As I may have mentioned before here at Dread Central, Richard Thomas is a man who knows darkness. His three neo-noir novels, Transubstantiate, Disintegration, and Breaker, are strong enough testament to that. However, he also has more than 100 short stories published, as well as three short story collections – Staring into the Abyss, Herniated Roots, and the upcoming Tribulations. I got my hands on that one, by the way, and it’s fucking fantastic. Expect a review of it here soon.
Just to flesh out his schedule, he contributes to several websites and teaches writing. In case free time ever rears its pretty head, he’s also the editor-in-chief at Dark House Press. I’m seriously exhausted just describing his efforts and accomplishments, and damn it – I’m not quite done yet.
Mr. Thomas has managed to edit four incredibly smart, truly dark anthologies: The New Black, Exigencies, The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (review), and the Bram Stoker-nominated Burnt Tongues, with Chuck Palahniuk.
In addition, he probably has, you know… friends, family, hobbies. Those types of things. No idea how he fits them in, especially now. Because he’s ramping up a new project, a huge project actually that I’m very excited about.
It’s called Gamut, and there’s no way my description will do it any justice. So I sat down with Mr. Thomas via email and got the real dirt.
Brent R. Oliver: So, you’re starting a website called Gamut. What is it?
Richard Thomas: It’s going to be an online magazine of primarily fiction, focusing on neo-noir, speculative stories with a literary bent. If you’ve read any of the four anthologies I’ve edited (The New Black and Exigencies, at Dark House Press, as well as Burnt Tongues with Chuck Palahniuk and Dennis Widmyer at Medallion and The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers at Black Lawrence Press), then you probably have a good understanding of my aesthetic. We’ll publish original and reprint fiction, poetry, columns, and if we can hit a few of our stretch goals, Stripped: A Memoir for our Saturday Night Special slot, Flash Fiction Friday, and other writing. We’ll also have a ton of art, new work for every story, done by Luke Spooner, as well as spot art by George Cotronis, Daniele Serra, and Bob Crum, with photography by Jennifer Moore. Gamut just means “a wide range” so we’ll be embracing every corner of dark fiction—fantasy, science fiction, horror, crime, mysteries, neo-noir, magical realism, transgressive, weird, Southern Gothic—you name it. The key difference is that we aren’t doing anything “classic”; it has to embrace the idea of neo-noir (which means “new-black”), at the intersection between genre and literary fiction.
BRO: You’ve been involved in this world of darkness we all call home for quite a while now. You’re a writer, editor, and teacher; and honestly, I have no idea how you manage it all. What made you decide to start Gamut?
RT: I’ve wanted to do this for 15, 20 years. I could never get the math to work, as far as print and postage and design. With the evolution of Kickstarter and other online fundraising platforms, paired with the success of other online magazines, this felt like the right time to launch this magazine. Or at least take a run at it. We’ll also pay ten cents a word, which is double the current pro rates—that was important to me as well. I want to support the voices and authors that inspire me on a daily basis and to add to the landscape of excellent publishing that is going on out there right now. We’re in a bit of a golden age for dark fiction, I think.
BRO: When will Gamut launch?
RT: The Kickstarter launched on 2/1/16 and will run until 3/1/16. We’re trying to raise $52,000, so we’re kind of the Bernie Sanders of online magazines—we need a LOT of people to contribute a LITTLE BIT of money ($30 a year for the annual subscription). One benefit to joining and being a part of this NOW is that the $30/year rate will never be offered again. AND, as long as you renew, your rate will never go up. That’s $2.50 a month. The regular rate will be $60/year, or $5 a month. We will launch the actual magazine and website on 1/1/17.
BRO: What authors do you have lined up for the launch?
