Charles Tan Interviews Andrew Pyper

Andrew Pyper’s novel The Demonologist is a 2013 Shirley Jackson Awards nominee.

 

Charles Tan: How did you come about developing David Ullman’s character and his family?

Andrew Pyper: I wanted to write a horror story about emotion.  Not one with emotion, but about emotion.  One of the things that move and fascinate me about demonic mythology is the demon’s inability to feel, to love, even as they pretend to, or find a way to afflict those who do.  I started thinking some years ago, in broad terms, about a horror novel in which the horror wasn’t arbitrarily encountered (the people moving into the haunted house or acquiring the cursed amulet out of sheer bad luck) but born from an emotional state, a “way in” that was coherent from a characterization point of view.  In my research, I found a lot of interesting stuff about how grief or displacement or depression (or, as David Ullman calls it, “melancholy”) have always been a means by which the demonic can enter our personal world.  This was the key for me.  A protagonist who suffers from an emotional block, a man who loves but finds it hard, a man who’s been unable to fully connect with others his whole life.  In this way, he would be a mirror for the demon: both are trying to feel – which is to say, both are trying to be human.

Charles Tan: What were the challenges in writing The Demonologist?

Andrew Pyper: The Demonologist is a horror story set in the present day, a story about demons and ancient evil.  The fundamental challenge in writing a story like this is making it believable for – or at least coherent with – a sceptical, secular modern world.  I wanted to create a demonic mythology free of fixed Christian “rules,” one that proceeded from literary and psychological origins instead of religious ones.

Charles Tan: What kind of research did you have to do for the book?

Andrew Pyper: I read a lot, of course, and from both the high and low ends of the spectrum.  Milton’s Paradise Lost and on-line accounts of demonic possession, the bible and memoirs of exorcism.  Thankfully, my research did not require me to interview any actual demons.

The 2013 Shirley Jackson Awards Nominees Announced

Boston, MA (May 2014) — In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, The Shirley Jackson Awards, Inc. has been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic.

The Shirley Jackson Awards are voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics.*  The awards are given for the best work published in the preceding calendar year in the following categories:  Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.

The nominees for the 2013 Shirley Jackson Awards are:

NOVEL

  • The Accursed, Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco)
  • American Elsewhere, Robert Jackson Bennett (Orbit)
  • The Demonologist, Andrew Pyper (Orion-UK/ Simon & Schuster-US)
  • The Ghost Bride, Yangsze Choo (William Morrow)
  • Night Film, Marisha Pessl (Random House)
  • Wild Fell, Michael Rowe (ChiZine Publications)

NOVELLA

  • Burning Girls, Veronica Schanoes (Tor.com)
  • Children of No One, Nicole Cushing (DarkFuse)
  • Helen’s Story, Rosanne Rabinowitz (PS Publishing)
  • It Sustains, Mark Morris (Earthling Publications)
  • “The Gateway,” Nina Allan (Stardust, PS Publishing)
  • The Last Revelation of Gla’aki, Ramsey Campbell (PS Publishing)
  • Whom the Gods Would Destroy, Brian Hodge (DarkFuse)

NOVELETTE

  • Cry Murder! In a Small Voice, Greer Gilman (Small Beer Press)
  • “A Little of the Night,” Tanith Lee (Clockwork Phoenix 4, Mythic Delirium Books)
  • “My Heart is Either Broken,” Megan Abbott (Dangerous Women, Tor Books)
  • “Phosphorus,” Veronica Schanoes (Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy, Tor Books)
  • “Raptors,” Conrad Williams (Subterranean Press Magazine, Winter 2013)

SHORT FICTION

  • “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides,” Sam J. Miller (Nightmare Magazine, December 2013)
  • “Furnace,” Livia Llewellyn (Grimscribe’s Puppets, Miskatonic River Press)
  • “The Memory Book,” Maureen McHugh (Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy, Tor Books)
  • “The Statue in the Garden,” Paul Park (Exotic Gothic 5, PS Publishing)
  • “That Tiny Flutter of the Heart,” Robert Shearman (Psycho-Mania!, Constable & Robinson)
  • “The Traditional,” Maria Dahvana Headley (Lightspeed, May 2013)

SINGLE-AUTHOR COLLECTION

  • Before and Afterlives, Christopher Barzak (Lethe Press)
  • Everything You Need, Michael Marshall Smith (Earthling Publications)
  • In Search of and Others, Will Ludwigsen (Lethe Press)
  • North American Lake Monsters, Nathan Ballingrud (Small Beer Press)
  • The Story Until Now, Kit Reed (Wesleyan)

EDITED ANTHOLOGY

  • The Book of the Dead, edited by Jared Shurin (Jurassic London)
  • End of the Road, Jonathan Oliver (Solaris)
  • Grimscribe’s Puppets, edited by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. (Miskatonic River Press)
  • Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy, edited by Ellen Datlow (Tor Books)
  • Where thy Dark Eye Glances: Queering Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Steve Berman (Lethe Press)

 

Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) wrote such classic novels as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, “The Lottery.”  Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of every kind of fiction, from the most traditional genre offerings to the most innovative literary work.

