Guest Blog: Dark Horse Editor Scott Allie Interviews Author Christopher Golden
In honor of the release of Christopher Golden's Joe Golem and the Drowning City in limited edition hardcover on October 3 and Baltimore: The Play, his collaboration with Mike Mignola, on November 21, Dark Horse editor Scott Allie interviewed the award-winning author for us.
Topics covered in the interview with Golden (pictured, right) include his interpretation of the term "dark fantasy," his upcoming project with True Blood author Charlaine Harris, vampires in our current culture, his influences, the scariest thing he's written, and LOTS more. Check it out below, and look for more guest blogs from Scott Allie over the coming weeks.
Scott Allie: Can you explain “dark fantasy” to me?
Christopher Golden: The easy approach would be to say it's a merger of horror and fantasy, but that's not always true. For me, dark fantasy is fantasy in which nasty things happen. For people who've read my original novels, dark fantasy would be easy to recognize. In Strangewood, the characters from the fictional world created by a children's author come out of that world and kidnap his son, leading to a pretty harrowing, weird, fantastical conflict. In The Nimble Man, which I wrote with Tom Sniegoski, a sorcerous Sir Arthur Conan Doyle leads a vampire, a shape shifter, a dwarf, a fairy warrior, a demonic teenager, and the ghost of a pulp-style hero into a battle against the supernatural. I've written a ton of material that I think of more as dark fantasy than horror. Dark fantasy is actually a pretty broad description that covers all kinds of stories, but it's the one that makes sense to me to describe a lot of what I've done.
SA: Does Baltimore fit into the dark fantasy, then? What about Steven King's It?
CG: I definitely think of Baltimore as horror and the same with It, but I think the argument could be made for 90 percent of what we consider horror fitting into some other category. Genre definitions are incredibly subjective to the reader and to the marketing executive. There is never just one goal for any work of art, including fiction, but with genuine horror, you tend to find that one of those goals is to unsettle the reader. That's certainly among my goals with Baltimore.
SA: You've got a project with Charlaine Harris (Dead Until Dark). When you're doing something like that, are you trying to scare the reader, or is the desired effect something else?
CG: The project is a graphic novel trilogy called Cemetery Girl, which I am writing with Charlaine, and which Don Kramer (Doctor Fate, Nightwing) is penciling and inking. It's a paranormal mystery and also, I'd say, a bit of a teen drama. I hope it's thrilling and intriguing, but scaring the reader is definitely not the priority in something like that. Inspiring fear is rarely my intention, though there are certainly exceptions—like Baltimore and my solo works, The Ferryman and Wildwood Road.
SA: Would vampires be what they are in the culture without Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire)?
CG: Anne Rice had an impact, absolutely. But I think it's often overstated. Someone would have to sit down with Laurell K. Hamilton (Guilty Pleasures, Circus of the Damned) and ask her why she took her vampire stories in the direction she did. Ask Joss Whedon ("Buffy," "Angel") where his influences came from. Ask Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (Blood Games), who goes back to the same era as Interview with the Vampire. Charlaine Harris thinks my first novel, Of Saints and Shadows, has a pretty big influence on what's being done with vampires in urban fantasy these days. I can't speak to whether or not that's true, but there are elements in there that I hadn't seen done before then. My influences were Salem's Lot, Marvel Comics' Tomb of Dracula, and the TV series "Kolchak: The Night Stalker." Nancy Collins took things off in a different direction with Sunglasses After Dark. Skipp and Spector did it with The Light at the End. Charlaine did it with Dead Until Dark.
I don't think Anne Rice necessarily needed to publish her novels for most of these things to exist. Was Interview an influence on a lot of people, and did its popularity make an impact? Absolutely. But it isn't like we're playing vampire fiction Jenga, and pulling out that novel would bring the whole thing tumbling down. You can go back to the mid-1800s with stuff like Marie Nizet's Le Capitaine Vampire to find a vampire involved in a romantic drama. Paul Féval's Vampire City and that sort of thing, also from the mid-1800s, introduced the whole secret society of vampires thing. And let's not forget "Dark Shadows." Barnabas Collins came before Lestat. I'm not downplaying Anne Rice's influence—which was huge—I'm just trying to put it in perspective.
SA: I love the notion of vampire fiction Jenga... Not to fall into that, but you cite Salem's Lot as a big influence. That's the scariest book I've ever read—I'm actually rereading it now. The other two things you cite in the same breath, Tomb of Dracula and "Kolchak," aren't scary in my book, just good monster adventure. Was the fear-inducing quality of Salem's Lot important to you?
CG: Actually I had a different experience with Tomb of Dracula and "Kolchak." There were times I found both to be very scary, very unsettling. There's a "Kolchak" episode called “Horror in the Heights,” which was written by Hammer Films stalwart Jimmy Sangster, that I found really frightening as a kid, and there were definitely others. Remember that I first watched all of those when I was about seven or eight years old. As for Salem's Lot—I'd say the fear was a big part of it. I mean, dude, the scene when Ralphie Glick is floating outside Danny's window pleading to be let inside… that was fucking terrifying. But just as vital—and a big part of what makes fear work in fiction—is that King's writing brought me in close to these people, so I knew and identified with them. If you want to frighten a reader, they have to care what happens to your characters.