This Phobia Friday I would like to welcome Christopher L. Beck for his turn on the blood-stained psychiatric couch.
1. Your story in the Phobophobia anthology is about Nosocomephobia – fear of hospitals. What was the original inspiration for this or were there a number of sources that you drew upon?
My nephew and I were sitting in Barnes and Noble a day or so after Dean M. Drinkel gave me the letter N, he was reading, I was looking up phobias that began with the letter. I narrowed the choices down to three; the two of us talked about each one in depth but were leaning towards Nosocomephobia the whole time. In the end, as an excuse to talk to attractive ladies, I went and asked the three working the coffee counter what they thought. After hearing the three choices, they all agreed fear of hospitals sounded like the best choice.
2. What do you fear? Tell me about your own phobias.
A bit of back story first.
Growing up my dad had multiple heart attacks and I watched, on more than one occasion, as EMT’s carried him from the house. During his times of recovery I was sent off to live with friends of the family.
Years later, after my mom and dad had separated, my mom was diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic. At the age of thirteen I watched as she changed—her mentality becoming childlike again—and was plagued by seizures and psychosis. She was in out of public and private metal institutions and I was sent to live with others for a time, before moving into my grandma’s.
At the same time mom was dealing with her illness, dad had a stroke that left him childlike and half of his body paralyzed.
Then, in April of 1996, I heard my mom take her last breaths and found her face down on the floor. Two months later dad passed. I was sixteen years old.
There is more to the story than what is above but the rest is for another time. I just wanted to set the stage, if you will.
So, to finally answer the question, my greatest fear is my soon-to-be-ten-year-old step-daughter experiencing any of the horrors I witnessed as a kid; or anything worse.
Oh, and I also fear never seeing my step-daughter again. I wasn’t able to talk to her or see her for an entire year after my wife and I separated and it was hell. I’ve lost my parents, and others, but losing a child, in any way, is a different beast.
3. Hospitals are places of healing, so why do they serve so well as a setting for horror?
Because most people, I assume, associate hospitals with death. And, despite the healing aspect, having a loved one end up in a hospital is a fear for most and real life horror when it happens. Also, there are some crazy and scary things that happen in hospitals. My ex-wife works at one (she was a help with my story) and she has told me some wild stories.
4. The crazy old man who haunts Derek throughout the story and in a number of guises – was he intended to be an avatar of the schizophrenia that he suffers from?
In a way, I suppose, though I never sat down and told myself as much. My grandma was in the hospital a few years back and a crazy man kept barging into her room in the middle of the night, yelling and screaming at the top of his lungs. It scared the shit out of her; it haunted her during her time there. So, I borrowed from her experience (and from my mom’s illness) and used a crazy old man to haunt Derek. All of us have been or are haunted by something. Derek was haunted by his illness.
5. Derek becomes trapped in the hospital and the hospital becomes a nightmarish labyrinth the more he tries to escape – was the nightmare hospital a way of showing how trapped one can feel by fear and mental illness? Certainly, in the case of the latter, someone’s life can become a series of episodes as they return again and again to institutions and psychiatric wards.
Not only a series of episodes for the ones suffering from mental illness, but also for their loved ones.
The hospital, I feel, not only embodied how one can feel trapped by fear or illness (of any kind), but how one, especially in these times where the economy is down and jobs are hard to come by, can feel trapped by life. Not everyone has it easy, or attains their dreams; somehow, someway, they get stuck in a rut and can’t seem to find a way out.
6. The balloon girl operates dualistically in the story – she seems to represent hope but underlying that are darker undercurrents. Were you intending her as a critique on saccharine representations of ‘hope’?
You didn’t only make me think with this question, you made me psychoanalyze myself, too. Jesus.
I think most people, and I’ve been guilty of this, just rely on hope way too much. Sure, it’s a good thing to have but you can’t just rest on your laurels once you have it. Most of the things you hope for won’t come unless you work for them.
I also think people rely and depend too much on others and God and other supreme beings, hoping for help when they should be helping themselves.
On a more personal level, the balloon girl was me coming to understand all of this. I have not had the best life, I’ve not had the worst life, but I have had a hard one, so it’s been easy for me to hope for anything and everything and expect to get it all, like I deserve it. But I don’t. Hope is one thing I’ve maintained throughout my life but I’ve often misplaced it, and spent years waiting for the things and changes I hoped for to just appear or happen. I know better now.
Of course there are certain cases when all you can do is hope.
7. You are known for your visceral and explicit style and some have drawn comparisons between yourself and Richard Laymon – how do you feel about that?
I’m fine with it, love it actually. I think it is an honor. However, I wouldn’t dare compare myself to him or any other writer.
8. With stories like this one and Lonesome Night under your belt, I have to ask the question, are you a Silent Hill fan? And, as one of the current breed of new tech-savvy indie authors, what are your thoughts on how we now absorb narrative through different media such as the Kindle, video games and even our mobile phones?
I am a fan of the movie. As far as the games go, I watched my oldest brother play the first game when it came out and have talked some about the newer games with my niece and nephew but that’s it.
With books, newspapers, magazines, games, etc., just a few taps away, it is easier for us to find and absorb narratives, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are all kinds of stories, fictional and non-fictional, out there, waiting to help or inspire someone.
9. Tell me about one of the other stories in Phobophobia that you enjoyed and why?
Traci McBride’s Symbols of Damnation. It was a fun, creepy read.
I’ve known bullies like Claire, and, when I was younger, was tormented by my siblings, so I could feel for Felix. Plus, the end made me think of an old friend who once burned down an abandoned church.
I am glad you didn’t ask me to pick a favorite as I’ve enjoyed all of the stories in this anthology.
10. So what does 2012 hold for Christopher L. Beck? Any last words?
Good things, I hope. I have a number of stories out and about right now, as well as a novella, and a there’s a possibility of a collection of my own, but nothing is set in stone. Currently I am working on a longer piece of fiction and with my biggest cast to date. I hope to finish it in the next month or so and then try to find a home for it. I would like to say thanks to Sean Sweeney for mentioning my name to Dean. Thank you, Dean M. Drinkel, for reaching out and taking a chance on me. And, thank you, Greg, for the time and thought you’ve put into this series of interviews.
Thank you, Chris!
Phobophobia is available at the following links:
Rex is available at the following links:
Connect with Christopher L. Beck at: http://www.facebook.com/chrifive