Autumn Christian Talks About A Gentle Hell and Other Things
Picture this, if you will: An early winter day, a cool–no, cold–breeze blowing in, enough to make goose bumps prickle along the skin and teeth chatter. It’s nearing evening and the sun is yawning and ready to be tucked in bed.
A man enters a drab gray building, something that looks as if it has seen better days. It’s missing a few windows and the doors once had chains and a heavy lock on it. Those are on the ground, a lock cutter doing the honors. The man goes up a dozen flights of stairs and comes out into a room that seems to encompass the entire floor. There’s not much there. A mattress against one far wall, a couple lamps, one of which is on and shining brightly, even though it looks like the bulb could be caked with an inch worth of dust.
He looks around, frowns. A few steps later and he is near the lamp. He leans down to pick it up.
“Are you looking for me?”
A quick turn and he almost pitches off balance. How could he have missed her standing in the shadows not far from where he entered the room?
“Are you Autumn?” he ask, his voice steady, though his heart thump-thumping.
“Then I’m looking for you.”
“Are you the guy?”
He gives himself the once over, shrugs. “Last time I checked, but if you mean for the interview, yeah, that’s me.”
“Then let’s do this.”
“Is there a problem with this place?”
He shakes his head. “No, just an interesting place to do an interview.”
She shrugs one shoulder, steps more into the light where her light complexion and brown hair are better seen. “Questions and answers are the same, regardless, right?”
“I guess so.”
“Then it shouldn’t matter where they’re done. Let’s get started, I have things to do.”
With that, the interview takes place, Herbie manning the needles and blood work as always. With the donor bag in place, Autumn and I sat down for our conversation.
AJ: So, who is Autumn Christian?
AC: Autumn Christian is known in some circles as an anarchist collective of radical hippie savant children or a fall Baptist church festival. In truth, Autumn Christian is a girl who lives in Austin, Texas and writes dark stories, tests videogames, and occasionally is led to believe she’s the reincarnation of Philip K. Dick. Mostly because of coffee induced delusions.
[[Coffee induced delusions? I should ease into this conversation.]]
AJ: Well then, during one of your coffee induced delusional states do you ever feel like Dr. Seusse or Charlie Brown?
AC: No, but there was one time I thought my ex-boyfriend was Edgar Allan Poe, but only because he refused to shave his beard and I hadn’t seen sunlight in four days.
[[I raise an eyebrow at this. Maybe I shouldn't ease my way into this.]]
AJ: I’m not sure why you wouldn’t have seen sunlight for four days, but I think I’m going to leave that one alone. Let me go ahead and ask you about your recent publication with Dark Continents Publishing. Can you tell us about this?
[[This brings a sly, somewhat knowing smile to her face. It's like she knows something that I don't. Truth be told, she does.]]
AC: My publication with Dark Continents is a novella called A Gentle Hell, which contains four dark stories of fantastical melancholy and quiet horror – along with machine implants, rabid dogs, cannibal deer, and dead girl strippers. I wouldn’t recommend for anyone who’s currently nursing or suicidal.
As an aside: I was lucky to be introduced to Dark Continents when I met Stephanie at the World Horror Convention at a pitch practice session. I was pitching one of my novels and managed to stumble and stutter over every word. Stephanie, being the nice person she is, decided to give me her business card. I later found it at the bottom of my wallet six months later. By the time I contacted her I’d been pulling insane hours while working on a Sims game, living out of a warehouse with two bipolar artists, and had nearly forgotten how to speak my own name. But I’m glad I did. Working with Dark Continents has been a great experience so far.
AJ: I agree, Stephanie is nice, as is the entire staff over at Dark Continents.
Your collection sounds interesting to say the least, but how did you come to select stories involving machine implants, rabid dogs, cannibal deer and dead girl strippers and was there any goat’s milk involved in this process?
AC: These were stories that were written over the course of a few years, in the moments when I felt suicidal or lonely or quiet. I use imagery that people have called fantastical and surreal, though I will often say “fucking strange” in a sort of self-deprecating way.
