Saturday, March 2, 2013

Interview: Simon Strantzas

Earlier today I posted a review for Shadows Edge, an anthology of thin places edited by weird horror author Simon Strantzas. The book was excellent, and Mr. Strantzas was kind enough to do an interview with me, where he discusses his fascination with these thin places.

JS: First things first, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions.

SS: It's my pleasure, Justin. I very much enjoy The Arkham Digest and am pleased you enjoyed this book.

JS: Shadows Edge is an anthology that's built around the concept of thin places. For unfamiliar readers, how would you best describe what constitutes a “thin place”?

SS: Thin places are best described as the intersection between worlds. If you can imagine there exists realities that coexist with our own, these are spots where the barriers between have worn so thin that one bleeds into the other. We often, merely by living, stumble into places where we feel everything is a bit ... off -- when our gut tells us that even though everything looks normal, there is something more going on. We usually discount such sensations, but what if we are wrong to do so?

JS: Where did your fascination with these “cracks in reality” begin? What is it that attracts you to  this type of fiction?

SS: I suppose I've always felt there was more to reality than meets the eye. Since I was a child I've seen the world not as it appears, but as a mask for something more. I've not always understood this, of course, and could certainly never have expressed it in words, but whether from a keen sense or an over-active imagination I've always felt there were machinations occurring that were hidden from all but a select few. I imagine you may be right that it is my primary reason for being attracted to this sort of fiction, and explains my general disinterest in commonplace horror tropes like serial killers and vampires. I enjoy fiction that places certain intellectual demands on me, that make me question everything, that confirm my suspicions about reality's inherent falsity.

JS: What are some examples of what you would dub essential reading for anyone interested in further exploring the idea of thin places?

SS: Some tales that have affected me over the years in this way include Arthur Machen's "The White People", Algernon Blackwood's "The Willows", L.A. Lewis's "The Tower of Moab", and Thomas Ligotti’s “Vastarian.” There has been a steady stream of horror fiction from the beginning that has explored this sense of frisson, and if I can humbly suggest it, any of the authors contained in SHADOWS EDGE would be a great place to start.

JS: Stories about thin places mean stories that are going to have quite an emphasis put on the setting. Was this one of the main things you looked for in the stories?

SS: The nice thing about filling your book with great authors is not having to worry about looking for much of anything. They already understand the importance not only of atmosphere, but of balancing it with everything else. So, no, I didn't actively look for atmosphere. What I looked for is that sense of otherworldliness edging the proceedings. If I sensed that frisson, I knew the author was on to something that would fit well into the lineup.

JS: Everyone can name at least one place that gave them weird vibes, or made them feel uncomfortable. Real life thin places. What are some of these “thin places” that you yourself have encountered?

SS: I don't think I could pin it down to one specific place, because for me it's always been more about moments. I suppose, if I had to describe my notion, it's that these are not fixed places, but rather ever-shifting. They can be anywhere and everywhere. We have lived so long this way that unless these places are particularly evident we simply block them out when we encounter them. But what if we didn't? What if we kept our eyes open for them, always vigilant, always searching? Would we then discover that the borders between worlds were thinner than we thought? That stepping from here to there was as simple as turning left instead of right?

JS: I must say, Shadows Edge is quite an impressive anthology, made even more so by the fact that it marks your first time editing. With the knowledge gleaned from your first outing what are some words of advice you could give to aspiring editors/anthologists?

SS: The biggest lesson I learned is that the book you set out to make is not the book you will make. Even authors you count on to zig will often zag, and your concept and vision will need to remain plastic to some degree if it will ever get off the ground.

Other than that, my advice for future editors is the same as my advice for anything. Figure out what you want to say, and don't be afraid to stand up for it, even if its uncomfortable. At the end of the day, you are the captain of the ship, and only you can sail it home.

JS: Building on the last question, can readers expect to see any more Strantzas-edited anthologies in the future?

SS: Only time will tell. I do have a few more ideas up my sleeve; the only question is whether I am able to devote the time.

JS: Once again I must thank you Mr. Strantzas. 

SS: And, once again, thank you for having me.

My review of Shadows Edge can be found HERE.

Shadows Edge can be ordered HERE.

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