RT: Okay, you asked: Stephen Graham Jones, Laird Barron, Brian Evenson, Usman T. Malik, Matt Bell, Damien Angelica Walters, Letitia Trent, Mercedes M. Yardley, Alyssa Wong, Benjamin Percy, Lindsay Hunter, Axel Taiari, Amanda Gowin, Laura Benedict, Nathan Ballingrud, Dino Parenti, Ted E. Grau, Rebecca Jones-Howe, Sarah Read, Paula Bomer, Kelly Luce, Livia Llewellyn, Josh Malerman, Carmen Machado, Peter Tieryas, Kevin Catalano, Paul Tremblay, John Langan, Nina McConigley, Nik Korpon, Craig Wallwork, Steve Himmer, Antonia Crane, Steve Rasnic Tem, Kristi DeMeester, Tara Ison, David James Keaton, Cassandra Khaw, Nikki Guerlain, Lucy A. Snyder, JS Breukelaar, Helen Marshall, Amelia Gray, H. L. Nelson, Craig Davidson, Jacklyn Dre Marceau, and Lincoln Michel. We also have 5-10 poets, but that list isn’t finalized yet. Each and every one of these authors is somebody I love reading, a voice that inspires me. These writers are doing great work, original storytelling at its finest.
BRO: Will Gamut be like an online magazine? How often will there be new content?
RT: Yes. It depends on how much money we raise. The base goal will allow for new fiction every Monday, with a reprint once a week as well, columns and some other non-fiction, and poetry. If we can hit a few stretch goals, we’ll expand to the Saturday Night Special serialization, the Flash Fiction Friday, more words per month, more non-fiction, and possibly even a Best of Gamut in print. We’re also going to set up a few scholarships.
BRO: Who are you hoping to work with in Gamut’s future?
RT: Beyond the authors we already have signed up? That’s a great question. Partly it’s about working with authors that I really love, that I know will turn in great work. And partly it’s about opening the door to submissions later in 2016 (assuming we raise the money, of course) so that I can find new voices and support emerging authors and new perspectives. I want to read globally and get a wider range of stories, so that’s important to me for sure.
BRO: Gamut’s Facebook page says it’s “…a website that focuses on neo-noir, speculative fiction with a literary bent.” Why do you think the “literary” aspect of this is important? Do you feel there’s a void out there in dark fiction? A lack of quality, smart content that Gamut can fill?
RT: I guess for me it’s about finding that sweet spot between genre and lit, that place where the story is embracing the best aspects of genre fiction as well as the best aspects of literary fiction. There is bad horror and bad crime and bad fantasy and bad literary fiction. I am drawn to the work of authors that is both entertaining and thoughtful, both compelling and lyrical, both visceral and introspective. I have to fall into the world they are creating, but I also have to care about the characters. I don’t think there is a lack of smart horror or thoughtful fantasy, no. I think there are definitely literary communities and academic settings that say that, that don’t embrace the genre fiction. Which I think is irresponsible. Sure, teach the classics, but take a look at the NYT bestseller list; you know what’s on there? Mystery, romance, horror, f/sf, and literary fiction. I mean, what do you call Blood Meridian or The Road? Aren’t they some kind of post-apocalyptic thrillers, riddled with horror? Westerns, too, I suppose. If you don’t think Joyce Carol Oates is writing something horrific in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” then you aren’t paying attention. That story is terrifying and dripping with the supernatural. There is tension and surrealism in Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson. And Benjamin Percy is writing work that appears in both The Paris Review and Cemetery Dance. All you have to do is read the Best Horror of the Year to see what’s happening. There is no shortage of literary horror or any other genre. But yes, I do want to support and embrace the kind of fiction that works on both levels.
BRO: Do you have any other upcoming projects? I mean, I don’t know how you could possibly cram them in, but…
RT: Ha, too funny. Why yes, I do. Breaker, my third novel, just came out with Random House Alibi. I have my third short story collection, Tribulations, out with Crystal Lake in March. I am also part of a novel-in-novellas at Dzanc Books, entitled The Soul Standard, with Nik Korpon, Axel Taiari, and Caleb Ross out late in 2016. I also may have a craft book out later this year. AND two short stories are already slated for 2016—“The Offering on the Hill” in Chiral Mad 3 (Written Backwards) alongside Stephen King and Jack Ketchum (and many other amazing authors) as well as “Repent” in Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories (Crystal Lake) alongside Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker (as well a ton of other excellent writers, including Damien Angelica Walters, Paul Tremblay, Mercedes M. Yardley, etc.). It’s going to be a crazy year, but I’m excited about all of these projects.