From Soraya: Interview with Ramsey Campbell

Today I have another interview today from my friend, Soraya Murillo Hernandez, from Spain. Soraya speaks Spanish, and I only speak English, so our friendship has leaned heavily on technology and Google Translate.

Soraya has so many, incredible interviews, I’ve created a category for her work. You can find all Soraya’s interviews at From Soraya. Today, she shares her interview with Ramsey Campbell, the  English horror fiction writer, editor and critic. He has been writing for over five decades. Two of his novels have been filmed, both for non-English-speaking markets.

Soraya—In your novels many times horror is on the inside of the characters. For you that is the real source of terror?

Ramsey Campbell—It’s one of them. Certainly the dark side of the human mind is a preoccupation of mine, no doubt at least partly because my mother was schizophrenic, undiagnosed (so far as I know) until almost the end of her life.

I think it’s also true of many of my tales that the psychological and the external supernatural are inextricably bound up and often indistinguishable from each other – often one reflects the other, so that the ghost may represent something the characters deny about themselves.

Soraya—Your readers know your passion for Cosmic Horror. It is a very popular and successful term lately. Rivers of ink, as essays, tales and screenplays have been framed on this concept. But if we are sincere, we are not able yet to identify it. What has been for you the Cosmic Horror? Not only in literacy. Do you think your success has something to do with the time we are living?

Ramsey Campbell—Is it so popular? I think of the kind of awe and terror at the alien that we find in Blackwood (“The Willows”), Hodgson, Lovecraft (“The Colour out of Space” in particular), Leiber, Klein (“The Events at Poroth Farm” and its expansion The Ceremonies), Mark Samuels (“The Black Mould”), Marc Laidlaw (The 37th Mandala)… There are other examples, but I really can’t think of very many.

It does seem possible that we are more aware than ever of the vastness and mystery of the universe, or aware of it in a different way, where science is returning towards the numinous.

For myself, I’d be delighted if more writers attempted this kind of horror fiction, and I keep having a go at it myself. Mind you, I often use the term visionary horror, which can also encompass tales such as Machen’s great “The White People,” as the kind I most value.

Soraya—Something that impresses your readers, is that on a very concrete moment of our History, since the beginning of the 20th century, a group of people with similar affinities started a cultural movement that supposed a revolution for the fantastic, horror and science fiction literature.

We are talking about people like Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch, Derleth… People who read each other on small independent publishings, who are in contact by letter, that admire each other to the point of having a true and sincere friendship around their cultural affinities.

It is remarkable this net, the ability of sharing ideas, myths, character, gods and city names. Even Robert Bloch (kindly) asked Lovecraft for permission to kill him in a story! So all this universe becomes something in common that produces a certain sensation of a group membership, even for the readers. Anyone can add one of his tales to the collection of horrors.

Is it really like that? Did you feel you were a part of this phenomenon as a writer? Do you think it is still alive?

Ramsey Campbell—I felt that way when I wrote my early Lovecraftian tales, certainly. I was taking references from tales written by Lovecraft or his friends and building on them – Bob Bloch’s glancing reference to “serpent-bearded Byatis,” a line Lovecraft quoted in “The Festival” from the Necronomicon, several notes from his commonplace book that Lovecraft never got around to developing.

That said, I was too eager to fill in details that Lovecraft had left undefined in order to work on the reader’s imagination – to suggest larger and more awesome things than he showed. As one of the first writers to copy Lovecraft without having known him, I must take some of the blame for the way his concept has been rendered over-explicit and over-explained, precisely the reverse of his intentions.

The Mythos was conceived as an antidote to conventional Victorian occultism – as an attempt to reclaim the imaginative appeal of the unknown – and writers like me robbed it of some of that mystery, I fear.

Soraya—Lots of people seem to fear that Cosmic Horror becomes mainstream (if it already isn’t). It seems that massifying these things means detracting them. It makes the most passionate readers to stop feeling that they belong to something special and unique.

However, it still is an unknown concept for part of the public. It seems that Cosmic Horror doesn’t end to show its head. There is a lot of merchandising, games, comics, movies, serials and references in pop culture. But it doesn’t arrive to become something that, for example, Hollywood producers, want to sell to great audiences, it is always attached to the term “independent” or “underground.” 

Why do you think this is happening? It is that stars haven’t aligned? We aren’t ready for Great Cthulhu’s awakening?

Ramsey Campbell—Well, Lovecraft’s achievement has been rendered worse than banal by some of the tie-in toys and the like. I think the problem may be that many people will now see him in terms of these associated items rather than reading his actual work and appreciating his enormous care with structure and language.

