I love the fragmented, tenuous nature of “A Study In Shadows,” how the snippets are loosely woven together until tightened like a garrote at the end. Could you tell us something about what inspired the story?
I’ve always loved modular narratives. Like Susan Minot’s “Lust” or Evan Connell’s Mrs. Bridge. The individual units piece together like a kind of mosaic. The audience is forced to lean forward and become more active in solving the narrative, and because of that, they’re more emotionally involved and complicit in the story.
“A Study in Shadows” is presented almost like an inchoate data set. You’re studying what the professor is studying and ultimately arriving at a conclusion that he could not.
There is a dark, delicious meta of “the nature of fear versus horror” running through the story, which is very similar to the shorter works of Bloch, Lovecraft, and Gaiman. What is the value in being afraid, in exploring the shadows that lurk just out of sight? Why do you think readers seek out works of fiction?
You’ve seen the creature crawling on the ceiling before, out of focus, just over the shoulder of a character. You’ve heard the pitchfork dragged screeching across the concrete floor. You’re acquainted with the character who hears a noise and approaches a closet and reaches a hand for the knob . . . and finds nothing but a cat inside—only to turn around to face an attack from the monster. I could keep going. There are certain tricks to horror we grow overly familiar and bored with. I’m always trying to find a new way in, a soft spot for the knife to go. Going meta was my attempt to find a new way in. By making the story about the nature of horror—the scholarship of horror—I tried to show that by staring into the abyss, too hard, too long, you can become infected by its darkness.
You have a varied body of work under your belt, everything from comics to novels to screenplays and short stories. Are there any writing projects you’d like to try, something new you’ve never done before?
I’d love to continue to work in podcasts. I’ve written the first two seasons of the Wolverine audio drama, which you can stream for free wherever you listen, and that experience broke my brain and gave me a whole new storytelling arsenal. I think the medium is ideally suited to horror and I’d like to lean into that.
I’ve been lucky enough to sell several features—but nothing (so far) has been made. That’s my dream: creating someone else’s nightmare: making a horror film.
What scares Benjamin Percy? What fears follow you to sleep?
I sure don’t like clowns, sharks, or dentists. But the only thing that truly scares me is something harmful happening to my kids.
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