How did “The Low, Dark Edge of Life” come about?
The original idea came from a catalog entry I wrote for Nate Pedersen’s The Starry Wisdom Library (PS Publishing), concerning a certain profane tome titled Las Reglas De Ruina—a Lovecraftian book that was originally created by writer Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. for one of his novels. The catalog entry was properly academic in tone, with little plot but a lot of creepy little details about the history of the book and what its purpose might be. I wanted to expand on those details and write a proper story about the book and the female-centric cult that created it, and so I did.
Can you talk about the Lovecraftian elements of the story?
I’m not sure what to say about them. I like vastness, and I’m drawn to Lovecraftian fiction that plays with massive spaces, and with the natural strangeness of horizons and landscapes that seem to defy human definition—not cosmic, but planetary, the spaces that we try to occupy and “civilize” but never truly can. And I wanted to write a character who doesn’t just see that vastness and inhumanness in the natural world, but recognizes it in herself. To me, the very essence of “Lovecraftian” is the discovery and acknowledgement of a place that cannot be colonized or defined by humanity. To exist and thrive in those places means redefining or rejecting altogether what it is to be a human being, especially if that place happens to be your actual flesh and mind. And so the typical Lovecraftian elements in the story (cults, rituals, books) are ones that Lilianett recognizes as too small and confining for the elements she knows have the true transformative power, elements that can’t be seen or imagined by most people, because most people (even with face bees!) don’t know how to see and interpret things in a vast, non-human way. Does any of that make sense? I don’t know.
I kept getting a little of the Dracula/Bram Stoker vibe; was that in the back of your mind at all?
Not at all! Maybe because Stoker’s Dracula and my story are both epistolary in form? Also, I can see some similarities between Mina and Lilianett—I reread Dracula several years ago while writing a story for Suffered From the Night: Queering Stoker’s Dracula (Lethe Press), and was surprised to find how forward-thinking and modern Mina was (by 1897 standards), and that she was more than a little frustrated by the limitations placed on her by society and by the men and women around her. I think Lilianett is cut from the same cloth; and I also think they both have the ability to speak to their circumstances in language that is both conventionally formal yet conversational and very to-the-point. There’s a certain clarity in how they see the world, that cuts through all the bullshit trappings of their lives.
What was the logic behind the missing elements (in terms of why did you pick what you did to leave out)?
There wasn’t much in the way of logic; it was really more of an intuitive process. I watch a lot of found-footage horror movies, and I think after so many viewings (seventeen years’ worth and counting), you get a feel for when the footage will cut out and jump to another scene. And it sometimes seems like a mess, but really it’s all very tightly orchestrated and edited for maximum emotional and visceral impact, so that even while you know you’re missing information, you’re still invested enough (hopefully, if it’s any good!) to stick with it all the way to the end. I think I tried to do the same with the story, so as to heighten the mystery and suspense but not be so confusing in the omission of specific facts and scenes that readers (or I should say, the majority of readers) would get frustrated and lose interest.
The bees! I loved them! So weird and creepy and fantastic. Where did they come from?
I have a fascination with insect hive populations and mega-colonies and their various forms of communication, and I’ve always wondered if at some point, insects will figure out a way to manipulate humans into becoming walking bone radios or wetware smart phones or whatever it is they need us to be. And I think of insects as wholly alien and therefore probably excellent at transmitting messages between dimensions, acting as voice carriers or even as video cameras for beings in other planes of existence. So, there might have been a bit of that in the story. I honestly have no idea. Sometimes what I write is a mystery even to myself.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know about this story?
Only that the Grand Béguinage of Leuven is a real place, and it is spectacular—it is exactly as I described it in the story, but more of everything, more beautiful, more mysterious. I spent two weeks there in 2007 with my sister, who was a visiting scholar at the University of Leuven, and if you ever have the opportunity to visit Belgium, I highly recommend a day trip to the city. All the tourists go to Bruges, but Leuven is equally lovely, and far less crowded. Also, the Stella Artois factory is there—so go for the medieval architecture and stay for the giant vats of beer!
Any news or projects you want to share?
I’m still working on my novel and will be finished by Thanksgiving. That’s pretty much it for the time being. I have some shorter projects after that, but right now I can’t think of anything else except clawing my way to “the end.”
Spread the word!