Can you tell us a little bit about how this story came to be?
I wrote the bulk of “Foul Weather” while on a violently bumpy airplane ride. The characters (especially the flight attendant) were taken directly from the people sitting around me. I fleshed out the rest of the narrator’s meteorological knowledge by calling Dr. Howard Bluestein, a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma. And of course, the underlying horror of the story is directly inspired by H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos. Specifically, the phrase “black planets roll” is taken from the Lovecraft poem “Nemesis.”
Do you have any personal scary weather stories to share?
Growing up in Oklahoma (aka “Tornado Alley”), I was raised on thunderstorms, ice storms, tornadoes, hail, and extreme weather of all sorts. Once, during a tornado warning, my family was running outside through a rainstorm to reach the cellar door. It was chaos—lightning and thunder and a sky full of funnel clouds. I was carrying a paperback so that I’d have something to read in the dank cellar. Out of nowhere, a stray dog ran at me and bit my hand. We kept running until we were inside. By the light of a kerosene lantern, I looked at my hand and saw that the dog’s teeth had missed my fingers by centimeters. However, when I opened my book to read it, I realized the bite marks penetrated into the story more than a hundred pages.
In “Foul Weather,” you’ve combined violent storms and plane flight, two topics people commonly find frightening. What do you think it is about these things that scares people?
Yeah, it’s terrifying to contemplate violent weather wrecking your plane. But I think the real horror of “Foul Weather” goes deeper than that. We all know that Mother Nature is trying to kill us, usually via the weather, but the understanding is that it’s not personal. Mother Nature is Mother Nature—she’s not good or evil. This story wonders whether that’s true. Is there a deeper evil that permeates the hidden dimensions? Could it reach us from beyond the veil in the form of wind and rain and thunder?
What are you working on right now?
I’m busy writing the sequel to my novel Robopocalypse. The robots aren’t finished with us, as it turns out.
What scared you the most when you were young?
As a kid, my little brother had something called “night terrors.” It was just a stage, but he’d occasionally wake up screaming from dreams so horrible that he would vomit and be totally disoriented. We shared a room, and so I’d be the first to react. One of his dreams struck me in particular. I will never forget the sight of my little brother’s eight-year-old baby face as he looked at his own hands, eyes half-lidded in sleepy confusion, and he repeated the words, “I’m so old. I’m so old, Daniel.” Still gives me the shivers.