Certainly there’s nothing cosmic in a plush toy or a pair of slippers, but no doubt that’s the price of popularity. Still, his work is being published more widely than ever, and I hope new generations will go to it and see what’s there.

Soraya—In Spain, many of your novels have been poorly translated. How do you feel when you know that in some cases your work is not arriving to the public on the appropriate way?

Ramsey Campbell—Disappointed, but on the other hand I appreciate that my prose may well give translators problems. I like to use the English language for its nuances and ambiguities and pitfalls clusters of meaning, and other languages generally won’t be able to catch that.

For instance, a couple of my tales – “The Words that Count” and “Out of Copyright” depend on the arrangement of particular words that conceal a secret message. Both stories have been translated into other languages, but as far as I can see the translators were unable to produce my effects in their languages, so I can only wonder what the readers made of the whole thing.

Soraya—Why does a writer needs to write about horror? What does he need to exorcise from his own experience?

Ramsey Campbell—I don’t know that I need to exorcise anything. I write what I write because it engages my imagination. I began writing horror fiction in an attempt to pay back some of the pleasure the field had given me. I continue because I still don’t feel I’ve found the boundaries of the genre, by which I certainly don’t feel restricted (although the way it has become a marketing ghetto is another matter).

I’ve always regarded it as a branch of literature. I became aware early on that good horror fiction achieves its effects through the selection of language and the timing of prose. I’m also convinced that the genre is an eloquent medium for discussing the world we make and how we live in it, not to say die. I’ve no plans to leave the field: it’s where I live. I’d call much of what I write comedy of paranoia.

Soraya—If we get a little serious, we could say that the literary genre we’re are talking about has conformed a philosophical movement that many feel identified with. Michel Houellebecq has an essay/biography dedicated to Lovecraft, where he deepens in that sense. But we are tired of listening to the critics talking about horror as a subgender based on entertainment and curiosity. In your experience, do you think that horror and fantastic literature should be taken more seriously?

Ramsey Campbell—I think there’s a fair amount of serious comment on the field, but admittedly not enough. That said, Steve King is about to be given a medal by the US President, while in my small way I was recently made an Honorary Fellow by Liverpool John Moores University for outstanding services to literature – so perhaps we’re beginning to lose some of our lowly status. When I accepted the Fellowship I said I was accepting it on behalf of my field, which I’m proud to be part of.

Soraya—Your terror is very much based on atmospheres. What is the “trick” to create a terrific environment?

Ramsey Campbell—No trick that I know of, nor should there be – just writing what you experience and observe as accurately as you can.

Soraya—Few of your novels have been taken to a movie (The Nameless was adapted in Spain). Are they difficult to adapt to this media?

Ramsey Campbell—Ask the filmmakers, not me.

Soraya—After so many years as an author aren’t you tired at the time of finding horror resources?

Ramsey Campbell—You tell me. Does my work feel tired? It doesn’t to me, and I don’t.

Soraya—Which authors does Ramsey Campbell read?

Ramsey Campbell—H. P. Lovecraft. M. R. James. Graham Greene. Vladimir Nabokov. Algernon Blackwood. Arthur Machen. Robin Wood. Brian W. Aldiss. Philip K. Dick. Peter Straub. Stephen King. Lawrence Durrell. Fritz Leiber. John Dickson Carr. Kingsley Amis. Iris Murdoch. Flann O’Brien. John Kennedy Toole. Penelope Fitzgerald. Steve Mosby. David Mitchell. And others…

Soraya—What is your opinion about Amazon and the e-book? Are you afraid of paper literature’s death?

Ramsey Campbell—I’m certain the physical book will survive, even if with a smaller (though devoted) audience.

Soraya—What did you think when you knew that one of the dark regions of Pluto was baptized as Cthulhu for the NASA scientists?

Ramsey Campbell—It should have been Yuggoth!

Soraya—Thank you very much for answering my questions.

Soraya Murillo Hernandez

From  Soraya Murillo Hernandez: I am an early reader, I started reading very soon and I was interested in terror, I liked to look for monsters and ghosts in the stories. Then I knew that the greatest terror came from humans. I am a book reviewer in Spain, I do it free to help its authors to know their works.

Soy una lectora precoz, comencé muy pronto a leer y me interese por el terror, me gustaba buscar monstruos y fantasmas en las historias. Luego supe que el mayor terror venia de los humanos . Soy reseñadora de libros en España, lo hago gratis para ayudar a sus autores a conocer sus obras.

