To celebrate the release of Quoth the Raven, edited by Lyn Worthen and published by Camden Park Press, I’m getting cozy with my fellow anthology contributors to learn more about their stories and what inspires their dark little writers’ hearts.
First up, I’m interviewing Steven R. Southard, author of “The Unparalleled Attempt to Rescue One Hans Pfaall” in Quoth the Raven.
Quoth the Raven celebrates the eerie and influential legacy of Edgar Allan Poe. What is it about Edgar Allan Poe’s work that speaks to you (perhaps from the grave)?
His work reminds me of Jules Verne’s with its precise and exacting language, and the frequent sprinkling of numbers with the text. Unlike Verne, Poe could convey deep terror and fear in a way that sucks you in and makes you feel it, too. Also unlike Verne, Poe, as a writer of both poetry and prose, could maximize the effect caused by the sound and rhythm of English words.
Pick three adjectives to describe the story you wrote for Quoth the Raven.
Bizarre, humorous, and lunar.
Imagine you’re in an old-timey elevator, a rickety one that boasts a well-worn, rusty cage. There’s a man in all black in the elevator with you, and he asks what your story is about. What do you tell him?
“Considering the rust on this rickety cage, I’m not sure we’ll even make it to our floors, so it’s tough to concentrate on answering your question. My story is a sequel to Poe’s tale about a trip to the Moon by balloon. Trouble is, Poe left so many questions unanswered: What were the Moon’s inhabitants like? What happened to the traveler, Hans Pfaall? Did the city of Rotterdam ever send a rescue mission? Poe intended to continue the tale in future installments, but never did. Someone had to write the sequel and tie up all the loose ends, so I did it.”
Okay, I’m continuing with this scenario thing. It’s 1849, and you’re at a gathering of literature lovers, a salon, if you will. Across the room, you spy Edgar Allan Poe, and you simply must go over to him to compliment his work. What is the story or poem of his that you laud to excess? And why?
“Mr. Poe, I could go on for hours trumpeting your praises for many of your works, but your poem ‘Anabel Lee’ is, in my view, your utmost achievement. The tight rhyming scheme, the skill in describing a love so intense it makes angels envious and survives death itself, and the romantic imagery, all combine in six short stanzas to produce poetic perfection. What are you drinking, sir? I’m buying.”
As a writer, what do you think are the most important elements of dark fiction?
To me, the most important element is mood. Whether it’s dark fantasy, horror, or some other form of dark fiction, it must convey a negative mood such as hatred, fear, sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, or melancholy. Successful dark fiction drags the reader through the depths of the chosen mood, such that she can claim to have experienced it merely by reading the words.
As a reader, why are you attracted to dark fiction? Why do you think we like to read about the things that terrify us?
Actually, as a former engineer, I’m attracted to problem-solving protagonists, whether in dark fiction or other stories. Poe’s “A Descent into the Maelström” and the detective tales featuring C. Auguste Dupin are problem-solving stories, and are also dark. Most dark fiction readers love the opportunity to experience, endure, and transcend fear and terror in a no-consequence setting.
What’s a story or poem – by any author – that has truly creeped you out (in the best way possible, of course)? What was it about that particular story that just got to you?
Who are some of your literary inspirations?
Jules Verne belongs on my top pedestal. Sharing second place are Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Larry Niven, and Edgar Allan Poe.
What are you currently working on right now?
I’m writing the second in a planned series of alternate history stories about Brother Eilmer of Malmesbury Abbey. He’s a medieval Benedictine monk who creates technological inventions far in advance of his time. My first such story was “Instability,” which appeared in the anthology Dark Luminous Wings, and was based on an actual recorded event.
Where can we find more of your work or connect with you online?
My website and blog are at stevenrsouthard.com, where I’m known as Poseidon’s Scribe. Readers can follow me on Twitter at @StevenRSouthard, and like me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/steven.southard.16. My Amazon author page is here: https://www.amazon.com/Steven-R.-Southard/e/B002QO00TO/, and my Goodreads author page is at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2953497.Steven_R_Southard
Having spent time near Baltimore, it’s possible that author Steven R. Southard has somehow absorbed a measure of the still-lingering aura of Edgar Allan Poe. During the night’s darkest hours, by the light of a single candle, Steve pens tales of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and alternate history. His stories appear in more than ten anthologies and one series. The bravest and most curious among you may venture to his website at stevenrsouthard.com, where you may discover Steve waiting, lurking, and well hidden behind his codename: Poseidon’s Scribe.
About Quoth the Raven:
The works of Poe were dark and often disturbing. From dismembered corpses, rivals bricked behind cellar walls, murders in back alleys, laments for lost loves, obsessions that drive men – and women! – to madness, his stories have had a profound impact on both the horror and mystery genres to this day.
In Quoth the Raven, we invite you to answer the call of the raven and revisit Poe’s work, re-imagined for the twenty-first century. Here, the lover of mystery and goth horror will find familiar themes in contemporary settings, variations on Poe’s tales, and faithful recreations of the author’s signature style.