The 2013 Shirley Jackson Awards will be presented on Sunday, July 13, 2014, at Readercon 25, Conference on Imaginative Literature, in Burlington, Massachusetts.

 

* Where a conflict of interest arises for a juror, the juror recuses himself/herself from voting for the particular work.

The 2012 Shirley Jackson Awards Winners

The 2012 Shirley Jackson Awards winners have been posted.

The 2012 Shirley Jackson Awards were  presented on Sunday, July 14th at Readercon 24, Conference on Imaginative Literature, in Burlington, Massachusetts, hosted by Readercon 24 Guest of Honor, Maureen McHugh.

The Shirley Jackson Awards are voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors.  The awards are given for the best work published in the preceding calendar year in the following categories:  Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.

2012 Nominees Announced

The 2012 Shirley Jackson Awards nominees have been posted.

The 2012 Shirley Jackson Awards will be presented on Sunday, July 14th at Readercon 24, Conference on Imaginative Literature, in Burlington, Massachusetts.  Readercon 24 Guest of Honor, Maureen McHugh, will act as host.

The Shirley Jackson Awards are voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors.  The awards are given for the best work published in the preceding calendar year in the following categories:  Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.

The full list of nominees and a press release can be found here.

Charles Tan interviews Maureen F. McHugh

Maureen F. McHugh is the author of the Shirley Jackson Awards nominated short story collection AFTER THE APOCALYPSE.

Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. Choosing a title for a collection is tricky. How did you settle on After the Apocalypse and what was the genesis of the short fiction piece?

Like a lot of writers, I have a lot of funny rules.  I don’t write stories about writers, because I think I’m being lazy if I do.  When I write something set in the future, no one smokes because I would like to think that smoking has pretty much disappeared from culture in the future.  I think depressing endings are easier to write than non-tragic endings but that non-tragic endings are often more true.  But my writing life changed drastically in the last couple of years and I started getting paid to write other people’s stories (quite a bit more than I was ever paid to write my own, honestly) and more people are seeing those stories than buy my books.  It gave me a curious sense of freedom.  I had written the first story of the book, “The Naturalist” and it was about zombies in Cleveland.  Then I wrote the story called “Useless Things” which is set in a near future wracked by climate change.  There’s something self-indulgent about the whole world is going to end story.  Culturally in the West we’ve been believing the world was about to end for about two thousand years.  And it keeps stubbornly not ending.

Like the stock market, past performance is not a predictor of future profitability but it’s hard not to notice that apocalyptic stories keep getting it wrong.  For me, it’s a chance to wallow in my own anxieties.  I’m really more interested in how people deal with stuff than I am with the stuff that is happening.  It always felt to me that catastrophe, like technology, is unevenly distributed.  That some random sample of the lucky and capable (but mostly the lucky) will be sitting around at the end, and that someone will be desperately attempting to maintain some semblance of order.  Hence the title After the Apocalypse.

I actually wrote the story “After the Apocalypse” after I’d already talked to Gavin Grant at Small Beer Press about doing the collection.  So I had the title first and then the story.  But the genesis of the piece came from several conversations over many years.  Karen Joy Fowler has been talking about the absence/portrayal of mothers in stories for years.  I got interested in writing about mothers.  Then Kelly Link asked me to write about a bad mother.  That was terribly hard for me.  I many ways the title story took me fifteen years to get to the point where I could write it.

What’s the appeal of the short story format for you?

Well, it’s short.  If the story doesn’t work, it’s not as if I’ve invested two years in the project pretty much exclusively, as I would for a novel.  Also, I’ve been able to write more of them than I have novels, so I’ve had more practice.  Lastly, and this is very important, I’m lucky to have editors willing to publish them and people willing to read them.

In terms of genre, your fiction strikes me as going beyond boundaries. How would you describe your fiction?

I very much like a lot of literary short fiction.  (And like any other genre, there’s a lot of literary short fiction that I don’t like.)  I like the specificity of it, the particularity of certain kinds of craft, and its emphasis on the personal.  I like the springtrap artifice of a Raymond Carver story where the ending just snaps shut on you.  I like the way Alice Munro moves through time.  I like the way Junot Diaz and Jhumpa Lahiri make familiar places freshly alien.

But I keep wanting to write about plagues, and zombies, and artificial intelligence because I think our lives are constantly being torqued by this future I’m living in.  I may not have a jet pack but I carry an amazingly powerful computer barely larger than a cigarette pack wherever I go.  It’s hard to describe how strange our lives have become because they’re not strange, they’re ordinary as we live them day to day.  I’m a little obsessed with our stubborn, admirable desire to keep living our vital and animal lives while miracles, both wonderful and terrible, keep happening all around us.  In a funny, old-fashioned Victorian way, I am forever trying to write the sublime.