The Mad Mind of Author Thomas S. Flowers

Opus Questions with Madeleine Swann

Much like the late great H.P. Lovecraft, I believe that the most merciful thing regarding humanity is our inability to grasp the whole of anything. If we could somehow piece together the great mysteries of life, said knowledge would cause us to go scampering off, mad from whatever terrifying revelation that came our way, sending us screaming gleefully from the light and into another Dark Age. And this is what horror does, is it not? Reminding us through strange and unusual stories our very own magnum opus, our grand plight as mere morals, our inability the fathom the depth of the cosmos. And horror also illuminates our desire to look, reckless and heedless as it is. We voyage into the unknown because at root we crave that which terrifies us. Horror writers of the strange and unusual are the grand heretics of the macabre, derelict puzzle guardians, whisperers in darkness asking, “What is your pleasure?” But what do this writers read? What sends them running for fear into the light? Opus Questions delves into this curiosity. To understand the works that stimulate the heretics. It most certainly feels like a prerogative. To write, you must first read. So, to keep things interesting and to be a bit villainess on my part, I’ve asked my guests, up and coming authors of bizarre tales, to tell us a bit about their favorite books. And they could pick only two. You heard me. Just two!!! (laughs manically) So, without further ado, here is…

Madeleine Swann:

The Giant Book of Zombies, 1995.

The Giant Book of Zombies, 1995.

The first book I’ve chosen is The Giant Book of Zombies, edited by Stephen Jones. It holds a special place in my heart as it was the first Christmas present from my stepdad when I was around 14 or 15 (he already knew me so well).

I was very fond of the ‘weird one at the end’ as I called it, On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks by Joe R Lansdale. Also Patricia’s Profession by Kim Newman has an intriguing take on the mythology where people pay to ‘murder’ living dead girls.

Sex, Death and Starshine, by Clive Barker, involves the mission of undead visitors in a theatre to make the director’s play as good as possible. Les Daniels’ story They’re Coming for You is about an affair that goes wrong; when my teenage self-first read the ending I laughed and laughed like the strange person I was. Finally Re-animator, Schalken the Painter and A Warning to the Curious are classics, and there are lots of other very good ones too.

The Weird, Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, 2012

The Weird, Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, 2012

 

The next one is called The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. One of my favourite genres by far is weird fiction and it’s an extra packet of biscuits if it’s dark too.

Edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer, this enormous tome (incidentally also a Christmas present, this time from mum. Hi mum!) contains almost everyone I’ve ever been influenced by ever. My eyes literally bleed and I prolapse when I try to explain how much I love this book.

Here’s just a tiny amount of those involved: Neil Gaiman (with an unexpectedly dark tale for him); Haruki Murakami; silky worded Angela Carter; George RR Martin (wrote some stuff about thrones or something); Daphne Du Maurier’s story Don’t Look Now, which became the film with Donald Sutherland; Saki (if you’ve never read Saki, do – he is possibly one of my favourites and very mischievously funny); surrealist Leonora Carrington; Robert Aickman; Kafka…need I go on? Just read it!

madeleine-swann

 

I want to thank Madeleine Swann for taking the time to tell us a bit about the works that have inspired her, that have pushed her into the mad dark abyss. For those not in the know, Madeleine Swann is the author of several pieces of bizarre fiction, including her own collection of short stories, The Filing Cabinet of Doom: 17 Bizarro Short Stories. You can find Miss Swann lurking about her blog and on Twitter. Madeleine Swann is also contributing a new bizarro story in the upcoming horror anthology, The Black Room Manuscripts, due later this summer.

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