Interview: Constella Espj

Name: Constella Espj

Author of: “Ipsa Scientia”

Age: 35

Geographic Location: Las Vegas, NV

Original Hometown, if different: Nashville, TN

Twitter: @alphabete

Website: http://alphabete-noir.com

Past publications: I was once published in a little indie magazine called Unoriginal, whose editor actually pen-named me.

What’s your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story or other Mythos story? “The Shadow Out of Time” is my favorite Lovecraft story, because I love the more intellectual horror of the Great Race of Yith making use of other creatures’ bodies for their studies.  I can’t deny that I would love to find myself at their library, even though the end result is typically Lovecraftian.

What comes to mind when you think “Lovecraft” + “Erotica”? The first thing that came to my mind was “squamous tentacle sex under a gibbous moon” but once I managed to stop thinking about that I thought that it seemed like a brilliant challenge.  The two ideas seem so distant and dissonant to me that I honestly had not thought of it before I heard of this anthology.

How did you hear about Cthulhurotica? On Twitter!  One of the writers I follow kept mentioning it and eventually my curiosity took over from there.

What inspired your story? I have a friendship with a very smart man who could probably talk to me all day about physics and I would simply listen and ask him questions.  My story is a pretty extreme fictionalization of the dynamics of our relationship.  Without this friendship, my story would not have come into being.

What music or movies helped you to write this story? I listened to a lot of Sorten Muld, which is a Danish folk-electronic group.  I cannot understand the lyrics to their songs so they don’t distract me.  An added bonus is that I know what their songs are about (folklore set to lush music) but since I don’t speak Danish I got to feel a little of how my characters feel, this sense of knowing what something is but not being able to grasp it.  I also listened to “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors because it’s kind of a nerd love song.  Rounding out the selection is this “Zalgo Invocation” I found on YouTube.  Zalgo is a sort of Lovecraft-esque…corruption meme and the invocation is plenty creepy and atmospheric.  I emphatically do not recommend listening to that while in the dark and/or home alone.  At all.

How many rewrites did you do before submitting? I did about eight rewrites.  This is actually the most revision I have ever done on a story and wow was it a learning experience for me.  The story I ended up with, while the same in spirit, is definitely not the story I started out with.  Characters appeared and disappeared, there were changes of location and a lot of changes in transitions.  The ending had about six different incarnations.

What is your favorite bit?

“Later, after their goodbyes, Kara was too excited to sleep. Everything Jake had told her was swirling in her head. Her heart was pounding and she was panting. Her fingertips traced the curve of her breasts, the plane of her belly, the angles of her hipbones. She giggled softly to herself, remembering how she’d told Jake that the Navier-Stokes equations made her think of navels and strokes and soon the fabric of her panties was like spacetime, curved to the density of her desires.”

 

Interview: Matt Marovich

Name: Matthew Marovich

Author of: “Sense”

Age: 30

Geographic Location: The Bay Area, California

Twitter: @MattMarovich

Website: http://twopens.wordpress.com

Past publications: In 2007 I sold my first short story, “Reflections,” to The Edge of Propinquity (www.theedgeofpropinquity.com). Earlier this year I sold a work of short short fiction, “Tilling”,  to Blood Bound Books for their Seasons in the Abyss anthology.

What’s your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story or other Mythos story? “The Music of Erich Zann”.

What comes to mind when you think “Lovecraft” + “Erotica”? Tentacles. Horrible, horrible tentacles.

How did you hear about Cthulhurotica? I have to admit that I’m a huge fan of Lovecraft’s work, a fact that is well known to my friends based on the number of Cthulhu Mythos-themed gifts they give me. A friend of mine who is also a writer sent me a link to the call for submissions page. I was intrigued.

What inspired your story? I’m not certain where the inspiration originally came from except for the fact that I really like the idea of private detectives, especially in the early 20th century.  I know that when I originally thought of the general idea for “Sense” it was going to take a much more humorous, less-serious approach (while still having the same ending) with the title of “If You Love Me Let Mi-Go”. I decided against that title, partially because my friends are fond of throwing things at me when I pun.

What music or movies helped you to write this story? I don’t really like to listen to music when I write but I did spend a lot of time listening to songs by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and other similar artists while I was thinking up this particular story.

How many rewrites did you do before submitting? Three, I think?

What is your favorite bit?

We both came, wordless screams of pleasure and release pouring from us, mine chasing hers. I collapsed sideways, half on her, half off, and sleep fell immediately across us like a shroud.

I can still feel her body, how soft she was against my side, the clean scent of her hair, the musk of our sweat and sex. I can still feel her breath stirring the hairs on my chest. That’s what I want to remember.

Interview: Clint Collins

Name: Clint Collins

Author of: “The Summoned”

Age: 59

Geographic Location: Northern Virginia

Original Hometown, if different: Lexington, Kentucky

Past publications: Story in “Under the Fang,” a Horror Writers Association anthology published by Pocket Books (paperback) and Borderlands Press (hardcover); story in the “Lilith Unbound” anthology published by Popcorn Press; poetry in “Vampyr Verse” published by Popcorn Press.

