mind when you think “Lovecraft” + “Erotica”? Tentacles.   Ewww.

How did you hear about Cthulhurotica? On  Duotrope.  I was looking for a market for a different story but when I heard the term “Cthulhurotica,” I was hooked.

What inspired your story? I was playing Beatles Rockband, thinking about shoggoths, as you do, and I realized  that the 60’s and Lovecraft go really well together.  I thought of an independent character who was sort of new to the counter-culture scene and from there the narrative suggested itself.

What music or movies helped you to write this story? For the dark, freaky aspects, I listened to the Proposition soundtrack a bit, but to get in the mood I mostly listened to music like Arlo Guthrie, The Who, and CCR.

How many rewrites did you do before submitting? The story that was accepted was a complete rewrite of an earlier attempt.  This story came together really quickly and the version I submitted was really the first draft.

What is your favorite bit?

“You’ve been to Kathmandu?  Kabul?  Benares? Ceylon?” she asked.

Nyarlathotep interrupted her.  “That’s not the kind of traveling I do.  Think more … celestial.”

Euphoria understood all right.  She wondered if she could bag some acid off of him.

Interview: Richard Baron

Name: Richard Baron

Author of: “The Cry in the Darkness”

Age: 39

Geographic Location: Peterborough, England

Twitter:@DrVollin

Website: http://rbbaron.co.uk/

Past publications: ‘The Lake” published in the anthology Caught by Darkness and the forthcoming Something in the Doorway anthology.  ‘The Painted Path” published in the October issue of Dark Gothic Resurrected magazine.

What’s your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story or other Mythos story? “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”. I love the description of Innsmouth with its empty houses and strange townsfolk. Whenever I hear of Lovecraft, I envision that place.

What comes to mind when you think “Lovecraft” + “Erotica”? Suppressed desires. Things we perhaps wouldn’t entertain in waking life can become natural occurrences in our dream state where physical reality has no grounds.  A large amount of what stimulates us sexually is in the mind not the flesh. Lovecraft’s writings though devoid of erotic prose walk a similar line… Places and beings that we feel are real but which lie just beyond our physical perception.  He may give us the Gods upon the page but it’s up to us to take them to our beds at night.

How did you hear about Cthulhurotica? I believe it was on the Duotrope website; a must for budding writers.

What inspired your story? I’ve always liked stories in which the female has the upper hand so when thinking about what to write for Cthulhurotica this was my starting point. I had just read ‘The Dunwich Horror’ and remember thinking to myself ‘How did these events effect the people there?’ The story grew naturally out of that.

What music or movies helped you to write this story? I like total silence when writing but watched the film Dagon the night before I started work. Though very loose with the source material, it captures the atmosphere of Lovecraft’s writing more than any other adaption (in my view).

How many rewrites did you do before submitting? Two drafts, an edit then final polish.

What is your favorite bit?

As the nights drew in, melancholy seemed to befall our home. The bright wildflowers that Mamie had earlier that summer picked to decorate our bedroom now lay shriveled in their vases. Dust lay undisturbed upon each surface where I now laid my hand.

Interview: Nathan Crowder

Name: Nathan Crowder

Author of: “The Fishwives of Sean Brolly”

Age: 41

Geographic Location: Seattle, Washington

Original Hometown, if different: Durango, Colorado

Twitter: @Natecrowder

Website: http://nathancrowder.com

Past publications: Short fiction — “Fists of Felt” in Byzarium, “Ink Calls to Ink” and “Memory in the Time of Bones” at WilyWriters.com, “Deacon Carter’s Last Dime” in Crossed Genres and in Crossed Genres Year One, “None Left Behind” in Absent Willow Review, “Frames of Reference” in Close Encounters of the Urban Kind, “The War at Home” in Cobalt City Timeslip, “Kid Gloves” in Thug Lit, “Dancing Tonight! Live Music!” in Rigor Amortis

What’s your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story or other Mythos story? “Pickman’s Model”

What comes to mind when you think “Lovecraft” + “Erotica”? The scene in the movie Dagon when the “local girl” whips back her bedding to show her tentacle legs…her hot, tentacle legs.

How did you hear about Cthulhurotica? The usual suspects on Twitter.

What inspired your story? The fishwives were very, very fringe characters from another unfinished story, crossed with lingering memories of some unhealthy personal relationships that were nowhere near as bad as depicted in my story.

What music or movies helped you to write this story? The soundtrack to the movie City of Lost Children was strangely compelling, and comes to mind when I close my eyes and think of the story.

How many rewrites did you do before submitting? Three – one specifically to add in more sensory detail to the individual paragraphs, and one to remove a confusing framing device/flashback and smooth it over so it didn’t leave a scar.

