Beauty, it is said, is in the eye of the beholder. The turnaround is often believed to mean that beauty does not exist on its own but is created by the observer. In “Glimpses in Amber,” you hint that horror and evil may well exist in the same fashion. Tell us a bit of what inspired this story.
I had the image first: an eye, complete with optic nerve bundle, imbedded in a Lucite block. The story was born when the eye twitched, clearly observing the world around it. I thought, “What kind of person would keep this as a souvenir?” Everything else proceeded from this question.
I typically read each story twice, once to get a sense of the narrative, and once to tease through questions of character. Here, I found myself wondering about the nature of villainy and monsters, of perceptions of casual evil. Who was the “villain” of the story, the man offering the eye or the man accepting the offer? The one who knowingly deals in unease and suffering or the one who admits that “it’s not unfaithfulness, really”? I feel that this story is a fine expression of what it means to be evil, and, most importantly, to confuse that meaning even more. Do you feel that one character is more “evil” than the other?
I think that money provides motivations capable of damning us all, and that the man who accepts the offer would protest at great length about any characterization of himself as evil. He thinks he is above the temptation, and he may even be right. But since he is unambiguously human, we can measure what he is better than we can measure the representative of the unknown organization, which may be an earthly cabal or something more supernatural; they are the part of the story that doesn’t even matter much.
Many readers nurture creative relationships with their fans through social media platforms. I frequently see you post about your Patreon, in particular about your “Movie Still of the Day” posts or pictures of your cats. Fans of your Nightmare Magazine stories are familiar with your love of movies and your feline delights. Tell us a little bit more about your Patreon page.
My Patreon page is, like any other Patreon page, a way of justifying the effort gone into developing a following on social media. All of that is, I think, fun but unpaid work, and I think it terrific that people show their appreciation of the artists they like. My unfortunate recent loss was met with terrific participation by the people out there, including a vast majority I haven’t met, and to merely report the generosity is to completely destroy the premise that this medium is two-dimensionally evil, as it sometimes seems to be. I do not engage in the hard sell, people. This is survival. If you think my stories disposable, then do not investigate further. If you think I give good value and you want to see more from me, this is a great way of showing it.
Would you have accepted the eye and signed the contract?
My instinctive response is a hard “no,” that I would never want to be that guy. There have been enough brushes with temptation in my life, successfully refused, that I am fairly confident about that. But let us be serious. Horror fiction is, like fiction in general, often an exercise in presenting impossible choices and testing concocted people to see where they will fall. History is an exercise in showing us that we don’t always behave the way we like to tell ourselves we would. These people promised a substantial financial infusion. You know what? I might very easily go for the easy buck. I don’t know. If nothing else, it would be a fine conversation piece.
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