Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Artist Spotlight

Artist Showcase: Chris Seaman

Chris Seaman, born 1993, is a freelance illustrator and artist based in the UK. Heavily influenced by the horror films of the 1950s and ’60s, his work focuses on creating fear and intrigue through storytelling. Using Adobe Photoshop as his program of choice, Seaman creates pieces that are bizarre, macabre, and unsettling in equal measure. “When I work, I like to think about things that would scare me in particular. If I find it scary or interesting, I tend to think it’s worth illustrating. After all, if I can’t scare myself, how can I expect to scare other people?”

First off I’d like to ask you a question in the spirit of Nightmare: What scares you the most?

I’d definitely have to say insects. It’s a love/hate relationship. I’m endlessly fascinated by them, but put them under a microscope, and they’re so alien . . . so strange. It’s no wonder the B-Movies of the 1950s made use of them so much. What could possibly be worse than giant ants?

What inspired this month’s cover illustration, Aegri Somina?

Back to the B-Movies, I’m afraid. My tutors at university fed my love of horror with classical art prints of horror posters. Modern horror hasn’t got a chance in comparison. Oh, you’re being haunted? A demon’s angry with you? What a shame. Meanwhile Hollywood’s faced giant crab monsters, tentacled eyes, werewolves, vampires, monsters from out of this world and within its darkest depths. A ghost occasionally slamming a door stretched out over an hour and a half isn’t horror for me. For me, horror is the unexplainable, the bizarre, the monstrous. Horror should be a nightmare on legs. Or in this case, a nightmare on tentacles.

What do you envision the octopus in Aegri Somina is thinking?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And that, to me, is scarier than anything. It hasn’t got a motive. It’s not out for revenge. It doesn’t want to claim your soul. It’s not here to steal your first born child. You haven’t been cursed. It’s only an octopus, driven by that simple, animalistic urge. I MUST EAT . . . AND EAT . . . AND EAT . . .

What inspired you to work with stock photos?

When I was at school, I really wanted to do art, but it ended up clashing with other subjects I wanted to study. The only option that was similar, and that fitted into my timetable, was graphic design. So, I slunk to my first lesson, lamenting how wasted all my art pencils and drawing practice was going to be. To my amazement, I found that working with photographs and editing them into something different was incredible. The things you could do, all that possibility; to change an ordinary photograph into art . . . it was magic: pure and simple. Since that very first lesson, I’ve always worked with stock photographs, and that feeling of infinite possibility is still there.

What made you want to become an artist? Can you remember a defining moment where you knew this was what you wanted to do?

I grew up reading the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine, which fueled a lifelong obsession with horror, graduating from Stine to Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, you name it. I started writing horror at first, and I had a brilliant English teacher who introduced me to classical horror from writers such as M.R. James and Arthur Machen. But despite moving from one author to the next, horror for me was always the Goosebumps books. The way they felt, the way they smelled, but most importantly, how they looked.

One day, somebody introduced me to an artist called Joshua Hoffine, a brilliant horror photographer and conceptual artist. As soon as I saw his work, my mind immediately raced back to ten years ago, reading Goosebumps at night, with the famous cover artworks by Tim Jacobus. And suddenly, everything seemed to click.

The horror film posters of the last few years have a wide repertoire of tone of voice: Unease. Tension. Suspense. Claustrophobia. The idea that something may not be right. The posters whisper at you. But, oh boy, the horror posters of the ’50s and ’60s . . . they scream at you. I AM HORROR. I AM A NIGHTMARE. I AM FEAR. Tim Jacobus captures this so well in his artwork. THIS IS HORROR. BE AFRAID. Joshua Hoffine’s work does this too. Seeing it there on my friend’s laptop screen, I realized how badly I wanted to scream like that too. There’s a motto for you: Why whisper when you can scream?

Are you involved in the art community where you live? What is the art scene like there?

I live in the U.K., in a small village near the east coast. It’s very rural and isolated. The main city has a very small art scene, but since it’s a city that was built on the back of farming and agriculture, it’s as country-based as a city can get. The art you’re likely to come across will normally be landscapes of hills, woodlands, and flowers. However, there are plenty of artists who create more contemporary works, but tend not to be promoted in the larger galleries. I’m friends with a fairly large pool of artists and like-minded people who tend to get inspired by each other and have similar project ideas. I work a lot with creative writers and musicians in particular to collaborate on different areas.

When you illustrate, do you have any little rituals? For example, is there a certain kind of music you like to listen to, or a certain type of beverage or food you like to have on hand?

In terms of rituals, it largely depends on the type of work. If it’s a freelance piece, it’ll normally be a case of putting on the proverbial working hat and knuckling down to get the work done before the deadline. My horror work is normally done for personal reasons, and then it’s a different beast altogether. I’ll normally get an incredibly strong idea or image in my head that I can’t shake, and then it’ll be a mad dash to a sketchbook or laptop, working in a fever like a lunatic, only to look up once I’m done to find out that four hours have flown by. If there is a pattern to it, I’m normally too focused on getting the idea down to notice!

Is there some place you have not yet been able to visit, but would like to travel to someday? What is it about that place that calls to you?

Without a doubt, it’s Japan. It has such a rich history of folklore and mythology. The whole country was isolated from the rest of the world for two hundred years. For some reason, that fact tickles my brain just right. Two hundred years of isolation from everyone. Shut off from the entire world upon penalty of death. It’s so terribly Lovecraftian. And that whole idea fascinates me.

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Marina J. Lostetter

Marina Lostetter

Marina J. Lostetter’s short fiction has appeared in venues such as InterGalactic Medicine Show, Galaxy’s Edge, and Writers of the Future. Her most recent publications include a tie-in novelette for the Star Citizen game universe, which was serialized over the first four months of 2014. Originally from Oregon, Marina now lives in Arkansas with her husband, Alex. She tweets as @MarinaLostetter. Please visit her homepage at lostetter.net.