Lisa L. Hannett has had over 60 short stories appear in venues including Clarkesworld, Fantasy, Weird Tales, Apex, the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror, and Imaginarium: Best Canadian Speculative Writing. She has won four Aurealis Awards, including Best Collection for her first book, Bluegrass Symphony, which was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award. Her first novel, Lament for the Afterlife, was published by CZP in 2015. You can find her online at http://lisahannett.com and on Twitter @LisaLHannett.
What inspired your story “Sugared Heat”?
I often think about how, as a kid in Canada, I’d go on school trips out to the sugar bush to tap maple trees for syrup. (There were taps plugged right into the trees! And we’d pack snow onto popsicle sticks and drip syrup right onto them!) I was also thinking about really small, really isolated towns (again, as I often do) and the lengths to which the people who lived in them might go to avoid too much inbreeding. (Assuming they’d be okay with a bit of inbreeding, of course.) At the same time, I’d been thinking a lot about dryads, and also about terrible skin afflictions — and wouldn’t tree bark make an excellent back-scratcher, if you got hold of a big enough slab? But surely the dryads wouldn’t be all that keen on giving up their bark, I thought. Maybe it would be better if you stripped down and rubbed up against them … which sent the story spiralling in a much darker direction than I expected, given that the whole train of thought kicked off with kids and maple snow-popsicles.
What’s the first horror story you can remember making a big impact on you?
I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson. (The book, not the film, which was dreadful.) The way those vampires taunted Neville when he was barricaded inside his house at night has stuck with me for years. It was such an inhuman — but human —thing they did to him. Brilliant psychological horror.
Name your three favourite horror writers.
Shirley Jackson. Robert Shearman.[Insert all other horror writers here because how can I narrow it down to three? What a cruel, cruel task.]
Is your writing generally firmly in the horror arena or do you do occasional jaunts into other areas of speculative fiction?
I like the umbrella term ‘speculative fiction’ because it’s broad (and unspecific) enough to encompass all of the sorts of stories I write. My work is mostly strange, sometimes creepy, often unsettling — all trademarks of horror, I suppose — but I rarely consciously sit down in front of my computer and think, ‘Today, I’m going to write horror.’ (Or fantasy / science fiction, for what it’s worth.) Bluegrass Symphony contains stories I thought maybe were mostly fantasy, but they’ve also been received as horror (‘The Short Go: A Future in Eight Seconds’ won ‘Best Horror Short Story’ at the 2011 Aurealis Awards; meanwhile the collection itself was nominated for a World Fantasy Award.) Midnight and Moonshine is pretty firmly fantasy, and The Female Factory is science fiction in that its stories rely on scientific concepts and questions— but there is nary a spaceship or planet (other than Earth) to be found in that collection. All of my uncollected stories straddle the fantasy/science fiction/horror borderlines, too. The ones I think might be science fiction get bought by horror venues, the ones I think are horror get bought by fantasy markets, the ones I think are fantasy wind up as something in-between. And then there’s Lament for the Afterlife, my first novel, which is a mid-apocalyptic dark fantasy horror war story. Think Platoon meets Pan’s Labyrinth meets Things We Didn’t See Coming, and that starts to describe it…
What’s in your to-be-read pile at the moment?
I’m 95% of the way through The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader, so that’s at the top. I’m also partway through The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, so that’s next. I’m also well into Redeployment by Phil Klay, which I’m reading slowly so that it lasts longer, but I’ll have to get to the end sooner or later. After that I want to re-read Hild by Nicola Griffith (because I devoured it the first time, and now want to savour it). Then I’ve got Sweetland by Michael Crummey lined up (whose previous book, Galore, is one of my favourites of all time). I also want to read Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace.
The 2nd Spectral Book of Horror Stories can be pre-ordered here.