Today, Phobia Friday welcomes pulp horror king, Willie Meikle.
1. You are a prolific writer of fiction and you have tackled such genre favourites as Holmes, Carnacki and giant crustaceans – what is the appeal of writing about such iconic characters and creatures for you?
Big beasties in particular fascinate me. Some of that fascination stems from early film viewing. I remember being taken to the cinema to see The Blob. I couldn’t have been more than seven or eight, and it scared the crap out of me. The original incarnation of Kong has been with me since around the same time. Similarly, I remember the BBC showing re-runs of classic creature features late on Friday nights, and THEM! in particular left a mark on my psyche. I’ve also got a Biological Sciences degree, and even while watching said movies, I’m usually trying to figure out how the creature would actually work in nature — what would it eat? How would it procreate? What effect would it have on the environment around it? On top of that, I have an interest in cryptozoology, of creatures that live just out of sight of humankind, and of the myriad possibilities that nature, and man’s dabbling with it, can throw up.
Then there’s the iconic detectives.
It’s all about the struggle of the dark against the light. The time and place, and the way it plays out is in some ways secondary to that. And when you’re dealing with archetypes, there’s only so many to go around, and it’s not surprising that the same concepts of death and betrayal, love and loss, turn up wherever, and whenever, the story is placed. Plus, there are antecedents – occult detectives who may seem to use the trappings of crime solvers, but get involved in the supernatural. William Hjortsberg’s Falling Angel (the book that led to the movie Angel Heart) is a fine example, an expert blending of gumshoe and deviltry that is one of my favorite books. Likewise, in the movies, we have cops facing a demon in Denzel Washington’s Fallen that plays like a police procedural taken to a very dark place.
And even further back, in the “gentleman detective” era, we have seekers of truth in occult cases in John Silence and Carnacki. Even Holmes himself came close to supernatural conclusions at times.
I love exploring this sub-genre for myself, in the Midnight Eye Files stories, in a series of Carnacki stories, and I even got a chance to have Holmes fight a Necromancer in Edinburgh in an anthology appearance in Gaslight Grotesque, and to bring Moriarty back in REVENANT. It seems there is quite a market for this kind of merging of crime and supernatural, and I intend to write a lot more of it.
2. Your story in the Phobophobia anthology is about Jesusophobia – the fear of Jesus. What were the influences and sources for your story?
I had a traditional Church of Scotland upbringing. Back in the ‘60s that meant both Church visits, and Sunday Schooling as well as Religious Education at the normal school. There I learned more about the perils of sin and the dangers of fornication than I ever did about love and compassion, and the whole experience managed to put me off organised religion by my early teens.
The story comes from straight that period, from sitting in cold draughty churches and church halls listening to red-faced Ministers shouting about Hell while all I could think about was wanking and girls.
3. What do you fear? Tell me about your own phobias.
One thing has creeped me out since I was a child, and that is monks, in long robes, with their hoods pulled up and forward so that their faces are in deep shadow. There used to be one that came at night all through my childhood and stood at the foot of my bed. Peter Jackson has been in my dreams and used them as a model for the Dark Reaper in THE FRIGHTENERS and the 9 Dark Riders in LOTR.
Apart from that, losing family to sickness is a biggie, and getting bigger every year as my parents get older and near their ‘80s.
Oh, and spiders, and women. And spider women.
4. Your story features some satire with Hell being portrayed as a corporate bureaucracy – I take it you have your own ideas about where politicians and other weavers of red tape should go to when they die?
I spent too much of my own working life in IT support in faceless bureaucracies in the NHS, Local Government and big Insurance Companies. I know exactly where a certain kind of people need to go. And I’ll be there waiting, with the pitchfork and the red-hot pokers.
5. Jack, your protagonist, is a writer – does he have a lot of you in him as a character?
There’s a little bit of me in Jack, the main part being in the section about his marriage. My first marriage was a disaster, and some of my anger at that has seeped through into this story. But I’m more centred than Jack. If it was me in his place, I’d be ready to make a deal for a better situation rather than just accepting what came to me.
6. Ballygrampus runs through the seven deadly sins in your story – do you think these sins have any credence? If there was one sin amongst them you could get rid of, which would it be?
I think as rules to live by, anything that preaches moderation in all things is a better option rather than just outright banning. I mean, I enjoy a bit of lust now and again, and gluttony gets indulged quite frequently after a few beers. Personally, I’d like to get rid of Sloth, as I suffer from long bouts of it that are sometimes hard to shake.
7. Several stories in Phobophobiadeal with the fear of the spiritual and the holy – why do you think this is so prevalent when such things are meant to be sources of comfort to us?
I mentioned earlier, my “churching” consisted of more than few attempts to frighten me into having faith, so I don’t think fear of the spiritual is an unusual thing at all. A lot of people are mortally afraid of the very real prospect, to them, of going to hell.
Sure, religion can be a source of comfort to many. But for many others, it’s also a control mechanism to keep the proles in line, and that’s where a lot of the tension in writing this kind of material comes from.
8. Are you hoping for an afterlife, nothingness, reincarnation or none of the above?
I wrote this in one of my books, and as a personal philosophy, it’ll do for me.
Life is an opportunity to create meaning by our actions and how we manage our way through the short part of infinity we’re given to operate in. And once our life is finished, our atoms go back to forming other interesting configurations with those of other people, animals, plants and anything else that happens to be around, as we all roll along in one big, happy, ever changing, universe.
Plus, I like the idea that some of my atoms will probably be around to see the death of Sol. That’ll be cool.
That said, I have had several personal experiences with dead family members showing up that means I need to leave some wiggle room in my philosophy for some kind of afterlife – but I’m keeping all bets open on that one.
9. Tell me about one of the other stories in Phobophobia that you enjoyed and why.
Simon Kurt Unsworth continues to impress me. He’s got the ability to put what he imagines on the page while still leaving a great deal to the reader’s own imagination. He has a smooth, readable style, and is growing in stature as a writer with every passing year. I believe he’s going to go on to big things, and good luck to him.
10. So what does 2012 hold for Willie Meikle? Any last words?
I’ve got some exciting stuff in the pipeline this year, publications wise. I have a new novel NIGHT OF THE WENDIGO, coming in hardcover from DARKFUSE, and a new Lovecraftian collection, also in hardcover, coming from DARK REGIONS PRESS. There’s also several really cool anthology appearances, including one in DANSE MACABRE from Edge Publishing where I’ll be alongside Tanith Lee, Brian Lumley and John Shirley, and a short story in NIGHTLAND magazine in Japan (in Japanese) where I’ll be alongside Joe Lansdale and a Robert E Howard reprint. Fanboy heaven!
My most current book is CRUSTACEANS, out now from DARK REGIONS PRESS in deluxe limited edition hardcover and trade paperback. Giant killer crabs take Manhattan. What else to you need to know?
Thank you, Willie!
Phobophobia is available at the following links:
CRUSTACEANS is available at Dark Regions Press
If you want to find out more about Willie and what he’s up to, please visit the following links: