“Machines of Concrete Light and Dark” originally appeared in Lovecraft Unbound, edited by Ellen Datlow. In your afterword in that volume, you explained that you “wrote this piece to try out a variation on his theme of a lurking power or divinity.” Are those your favorite types of Lovecraft stories?
My favorite Lovecraft stories change with time. I wouldn’t say any one feature attracts me significantly more than any other. This lurking idea was simply a propitious jumping off point for the story.
With that anthology as motivation for writing a Lovecraft pastiche, what else inspired this story? How did it develop from there?
The story swam together out of a collection of impressions and memories. I grew up in a small canyon and we would hear the coyotes caroling at night sometimes. You knew they were out there, not particularly scary, but wild animals. The idea of necessity entered the story by way of some philosophical reading I’d been doing about free will at the time.
You have nine published novels and dozens of short stories. Do you approach writing novels and short stories differently? Does one format feel more natural for the tales you want to tell?
Novels are more intuitive for me, because they are capacious and varied. Short stories force me to concentrate on making a single impression. The challenge with novels is finding the path that will travel through all the desired points. The challenge with short stories is in finding the right way to push past the stopping point and give the story real depth.
In addition to writing, you are also a college English professor. How did your course Literature of the Macabre and the Supernatural come about, and will you share some of the reading list?
I simply piloted the course as a possible elective. We read:
- Washington Irving, “The Tale of the German Student”
- Edgar Allan Poe, “Ligeia”
- Arthur Machen, “The Great God Pan”
- M. John Harrison, “The Great God Pan”
- J. Sheridan Le Fanu, “Carmilla”
- Joanna Russ, “My Dear Emily”
- Oliver Onions, “The Beckoning Fair One”
- H.P. Lovecraft, “The Thing on the Doorstep”
- Shirley Jackson, “The Daemon Lover”
- M.R. James, “Wailing Well”
- Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows”
- Arthur Machen, “The White People”
- Edgar Allan Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”
- Julio Cortazar, “House Taken Over”
- Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
- Edgar Allan Poe, “William Wilson”
- Mary Shelley, “The Transformation”
- H.P. Lovecraft, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
- H.P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”
- T.E.D. Klein, “Black Man with a Horn”
- Robert Aickman, “The School Friend”
- Ramsey Campbell, “Boiled Alive”
You also translate Spanish and French literature to English. What have you translated recently? Are there any authors who have not found an American audience yet that you would like to bring to English readers?
The last thing I translated was a story by Alfonso Reyes, a Mexican author almost totally untranslated into English, as far as I can tell. Reyes should be better known.
With your teaching schedule and translation work, where does fiction writing fit into your life?
Wherever the bolt lands.
What published work can we expect to see from you next? What are you writing now?
I’ve just finished a new novel called Animal Money that is destined to appear soon, although I can’t go into any further details about it. At the moment I’m working on several short stories for various anthologies and waiting for my next task to present itself. I also have an essay on Lovecraft, Poe, and the cosmic, which I hope is on its way to a good home.
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