Early next year we see the release of Cosmic Shenanigans, your new podcast on the Project Entertainment Network. What can listeners expect?
Well basically, it will be a podcast focusing on cosmic horror elements in films, television, art, games, music, fashion, pop culture, and anything else I can think of. I'd like to take a look at what makes the subgenre relevant and enjoyable through the decades, and just how much of our modern culture is influenced by it. From time to time, I'd like to talk about the roles of notable writers in cosmic horror and in publishing at large, as well as my own modest contributions to it, and explore the female perspective toward and within works of cosmic horror.
You wrote a phenomenal WONDER WOMAN story as part of DC House of Horror this October. Were you concerned taking the wheel of such a beloved character? And what other characters would you like to tackle, DC or otherwise?
Aw, thank you! I was honored to try my hand at writing such an iconic character. I can remember watching Wonder Woman on TV with Lynda Carter, and understanding on some simple level the significance of one of the few feminine (and feminist) superhero role models at the time. And yes, I was absolutely nervous about how my take would be received by fans – a character of dueling souls and dueling interests, simultaneously sympathetic to and hostile toward masculinity, a crisis of identities. Comics is a relatively new endeavor for me, but my understanding is that fans seem to enjoy the DC Horror story I did, so whew! And I'd love to do more work with DC. I would love to do more HOUSE OF HORROR or HOUSE OF MYSTERY. Honestly, I'd give anything they wanted me to work on a shot.
Modern technology voids a lot of old horror tropes (wifi in a spooky house saves a lot of teenage lives...) how do we circumvent these news restrictions, and are we in danger of losing horror's classic identity, or is this a good thing?
I think this is a good thing. I think it challenges us as writers to think out of the box. Maybe technology fails, as in apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic settings, or in locations where we simply have no cell reception or internet connection. Maybe technology becomes part of the problem, a mutating and evolving thing beyond our control. I think part of the fun of modern horror is looking at creative ways writers have circumvented technology or used it adversely to further the suspense. Often, horror is the fear of loss, and I suspect a lot of modern horror will explore not only what we lose when we lose technology, but what we're losing by having it.
I remember reading somewhere that with every new mystery solved or unraveled by science/medicine/technology, a hundred new “what ifs” are introduced – new mysteries and new potential horrors. I think in this time of technological advancement, we're creating new myths and and urban legends, new unsolved mysteries.
You've been vocal about your influence from survival horror games (Silent Hill comes to mind), what is it that draws you to survival horror, and what aspects do you mine?
Oh, absolutely. I think anyone who reads my stuff (THRALL comes to mind) would see the influence that surviva horror (particularly SILENT HILL) has had on my approach to the genre. What I like about it is the atmosphere of surreal discomfort, of mounting dread. There are not a lot of big explosions, wild chases, or shoot-outs. So much of it is psychological terror, where one's wits are more important than any tool or weapons. There are puzzles to solve and objects to find uses for – I like that, especially when the puzzles are eerie and tie into some deeper, creepier overall meaning. I like that I have the option to run or sneak by something at times, and fight at others, without feeling overwhelmed by relentless hordes of enemies. I'm dealing with things one-on-one, usually, and the monsters in these types of games are often some manifestation of personal and intimate horror. And I like the element that my actions, my decisions, determine the course of events, that they affect the AI and the outcome. It makes me feel like my contribution to the character I'm playing has an impact on the story. And now that I think about it, I suppose I try to do all those things in my own horror fiction, as well.
Did becoming a parent change your relationship with horror? What scared you then, and what scares you now?
Oh yes. I have a distinctly gut-wrenching aversion to violence toward children in my chosen entertainment media now. I worry in a different way, and am driven by different goals, and so the things that scare me or horrify me reflect that. Superficially, before I was a parent, I worried about things that could happen to me. As a parent, I worry about those things happening to my child. The fear is more intense, because one's feelings for one's child are always more intense than one's feelings for oneself. There's an added dimension of responsibility there, and of protectiveness of someone who is innocent and dependent on you for survival. There's a fear of one's own flaws and limitations in a more accute way than ever before. You don't want to fail your child. You don't want to let anything hurt him or her. And you know that the world is fickle and chaotic and dangerous, and that at some point, you have to trust your child to take care of him- or herself.
You speak Gaelic, and have a healthy interest in Irish culture and mythology - would you ever implement Irish folklore into a tale, and if so, what aspects or creatures would you take?
I do! My mother's side of the family comes from Ireland, and it is a place of ancient power and magic, a place of strength and pride, with a volatile and often tragic history that nevertheless returns time and again to the bravery and loyalty of its people.
I have often considered writing a story about a banshee (bean sidhe, I think, is the Gaelic, right?) but I want to make sure I'm doing something with it that doesn't come across like some weak American stereotype of such a creature, that is true to the terrifying and heartbreaking aspect of it. It is only one of many types, and not nearly the most brutal, of the Aos Si, but one of the first Irish “ghost” creatures I was told about as a child. I've outlined a fantasy novel, to tell the truth, which to oversimplify, is like GAME OF THRONES but with an added “house” of fae folk, and I work on it from time to time, but again, I want it to capture for others what it does for me, and I'm not comfortable I'm there yet. The research for it is delightfully illuminating, though.
I am particularly fascinated with the Aos Si in all their many radiant and terrible forms, as well as their mounds, their rings, their forests and hills, and their magick. I'm also interested in the Tuatha de Denann – the gods and goddesses, for lack of a better way to say it, of the ancient Irish people. My understanding is that many people consider there to be a difference, albeit a subtle and blurred one, between the Aos Si and the Tuatha de Denann, and I think it would be interesting to write a story about the customs that persist today in keeping at least the former appeased.
Mary SanGiovanni's new novel SAVAGE WOODS is available HERE.