It was given many names, most of them spoken in hushed tones of terrified awe, or accompanied by panicked expletives of desperate disbelief. Titan. Cyclops. Géant. Monstre. Of course, there were also those who strove to impose a political or allegorical interpretation on the monster. The mayor of Toronto memorably referred to the thing as “Mechaquebecer” for its supposed resemblance to Godzilla’s robotic antagonist. Frothing at the mouth, the Mayor insisted that it was merely a reification of separatist interest, literally breaking up this great nation. Had not the all-too-literal bodies of pulverized victims, most of them Quebecers, heaped up rapidly in the wake of the creature, the Toronto mayor’s interpretation might have found more adherents.
AC: Talk a little about what inspired your story (“Rrröööaarrr”) for Despumation and why you took it in the direction that you did.
SM: Kriscinda (whom I first encountered from work she’d placed with Postscripts to Darkness) knew I was a Voivod fan, and asked me if I’d submit a Voivod-inspired story for the issue. So with “Rrröööaarrr” I basically set out to write a story that played with the tones and themes of some of the Voivod songs that stuck with me over the years. It was a tremendously liberating and joyful experience.
While I knew I wanted “Korgull the Destroyer” to be a central figure in the story pretty much from the outset, it was actually the voice of the story’s protagonist, Osprey, that drove most of the story for me.
AC: Give us your favorite metal band and your favorite writer.
SM: I’m never able to answer the “favourite writer” question. I devour and adore the work of way too many writers, living and dead, to ever be able to just point to one. In terms of dead, moldering writers, I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading (and sometimes writing about) Poe and Lovecraft, William Burroughs, Kathy Acker and Anna Kavan. In terms of living writers whose work has recently been really inspiring me, Glen Hirshberg and Caitlin Kiernan both spring to mind, as does Michael Cisco and Sarah Langan…
There is a similar problem with my “favourite metal band”. It tends to vacillate rapidly depending on my mood, which shows I’ve seen recently and what I’ve been listening to. He may not be full-on metal, but the first rock show I ever witnessed was Alice Cooper playing the Memorial Centre in Kingston, Ontario during his Trash tour in 1988-ish, and that was a formative moment for sure. The theatrics, the horror-show backdrop with straight-jacketed killers and Jason Voorhees-look-alikes, the spectacle of it totally blew me away. I’ve had a longstanding love of Tool, too, since first seeing them touring for Undertow in 1993. The Melvins are in there, too, and drone-heavy stuff including Isis and Mogwai.
AC: Name a song you’d like to see covered by a writer for Despumation and explain why.
SM: “Serpentine Offering” by Dimmu Borgir covered by John Milton. Oh, right, he’s long gone, séances aside, and besides, the lyrics already owe too much to him. Does the writer have to be living, and writing currently?
If so, perhaps Blood Ceremony’s song “The Great God Pan” covered by Michael Kelly. He could make the Machen magic in that song spark, I’m sure, and refine it through an Aickmannian alembic.
AC: What are you working on now? Books/stories coming out?
SM: Right now I’m mainly editing and working on non-fictional stuff; essay collections on Poe, Lovecraft, monstrous kids in film, Charles Beaumont’s writing. I’m looking for a home for a couple of short stories, glaring at one I’ve been working on for two years which just isn’t coming together, and slowly starting to work on a couple of others. I’m also periodically poking at a manuscript for a poetry collection tentatively called Bloodflower Matchbook. Many of its constitutive poems have been previously published, and though they feel like they want to merge into a little book, they are having trouble finding this form, and my attention is regularly taken away from them by Postscripts to Darkness and essay editing.
AC: Have you always had a preference for the darker side of fiction, or did it develop later?
SM: Always, I think. It started early, first with spook-story collections for kids like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Tales for the Midnight Hour at about age 4 and 5, then moving on to the Dark Forces books, Creepy and Eerie and the Twilight Zone magazine, then on to Poe, Lovecraft, King, Barker, by early high-school and on from there.
AC: I noticed “Rrröööaarrr” was set in Quebec; how influential is your Canadian heritage to your writing?
SM: Very, although usually not quite as explicitly so as with that story. I’d have trouble explaining what exactly the contributions of my heritage(s) are, but that’s part of the equation. I’d say about half of the handful of short stories I’ve had published are explicitly set in Canada, but even when this is not the case, my odd Anglo-Ontarian ‘Nuckishness is always lurking just below the surface, like a hungry musky about to devour a duckling.
Speaking of large, powerful, predatory fish, I’m acutely aware of how much amazing dark fiction has been produced and is being produced by Canadian writers. I’m not generally much of a patriotic person, but reading work from writers like Gemma Giles, David Nickle, Michael Rowe, Tony Burgess, and Michael Kelly constantly fills me with a sense of mingled humility and awe in some ways strangely akin to the troubling sublimity of national pride.
AC: Tell us a little more about Osprey. Where did you get the inspiration for such a unique character?
SM: She began life as a series of staccato words strung together as a proto-poem-sort-of-sentence about a female suicide bomber. Falling across the page, these words reminded me of the arc of raptorial wings in flight, which gave Osprey her name. Her literal wings sprouted sometime during the first rough draft of the story, fortunately for the world in which it takes place, and the rest of her tragically short life spilled forth from there.
You can read “Rrröööaarrr” in Despumation Vo. 1: Issue 1.