Thursday 27 November 2014
Interview with Jason V Brock - By David Kempf
He is also the author of Totems and Taboos, a compilation of his poetry and artwork, and an editor, along with William F. Nolan, of The Bleeding Edge: Dark Barriers, Dark Frontiers and The Devil's Coattails: More Dispatches from the Dark Frontier anthologies published by Cycatrix Press. Brock shares story credit (he was Lead Story Consultant and Lead Designer) on the Logan’s Run: Last Day and related comicbook series from Bluewater Productions. In addition, he is also a writer for the comicbook/graphic novel, Tales from William F. Nolan's Dark Universe (again from Bluewater).
He served as Managing Editor/Contributor and Art Director for Dark Discoveries magazine for over four years. His novella, Milton’s Children, was published by Bad Moon Books in early 2013.His poetry, short stories, nonfiction articles, Introductions and essays have been widely published internationally online, in books and in numerous horror, science fiction and fantasy and scholarly print magazines (Fangoria, Dark Discoveries, Calliope [Official Publication of the Writers' Special Interest Group (SIG) of American Mensa, Ltd], Comic-Con International's Souvenir Book, the Weird Fiction Review, American Rationalist [an organ of the Center for Inquiry], and others) and multiple anthologies (Butcher Knives and Body Counts, S. T. Joshi's Black Wings series, Like Water for Quarks, Animal Magnetism, and so on).
With a large personality and gregarious nature, he is a popular panelist at many horror conventions (such as MythosCon, Orycon, Crypticon, World Horror Convention, World Fantasy Convention, and others) and film festivals (including the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival, Buffalo International Film Festival, Lovecraft's Visions, etc.) and has been compared in intensity to Harlan Ellison and Charles Beaumont by his friends and colleagues. He has received praise from Ellison, William F.Nolan and the legendary Ray Bradbury. It was very generous of him to take time out of his busy schedule to talk to Masters of Horror U.K
By David Kempf
Tell us how you became involved in all things horror?
I have been fascinated with the esoteric and macabre since I was a child. Who knows where that impulse and gravitation originates? I was sort of melancholic, I suppose, as well predisposed to a cynical and morbid worldview. I’ve had it ever since.
Did you enjoy horror movies and dark fiction during your childhood?
I loved them, but my parents divorced when I was five, and my mother had custody. Horror wasn’t her thing. She was not cool with it at all, in fact, so I was restricted to watching the old reruns of Twilight Zone and a few Hammer films at my father’s place when I visited him on the weekends and in the summer. He had a love of old EC comics and old paperbacks, too, so that’s where I was able to cultivate my interest in these things… things were scarce then, as there was no Internet or cable in the South in the 1970s when I was growing up.
What inspired you to make your documentary about the late Charles Beaumont?
Initially, we set out just to do a film about Forrest J Ackerman. At the time we began, there hadn’t been one. It veered slightly off-course when we interviewed Marc Scott Zicree (The Twilight Zone Companion) and he suggested we do a film on Beaumont as well. There was one in the works, but it has apparently been shelved; at the time, however, it was a go, and I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Marc said that with a person as dynamic as Charles Beaumont, there was always more than one angle, and I felt he was right, so after a bit of thought, we decided (meaning my wife, Sunni, who is my partner on the films, and my editor for them) to pursue both projects at the same time, as many of the people we were interviewing knew them both (Ackerman was Beaumont’s first literary agent).
Beaumont was an intense, driven, fascinating man. He crammed 80 years of life into basically ten years of productivity. As I have written before, imagine becoming the top writer for Playboy in your twenties... Imagine being a mainstay for the groundbreaking Twilight Zone... Imagine verging on the cusp of a major film-writing career... Then imagine a mysterious illness stealing your mind and youth... It’s a perfect recipe for drama, but sadly it was his life: He died in 1967 at the age of 38. Beaumont will be remembered for the way he lived, I think, and the tremendous, though unfulfilled, talent he had, gifting us with Roger Corman’s adaptation of his novel The Intruder, as well as over 100 short stories, and many other films and teleplays.
Tell us about your earliest inspirations.
I love every form of literature, art, film, and music, and draw inspiration from them all. With respect to cinema, I am a student of film, and love documentary films, as well as Universal and Hammer horror flicks, sci-fi, dramas, and TV shows such as The Twilight Zone, True Detective, et cetera… Some of my favorite directors include Dan O’Bannon—a personal friend and mentor—David Cronenberg, George A. Romero, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, Luis Buñuel, Kurosawa, Stan Brakhage, Roger Corman, Oliver Stone, and Dario Argento.