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Review: Visions of the Mutant Rain Forest

I recently finished Visions of the Mutant Rain Forest by Bruce Boston and Robert Frazier and loved it. The writing is lush and intelligent. There is much of the classic craft in these lines and I can imagine them draining from the pen of Lovecraft or Poe.

The book hooks you from the start with a short story by Frazier called Cruising Through Blueland. A gritty tale of greed and corruption, the characters are set in a landscape just unfamiliar enough to be unsettling.

The other world tech blends seamlessly into the story, quickly immersing the reader into Blueland’s alternative reality. It ends with open satisfaction—no irritating loose ends, but room for more.

If this wasn’t enough to justify this book’s place on shelves, the tale is followed by poetry by both Boston and Frazier. The poems are a satisfying follow up with meaty verse and meaning to chew through. None of them are quick dittys spewed across the page in quick succession. Each poem stands alone with merit.

One of my favorites is A Decadent Romantic Afflicted by the Mutant Rain Forest. Written by Boston, the word play frolics with imagery that echos the hazardous and lovely world created by the authors. There is a wistful pang woven throughout the book, but here I feel it the most acutely. It makes me mourn for what isn’t real and long for what isn’t possible—emotions that come from excellent writing.

The book alternates between eight stories and poetry creating a literary journey for the reader. Each section stands alone nicely, not propped up by each other, but they are interconnected. Boston and Frazier work in tandem to create this world of ecological vengeance.

Another favorite poem for me is Phantom Limb by Frazier. I’m a fan of using the wrong word to create a new meaning as Frazier does in this poem with his use of “sole” rather than soul. It makes me smile and know I’m not alone.

The final story in the book, Surrounded by the Mutant Rain Forest, resonates with me. Written by Boston, it’s a love story presented with horror, or perhaps a horror story presented with love. Regardless, all the trappings of romance are present as boy meets girl and struggles against the usual entrapment issues. What Boston communicates, however, is bigger than the characters he sets in motion. The story is about relationship, but with what?

The entire book, together, is as varied as a real rain forest. Layers combine to create the understory, intertwined with facets from this fictional mutant forest, to connect and illuminate until the reader bursts through the canopy with The Mutant Forests of Mars and back into the light, now harsh against the living shadow just traveled.

A great, rich read worthy of savoring.

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“Lullacry” Reading on SFPA

There is a recorded reading of my poem, “Lullacry,” on the Science Fiction and Poetry Association’s website as part of their Halloween Poetry Readings. I never like how my voice sounds recorded, but for this poem maybe the child like tones add something.

Note of interest—I read this poem in a deeper voice than I normally use to try and sound more ominous. Once again, I miss the mark. Listen to “Lullacry,” read by me, along with a nice selection of other Halloween inspired readings by poets by clicking this link.

Lullacry started out as a daydream last Halloween as I was walking my dog. It was a tidbit that I scribbled down in my notes. It wound up being perfect for the SFPA Halloween line up. This is the first time this poem has appeared anywhere.

To go with it, I made this photo collage…


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New Haiku Doodles

Since I learned so many new ideas about the many facets of haiku, I’ve been exploring the ideas and scribbling down different patterns. I don’t have anything worth writing home about yet, but here are the directions my thoughts are going.

I also signed up with the NaHaiWriMo group on Facebook, where they have daily haiku prompts. Today’s prompt is “filter.” Here’s my response:

My filter is gone—
incinerated in the apocalypse you gave me.
Beware of the returns.

Yesterday’s prompt was “image,” and the inspiration for the first stanza of this trio.

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2017 N3F Short Story Contest and Submissions

The National Fantasy Fan Federation is having a short story contest that ends Dec. 31, 2017. Stories entered in the contest must be original, unpublished, not longer than 8,500 words in length—and must be related to the science fiction, fantasy, or similar genres in the opinion of the judge.

Cash prizes totaling $100 will be awarded as follows: First prize is $50, second $30, and third $20. Honorable mentions and semi-finalists will receive a certificate of award. Read more about the short story contest here.

Two of their five publications also accept poetry. They also accept fiction, essays, con reports and interviews. All writing is subject to being edited, but they usually take a very light hand. Any writer chosen for a feature (fiction or non-fiction of more than 900 words) will get 1 full-color printed version of the issue their work graces. Find out more about their submission guidelines here.

Fans and authors of science fiction and fantasy should considering joining the organization. Membership fees are as low as $4 a year and a public membership is free. Read more about joining the National Fantasy Fan Federation here.

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The Roasterie: Local Coffeetopia

I just discovered another reason to love Kansas City—The Roasterie. Air roasted coffee heaven done fresh right here. We can take a factory tour and I’m told that the smell of roasting coffee wafts through the city in the winter.

