The superbly talented Mr Reggie Oliver is a playwright, author, biographer, actor and director. His Tartarus collection Mrs Midnight won the Dracula Society’s Children of the Night Award, and was a finalist for both the British Fantasy and World Fantasy Awards. Here, he talks Horrorology.
What was the inspiration for your Horrorology tale “Possessions”?
I have always wanted to write something about the sixties, in particular the dark side of its glamour: the rapacious greed of its hedonism, the male exploitation of sexual liberation. I was a young teenager in that decade living in London and found it all thrilling. One film that superbly captures that era in all its glitter and seediness is Antonioni’s Blow Up. The image of the young and then beautiful David Hemmings as the photographer in that film standing over the prone body of one of his models, pointing his camera down at her, as if raping her with it, was a starting point… That coupled with pictures of David Hemmings towards the end of his life, paunchy, unglamorous, disappointed, an Adonis no longer.
Can you remember the first story you read that made you think “I want to write!”?
Oh, undoubtedly it was Sherlock Holmes, but I couldn’t say which one, though possibly The Hound of the Baskervilles, the first novel I ever read to myself. Conan Doyle’s horror tales too – “The Leather Funnel” for example – were equally an influence. My first attempts at writing were nearly all imitations of Doyle in his horror or detective story modes.
Is horror a sort of natural home for you or do you lean more towards another part of speculative fiction?
Yes, though I have sometimes chafed at the term “horror” simply because some people (mostly literary snobs) have such limited expectations of it. By it they tend to mean a lot of blood and sordid sex, and physical torment. And, while I don’t entirely reject that side, I do think there’s a lot more to it than that. I like the term that Charles Williams used for his “speculative fiction”: “spiritual shockers”. If I could be seen as a writer of “spiritual shockers” I’d be happy.
You’re offered the chance to visit the Library of the Damned ? do you accept?
Oh yes. I’m with the African/Roman dramatist Terence on this. “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.” “I am a human being I count nothing human alien to me” – even “damned” humanity.
The future of horror is … ?
Exceptionally dark and exceptionally bright, a sort of “divine darkness”, as St John of the Cross would have called it, especially when placed in the hands of Angela Slatter, Clive Barker, Steve Jones, in fact any and all of the contributors to Horrorology. I really think this is a great age for horror, because of its exceptional variety and inventiveness.
Pre-order your copy of Horrorology: The Lexicon of Fear here!