What’s your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story or other Mythos story? It has to be the cornerstone of the Cthulhu mythos, “The Call of Cthulhu.”

What comes to mind when you think “Lovecraft” + “Erotica”? The gentle, whispering slither of a cool tentacle under clean sheets.

How did you hear about Cthulhurotica? From that excellent markets newsletter, “Duotrope’s Digest.””

What inspired your story? In “The Call of Cthulhu,” sculptor Henry Wilcox is delirious and his friends in the Fleur-de-Lys Building (an actual place in Providence, RI) come to his assistance upon hearing his cries. I wondered what would happen if someone went into his room afterwards. What would they discover? How would they be affected? The story focuses on an impressionable artist who finds Henry’s stunning sketches when she enters his room.

What music or movies helped you to write this story? None. I am enough of a procrastinator that if I turned on any music I’d probably still be listening. I invent enough distractions of my own without inviting them.

How many rewrites did you do before submitting? That is hard to answer as I continually re-read and rewrite from the very beginning. If I am happy with a paragraph, I move on and build from there. I have to say it is an ongoing process.  By the time I finish I’ve read it many times.

What is your favorite bit?

She led me to her work desk and handed me a very detailed drawing in pencil.  “Richard, take a look at this? What do you think?”

Of course, it was Henry’s monster, though much better imagined and executed, and, therefore, all the more revolting.

Interview: Travis King

Name: Travis King

Author of: “Dreamlands of Mars”

Age: 31

Geographic Location: Pacific Northwest

Twitter: @travisking

Website: http://rexscribarum.wordpress.com/

Past publications: Print: Waves: A Journal of Literary and Visual Arts; Open Ways. Online: Every Day Fiction; eMuse; Eclectic Flash; another Lovecraftian tale, “The Doom That Came to Yamatai” was published recently at Innsmouth Free Press. Forthcoming: “The Cost of Living” in the charity anthology Farrago, edited by Jennifer Hudock.

What’s your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story or other Mythos story? Wow, you know, it’s really hard to choose. There’s no way I can pick just one. I really enjoy the tales from his Dream Cycle: “The Doom that Came to Sarnath,” “The Cats of Ulthar,” things like that. They were influenced by Dunsany and have that same sort of lyrical, mythical quality to them, unlike the Cthulhu Mythos itself, wherein Lovecraft mixes fantasy with science and rationalizes the Elder Gods as extraterrestrials.

What comes to mind when you think “Lovecraft” + “Erotica”? Honestly, the first thing that comes to mind is a scene like that from Hokusai’s The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife or a Japanese hentai film, but there’s really a lot more to it than that; my own story doesn’t involve tentacles at all. To me, erotica isn’t just about the sex—not even just about the people or entities involved. It’s about the sensuality to be found in the whole experience, the place and time, the characters’ surroundings. Lovecraft created worlds that mirrored our own in a way, yet were demonstrably different—sometimes subtly, sometimes more overtly. They are worlds that move the reader beyond the rational into the experiential. They offer a full, rich, sensual experience, and that’s the foundation of a good erotic tale.

How did you hear about Cthulhurotica? I don’t remember exactly, but it was on Twitter, that much is certain. Twitter is a great place to hear about contests and calls for submission. I follow a number of publishers, editors, and fellow writers, and through them I come across this kind of news on a weekly, if not daily, basis. I know some people think Twitter’s a fad and don’t see the appeal, but I’ve made many literary connections there, and I feel it presents amazing opportunities for a professional writer to connect with others in the field and with readers.

What inspired your story? It was influenced primarily by the Randolph Carter tales of Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle and by the story “In the Walls of Eryx,” which was Lovecraft’s only venture into the field of traditional science fiction. I was originally going to have it set on Venus, as “Eryx” was, complete with the pulp-era descriptions of life on that planet, but then I decided to stick to the science we know now, and in homage to Burroughs, who also wrote of a man named Carter, I moved the setting Mars, setting part of it in a projected future about 80 years from now and another part in the distant past, when, at least for purposes of the story, alien life was abundant.

What music or movies helped you to write this story? While music and film have influenced some of my writing, this time around they weren’t a conscious contribution at all. I didn’t even have music playing as I wrote it. For this story, I just kept going back to Lovecraft’s original works mentioned above.

How many rewrites did you do before submitting? I have five drafts saved to my hard drive. Most of these were written in the last couple of days before the deadline. I really don’t recommend waiting so long to work on a story unless undue stress and sleeplessness are the sort of thing you find enjoyable.

What is your favorite bit?

She pressed her lips to mine. They were slick with a thin layer of balm and tasted of honey; that erotic fire one feels at the kiss of a beloved partner coursed through my veins, centering in the sensitive cleft between my legs. I kissed back, and after a few seconds, she drew away. I was both astounded by the familiarity of the greeting and saddened that it had to end. Then the man took her place….

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.