The first story, They Promised Dreamless Death, was a way of exploring the concept of the philosophical zombie with machine implants, a person who in the inside lacks consciousness but outwardly appears exactly the same. The strippers were added for shock value. The last story, The Singing Grass, was written as a gift for a boy who happened to be an artist, but it’s really more about writing and how it infects all areas of your life, to the point where reality becomes a disjointed, timeless sort of experience where what is real and what is imagined ceases to become a relevant distinction. Your Demiurge is Dead was inspired by gnostic scriptures and weirdos that I met in Oklahoma. The Dog That Bit Her, was written in 15 hours in my old boss’s apartment when the doctor prescribed me some medicine that I later learned was basically the equivalent of speed. So I don’t remember much about that one, except that it has a werewolf in it.
There was no goat milk involved, at least directly, but I did live in a commune for two weeks and ended up fixing a broken goat stanchion, so perhaps they were involved in some strange, indirect way.
AJ: Interesting story ideas.
[[To say the least. I'm not sure what to make of the topics of her stories, but she got my attention with them.]]
I’m intrigued. Having written those types of stories, have you ever thought about trying your writing skills at Bizarro?
AC: No, but Bizarro is definitely rooted in absurdism (Albert Camus, Kafka) which I do take inspiration from. I have met with an editor from Eraserhead Press, and did send them a novel which they liked but it was not bizarre enough. This is the first time in my life I was told I was not “bizarre enough” so I was sort of pleased.
I also do feel as well that Bizarro is very much a genre owned by Carlton Merlick III and Eraserhead Press, but I do feel as if my reading of Bizarro and absurdist books have influenced me in a great way. There is something powerful about the absurd – the human brain struggles to make connections between strange and seemingly unrelated phenomenon, it’s imagery that you remember.
[[Strange and seemingly unrelated phenomenon. Hmmm... like being at the top of an old, run down building having an interview, maybe? Nah... I tap my pen on the paper in front of me. This hasn't gone according to scripted, so I stay with the previous thought.]]
AJ: I think you should keep trying the bizarro hand. Your stories have the make up for it.
AC: Why thank you, A.J., and I’ll keep that in mind.
AJ: Do that. As for future works, Autumn, do you have anything planned?
AC: I recently published a dystopian horror novel called The Crooked God Machine and am working on whoring it out to my friends/ex-lovers/helpless homeless people I meet on my way to work, as well as currently working on a demon lesbian horror-romance about carnivorous plants, a girl who’s the reincarnation of St. Peter, and how writing sometimes causes us to do strange things and drink too much whiskey. After that, on a completely different note, I’m planning to collaborate on a Mac side-scroller puzzle game called Skin Suits (Probably using the game creating software Gamesalad) about a girl who can change reality depending on the mask she wears.
Most likely after that I’ll purchase a crazy cat lady box starter set (comes with 12 kittens and a package of earl gray tea) and then crochet uncomfortable hats for people who will then feel obligated to wear them everytime we meet.
[[A blank stare is all I can manage at this point. So many different things with so many varying topics. And a cat lady box starter set? I've never heard of such a thing. The blank stare fades with a shake of my head, taking with it the fog that had formed for a moment there.]]
AJ: And your work isn’t bizarre enough for the bizarro markets?
[[At this point, I'm not sure where to go with the interview.]]
Where can readers find you? A blog? Website?
You can find me at Autumn Christian: I Wasn’t Dreaming or climbing through your window. Whichever works best.
[[The image of a petite female climbing through the window wearing dark clothing and carrying a pad and pencil came to mind. I hoped the pencil was to write with and not something else. I speak, slightly nervously.]]
AJ: Hmmm… normally I would say I don’t mind women climbing through my window, but my wife may take exception to that, so I think I’ll stick with the website.
Thank you for coming to… well, for doing this interview, even in this place. I look forward to seeing how things go for you.
AC: Thank you for having me, A.J.!
AJ: Anytime, now be careful of Herbie–he takes to the shadows when he’s not home, often waiting for unsuspecting females.
Picture this, once again, if you can: Upon packing up, he notices Herbie is no where to be seen. A frown forms, he looks around the room, searching shadows and wondering where the muse has gotten off to.
“Have you seen…” he starts and stops as quickly. The girl is gone as well. “Herbie…” he says and makes his way to the stairwell. It’s a long twelve flights down and the bitter cold awaits him outside…
Autumn Christian’s new book, A Gentle Hell can be found at Amazon here:
Also, please feel free to check out her aforementioned blog, I Wasn’t Dreaming
If you would like more information about The Tales of Darkness and Dismay e-book release by Dark Continents Press, go HERE
[[Herbie's Note: No automated zombies or dogs were hurt during this interview, though a few psyches may have been altered slightly.]]