We eventually met face-to-face last June in Melbourne and there was plenty of talk between us about the next chapter of Allure and its vampire character Rahkh. Last month Mark and I put the finishing touches on Allure of the Ancients: The Key to His Kingdom, which will be published in Midnight Echo # 7 this May.
Mark took some time to speak to me about the origins of Allure and his forays into writing and editing and it's fascinating to say the least. Scattered throughout is some of the art from our collaboration:
- Tell us a bit about yourself; what do you do when you’re not writing?
For a lot of reasons I can’t control, unfortunately I don’t write much these days. That does give me a lot of time to do other things though. I cycle every day and kayak about 4 times a week. Sometimes, I sail. Bushwalk. Run. I read a bit, too. I don’t like being indoors. When I read it’s outside. I’ve done some big trips on the bike, peddled from Cairns to Cape York once. Just me and one other guy; we mailed food to ourselves and picked it up from homesteads along the way. Also did Kunanarra to Broome, along the Gibb River Road, and the west coast of Tasmania.
- Why speculative fiction?
Because you’re only restricted by your imagination.
- Your favourite author/story?
Novel: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Novella: Wives by Paul Haines
Short Story: On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with the Dead Folks by Joe R Lansdale
Graphic Novel series: Sandman by Neil Gaiman
Graphic Novel: Watchmen by Alan Moore
- Your very first published story – give us the details.
To Kill a Lesser God, published in Borderlands 11, in 2009, I think. It was about the ancient god of celibacy trying to find peace in a sexually primed modern world ruled by a bigger god—the internet.
- Your tales tend to be subversive,
controversial, disturbing, but most of all memorable – obviously the
memorable part is deliberate, but what about the rest? Do you always set
out to push the envelope?
Thanks for the kudos. Honestly, I’m not sure how you can deliberately make a story memorable. But I think readers tend to remember a story if it connects with them emotionally or sparks an emotional response within them.
I think what I set out to do when I write is blur the line between right and wrong and sort of challenge the traditional view of the world. Maybe confuse the reader’s sense of morality. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t know. I don’t get much feedback about my stories. The best feedback I have received though was totally unintentional and consistent with what I think I try to do. It came from a friend who I’d describe as very intelligent and level-headed. She sent me a message saying she felt sorry for the protagonist at the end of one of my stories. This confused me, big time. So, I pointed out that the character was not a very nice guy. For example, the first thing this character did after his long-term partner had been violently abducted was to take their life savings and try to buy time with an old woman chained, against her will, to a bed. After I pointed this out, she messaged me back saying, essentially, “Yes, that bastard got what he deserved.” For a moment at least, I think I somehow managed to blur the distinction between right and wrong in her mind. I like that, it think it’s very cool.
- You’ve edited the Best of Horror #2 for Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine in the past – any more editing jobs coming up for you?
I edited ASIM: Best of Horror Volume 2 with Juliet Bathory. I also edited ASIM 46. I am currently editing Midnight Echo 8 with Amanda Spedding and Marty Young. It’s a very exciting project, Midnight Echo have just increased the rates they pay authors too, so we hope to get some great submissions.
|A page from the original "Allure of the Ancients",|
published in Midnight Echo #5
- The Allure of the Ancients comic series first appeared in issue 5 of the Australian Horror Writer’s Association’s magazine Midnight Echo. It centred around a vampire named Rahkh trolling through the Western Front of World War I searching for prey when he finds a human soul just as lost as his. What inspired that story and why do it as a graphic story or comic?
What inspired it? Honestly, no idea. I think I wrote the original Allure story for a vampire anthology.
The reason it’s a comic is simple: I couldn’t get the story to work as prose. The two characters are isolated from each other during the first half of the story and that resulted in too many pov hops. The story was too stop-start. A total mess, really.
- Rahkh returns in Midnight Echo #7 with the first chapter of a new story, The Key to His Kingdom, where we get to see some of Rahkh’s past and his manipulation of mankind. There are a few taboos, which fit in with the issue’s theme, but what is your overall intent with the Allure and Rahkh series?
|Page 1 of the next chapter, "Allure of the Ancients:|
The Key to His Kingdom", which will appear in
Midnight Echo #7, this May.
Originally with The Key to His Kingdom I wanted to explore fractured human relationships and vampire lore in historical settings. I was keen to create a secret vampire/human history before going on to explain the reason behind the vampires aversion to Christian symbols. However, when I pitched the idea to Midnight Echo Executive Editor Marty Young he wanted me to “..think how the horror genre could take back the vampire and make this creature horrifying again. Get rid of the sparkles and romance.” Then, when I formally submitted the idea to Editor Daniel I Russell he wanted my story to focus more on taboos. I sort of merged a little of what everyone wanted and the result seems to work, I think.
My overall intent? Ha! If I told you that I’d spoil the future episodes. Rest assured, though, my intention, in the end, is clear. I will say one thing though, Greg, I think the next instalment contains one scene you might not want to draw...you’re going to ask to see the script now, aren’t you?
Also the format of the comic changes from episode 2. Episode 1 focuses on the vampire’s recollections, future episodes will rely on dialogue and character interaction to drive the story forward.
- What’s next for you - any new stories on the horizon?
I’ve written March of the Amputee, which is the sequel to Seeds (which appeared in Midnight Echo #6). I will soon start writing One Man, One Vote which will be the third and final part of the story. I also have an 8 page SF comic script, which I think is pretty good, and I want to expand it to approximately 40 pages. I’ll revisit that one day.
- How do people find you on the web?
Along with Juliet Bathory, David Schembri Amanda Spedding, and Marty Young, I occasionally blog at http://screamingink.org/