Yesterday we bought a bag of their Full Vengeance Dark Blend from the local grocery. Aromatic and dark, this coffee became a staple after three sips. I predict Vengeance will remain a favorite of mine, but I plan to try the rest of their dark roasts asap.

I usually only have two cups in the morning and an occasional afternoon boost. This was such a good coffee it became a four cup morning. Will be visiting the factory soon.

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Almost Halloween!

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What is/isn’t Haiku?

Haiku is a traditional Japanese form of poetry that consists of three lines of 5/7/5 syllables… isn’t it? At least that’s what I learned in school. Lately I’ve come across poets who disparage the translated haiku we were raised on. They say the 5/7/5 rule is dead.

As usual, my first reaction at this wanton disregard for the sacrosanct 5/7/5 syllable structure was rejection.

The structure is the point, I whined to my ever patient husband and fellow writer. What’s the point of a haiku with no boundaries?

As usual, my second reaction was to try and understand how anyone could think this travesty was a good idea. Maybe I’m missing something, I thought. And, as usual, I found myself enlightened.

Turns out, we’ve been doing it wrong. According to NaHaiWriMo, the Japanese 5/7/5 counts sounds, not syllables. Rather than have me butcher this, here’s how they explain it:

 Japanese haiku counts sounds, not strictly syllables. For example, the word “haiku” itself counts as two syllables in English (hi-ku), but three sounds in Japanese (ha-i-ku). This isn’t how “haiku” is said in Japanese, but it is how its sounds are counted.

Similarly, consider “Tokyo.” How many syllables? Most Westerners, thinking that Japan’s capital city is pronounced as “toe-key-oh,” will say three syllables, but that’s incorrect. It’s actually pronounced as “toe-kyo.” So two syllables, right? Actually, no. Rather, it counts as “toe-oh-kyo-oh”—four syllables. Or rather, sounds. Click here for more.

As I’m trying to digest this nugget of information, I was hit with another. Haiku are not traditionally written in the cute, trio of lines we grew up with.

Japanese is written in a format called tategaki (縦書き) where the characters are written in columns going from top to bottom, with columns ordered from right to left.

So… a traditional haiku is written in one line more like Allen Ginsberg’s “American Sentences?” I didn’t even know there was such a thing until my friend and fellow poet Bryan Thao Worra mentioned them. My world is, once again, blown apart.

And, just when I’m considering what this means to me and how I feel about it, I discover even more haiku derivatives:

All this, and there’s a month dedicated to haiku? Yes, February is haiku month and the NaHaiWriMo organization is the place to go to find out more.

In the end, I come to the same conclusion I usually do: I’ve got a lot to learn. I’m glad. I believe when you stop learning you start to die. I will probably be immortal.

And to finish, here is my very own unauthentic American haiku discount knock off (hey, was that an “American Sentence?!?”):

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Diary of a Sorceress Giveaway

Enter to win a signed “and kissed” copy of Diary of a Sorceress by Ashley Dioses from now until Oct. 27. The giveaway is being hosted by Goodreads. Click here for the link.

From Amazon: The young poet Ashley Dioses has already established herself as a leading voice in contemporary weird poetry. Known for her meticulous use of rhyme and meter, her deft melding of the strange and the erotic, and her novel treatments of such age-old themes as the vampire, the witch, and the ghoul, Dioses now gathers the best of her recent poetry into her first collection—a scintillating assemblage of nearly 100 poems short and long, published and unpublished.

With this single volume, Ashley Dioses takes her place as a worthy successor to the long line of California Romantics, beginning with Ambrose Bierce, Clark Ashton Smith, and Nora May French, and carrying on with Donald Sidney-Fryer and K. A. Opperman (The Crimson Tome), with whom she has worked closely.

Ashley Dioses is a poet from Southern California whose work has appeared widely in print and online venues, including Spectral Realms, Weirdbook, Weird Fiction Review, and HWA Poetry Showcase.

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Work is… Working

A representation of how I feel after working 114 hours in two weeks.

The past two weeks have been a blur. I worked 114 hours total at my new job. Yes, I had overtime—34 hours of overtime. I will have a very fat paycheck next Monday.

I still managed to keep up with blog posts here, published Spiders Are Everywhere, relaunched Monsters Are Everywhere and reformatted Everly is Everywhere.

I’ve also somehow managed to get 81 images up on Pixabay and have been in the top 100 producers for the past two weeks.

Am I tired? Yes, yes I am tired…. but that’s what coffee is for.

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