What is your favorite bit?

That’s an easy one.

“I’m not a freak. I just know what I like.”

I think that really sums up the core of the character as he reaches that revelation.

Interview: Madison Woods

Name: Madison Woods

Author of: “Daddy’s Girl”

Age: 45, for a little longer.

Geographic Location: NW Arkansas, way off the beaten path

Original Hometown, if different: St. Amant, LA

Twitter: @madison_woods

Website: http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com

Past publications: Non-fiction on Ginseng in the Ozarks (Digging Roots, a Dying Legacy). Lots of blog posts between my fiction blog, listed above as the website, and my Rural Ozarks Musings at http://blog.ancientearthwisdom.com .

What’s your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story or other Mythos story? When I first heard about Cthulhurotica, I looked up Lovecraft. So that was my first introduction to his work. I am intrigued but haven’t found a favorite, yet. Monsters with personality are a strong interest of mine, though.

What comes to mind when you think “Lovecraft” + “Erotica”? Very twisted concepts, haha. And a touch of horror that my own mind is thinking of it.

How did you hear about Cthulhurotica? A while back I participated in #zinechat on Twitter with @JaymGates and some other magazine editors and writers of stories. I think it was there that I first saw it mentioned.

What inspired your story? Haha, surely something better left unsaid.

What music or movies helped you to write this story? Believe it or not, Pirates of the Caribbean, the monster-humanoid characters, had a huge influence on how I thought of my characters.

How many rewrites did you do before submitting? Hmmm. Not enough. I found a fairly significant error after hitting ‘send’, and thought surely that would be the death blow to my submission.

What is your favorite bit?

“Smartass. I didn’t say that. But she’d know I’d likely not directly disobey a summons from Daddy.”

Interview: Steven J. Scearce


Name: Steven James Scearce

Author of: “The Assistant from Innsmouth”

Age: I’m 42, actually.

Geographic Location: Kansas City, by way of Detroit and Seattle.

Original Hometown, if different: Kansas City

Twitter feed: @ShinkaiMaru5

Website: http://www.stevescearce.com/
http://www.unknowntransmission.com/

Recent publications:

1. “Second Sunday in September” from Rigor Amortis, Jaym Gates & Erika Holt Editors

2. Unknown Transmission (a science fiction web serial)

3. All kinds of alt-rock music articles in magazines that don’t exist anymore

What’s your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story or other Mythos story? Ah… “The Dunwich Horror.” Brilliant.

What comes to mind when you think “Lovecraft” + “Erotica”? Although Lovecraft’s work is almost entirely devoid of relationships, sex, intimacy, and even women, it’s not for us to say that his work is without an erotic quality. The best erotic fiction creates an almost unhinged desire deep within the reader – a madness of sorts. So, for Lovecraft, who was no stranger to madness, the stories and mythos elements may have been a highly-charged projection of his deepest desires – strange and terrible as they may be.

How did you hear about Cthulhurotica? I believe that I may have been there when the idea was first hatched, like a fly on the wall. *

What inspired your story? My story was inspired by thoughts of travelling through the Miskatonic River Valley. I wondered what it would be like to drive through the valley and into the depths of the unknown. And, as so many of Lovecraft’s characters were ordinary folks who found themselves surrounded by the extraordinary and the horrific, I also wondered what it would be like to walk around in the central character’s shoes for a time and watch those nightmarish events unfold before me.

What music or movies helped you to write this story? During the course of the writing, I listened almost exclusively to the Philip Glass/Kronos Quartet re-imagined soundtrack for the 1931 horror classic, Dracula (with Bela Lugosi).

How many rewrites did you do before submitting? There were nine or ten drafts of the story. One of the early drafts actually approached 4,000 words. Through the course of the editing, I whittled the dialogue and descriptive passages down to a much-tighter version of the original. There were no major cuts. The ending was always the same (horrific), but a brief ritual scene was cut from the final version.

What is your favorite bit?

“The valley itself was wondrously dusky and quiet, although somewhat ominous. Massive trees of deep green foliage populated the whole of the valley and at no point in my journey was my vehicle ever without cover of deep shade. The central aspect of the valley was the Miskatonic River, a broad, dark watercourse that babbled rapid but quiet, as if whispering urgent secrets that only creatures of the water could hear and comprehend.”

* Editor’s Note: It’s true. When the original conversation that inspired this anthology was being had, Steve was a tiny insect, perched on a wall. We nearly swatted him, but he flew away, wings buzzing angrily, and survived to write “The Assistant from Innsmouth”.