Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Nonfiction

Author Spotlight: Adam Howe

Your story follows Gibbons, a middle-aged man who has essentially grown up as a “carny,” or carnival employee. What interested you about this unusual lifestyle, and did you do any research?

Bunny Gibbons was a real guy, a footnote character from the Ed Gein story. I first learned about him while reading Harold Schecter’s definitive Gein bio Deviant, and I thought that telling the Gein story from the POV of a carny would be interesting, given the macabre nature of Gein’s crimes and the resulting media circus. Very little is known about the real Bunny Gibbons, what became of him, or Ed’s car, so I had a lot of license to fool around. The old EC horror comics were also a big influence, where cigar-chomping, cane-twirling carny barkers were a regular staple. It was easy to visualize Gibbons as drawn by the great EC artists like Graham Ingels, Jack Davis, and Johnny Craig.

The arc of the story centers on the public’s fascination with murder and death, from the box-office hit Psycho—which Gibbons references multiple times—to Gibbons’s own plan to profit from the used relics of a serial killer. What is it about these gruesome subjects people find so fascinating?

The real Bunny Gibbons was quoted as saying, “People want to see this kind of thing.” And you only have to look at today’s thriving, serial killer cottage industry to see that the guy was way ahead of his time. Murderabilia is a big business, and I shudder to think what Ed’s car would be worth today. The Eddie Geins’ of this world are all too human monsters. And I think—though we don’t like to admit it—we recognize something of ourselves in them. We live vicariously through their crimes, fulfilling our deepest, darkest desires. Murderabilia allows us almost to touch it; to hold death in our hands. (Maybe Ed isn’t the best example here; I don’t think there are too many people out there secretly longing to molest corpses and wear human flesh-suits—at least, I hope not.)

Many ghost stories feature an irate ghost bound to an object from their life, but you deviate from this trope by tying the haunting to Gibbons and his decisions, and imbuing the ghost with its own sense of justice. What was your thought process behind this?

As I’ve said, the story was a riff on the old EC horror comics. Quite often, these stories featured some irredeemable bastard getting his or her much-deserved comeuppance from beyond the grave! From the little that is known about the real Bunny Gibbons, the guy was certainly morally suspect, if not quite the shitheel of my story. He couldn’t understand why people took such offence to The Mad Butcher of Plainfield’s Chariot of Death. He even vowed to one day exhibit the car in Gein’s hometown—to “play Plainfield”—where the grieving families of the victims still lived. I felt that a guy like that was just begging for his just desserts in the EC style. I have no problem with the classic horror tropes, as long as they’re done well.

What projects are you currently working on, and can you tell us a bit about them?

I’ve got a few dark fiction stories doing the rounds, looking for a home. And some new stuff I need to rewrite and start hustling. I’m between agents at the moment, so my screenwriting career is on the backburner for the time being; I’m developing a few screenplay ideas, but it’s hard to push them without a rep. Right now, I’m enjoying, and prefer to write, prose fiction. I lost more years than I care to admit to a long period of illness, and I’m only just starting to find my feet again. Being published in Nightmare Magazine, alongside some true legends of the genre, is a huge boost for me. If I can keep the momentum going, hopefully next year I’ll start work on my first novel. I’ve got an idea what that might be, but mum’s the word for now . . .

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Britt Gettys

Britt Gettys currently attends Pratt Institute where she is pursuing a BFA in Creative Writing. She is the editor of Pratt Success, a student-run blog, sponsored by Pratt’s Center for Career and Professional Development, which reviews the work of current Pratt students and alumni. Additionally, she illustrates graphic novels and her work has been featured in two Pratt sponsored exhibitions. An editorial intern at Lightspeed and Nightmare Magazine, Britt hails from Seattle, Washington where she spends her time writing, cosplaying, and painting.