In art and literature, my influences are Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Ernst Fuchs, Botticelli (we share a birthday, March 1), Wolfgang Grasse, William Blake, Beksinski, Böcklin, Vesalius, EC Comics, Francis Bacon, H. R. Giger, Minor White, and Helmut Newton. Writers include Jorge Luis Borges, H. P. Lovecraft, Kafka, Rod Serling, Bataille, Kurt Vonnegut, W. S. Burroughs, J. G. Ballard, Emily Dickinson, George Orwell, Dante, Percy Shelley, Homer, Poe, Robbe-Grillet, Richard Selzer, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Aickman, Shirley Jackson, Gabriel García Márquez, Ray Bradbury, William Blake again, Faulkner, and a host of modern masters, such as Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, William F. Nolan, and others.
How did you meet William F. Nolan?
I was interviewing the writer George Clayton Johnson (Star Trek) for our documentary about the late Charles Beaumont. We were at this place he’d picked to do the interview, a restaurant. We shot it outside, but it was what I’d characterize as the loudest place on Earth. It was on the corner of an interstate and two other busy roads. Moreover, the interview lasted seven hours! George is now a dear friend, but one of the most talkative people in history, I think. He said many great things, but it was a challenge, and I finally just ran out of tape…
At one point, however, he asked me: “Would you like to interview William F. Nolan?” I was taken aback, and said, “Sure. Is he still alive?” After George confirmed that Nolan was indeed alive, he revealed that he was living in Bend, OR—about three hours from where Sunni (my wife and editor of the films we’ve done) and I lived! George supplied Nolan’s phone number and I called to see if he was available to be interviewed regarding Beaumont. Nolan agreed and we went to his place a few weeks later: After that visitation, we became fast friends.
What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment as an artist so far?
I’d have to say winning the 2014 Rondo Award for our film The AckerMonster Chronicles!, though the huge premieres we’ve had in Los Angeles are right up there. In addition, the publication of A Darke Phantastique—Encounters with the Uncanny and Other Magical Things… an incredible anthology of all unpublished or new horror and science fiction that intersects with Magical Realism. It’s over 720 pages of illustrated content, and contains an unpublished foreword from Ray Bradbury, as well as long pieces by a diverse coterie of new and veteran authors, including William F. Nolan, Ray Garton, Joe R. Lansdale, Dennis Etchison, Mike Allen, Erinn L. Kemper, Lois Gresh, Nicole Cushing, Cody Goodfellow, Richard Gavin, S. T. Joshi, Marge Simon, Paul Kane, and literally dozens of others. Fifty writers in all!
Disorders is a continuation and expansion of the work I’ve done with our professional journal, Nameless Digest. We are semi-regular as a biannual publication as well as a website, and have featured outstanding scholarship, interviews, fiction, poetry, reviews, and artwork from top talents in the field. S. T. Joshi (Unutterable Horror) is my managing editor, and we’ve covered George Romero, artist Kris Kuksi, and the field of weird literature, just for starters.
Name some of your favorite books.
Books? That’s a hard one. I feel that Dante’s Inferno, All Quiet on the Western Front, the stories of Richard Selzer, The Martian Chronicles, the works of Gabriel García Márquez, all of E. A. Poe, Borges, and Kafka, Lovecraft’s best offerings, and a large selection of poets such as Ted Hughes and Emily Dickinson are essential. Many others, of course, but that’s a good start. I also love all forms of mythology and folk tales from across the world.
Name some of your favorite films.
I’d say a couple of my favorite films would be Freaks and To Kill A Mockingbird. In the more modern era, I’d include Carnival of Souls, Burnt Offerings, Network, Planet of the Apes (the original), Alien, The Return of the Living Dead, Jaws, The King of Comedy, Badlands, The Thing, Citizen Kane, Videodrome, Gods and Monsters, Blow Out, Dead Ringers, An American Werewolf in London, The Dead Zone, Duel, and Man Bites Dog. There are more, of course. I make no real distinction between made-for-TV and cinematic films in my favorites.
I think what appeals to me varies with what I am feeling in the moment, but the common factors are: strong characterization, great direction, respect for the audience, intelligence, good writing, tight editing, subtle music, creepiness, and mood. Atmosphere and tone are important for me. Also, I much prefer practical make-up and physical effects over CGI.
Name some of your favorite plays.
The Crucible and Death of a Salesman are excellent, and I adore most of the plays of William Shakespeare. I think experimental theatre is interesting and have written several short plays myself.
I think that genre fiction and other artforms in general—whether rooted in horror, sci-fi, or mainstream literary convention—have a certain relevance whether folks realize it or not, and always will. They allow us to analyze things with our preconceptions stripped away, at least while we are in the creator's world.
From a writing perspective, which could also be generalized to cinema, art, and music, I personally feel that horror is an inwardly focused form of literature. It lets us look at things that are personally threatening with a certain amount of distance to help us feel safe. Science fiction is more externally driven, its concerns encompass political struggles, the environment, social mores, and so on. Literary takes the threat/horror elements away while remaining mindful of the individual in the social context, but without the overt machinations of technology, as sci-fi would. In a way, good literary—and there's not much of it—can straddle the two parts of the self I am describing, the individual and the society that they are existing in.
What are your latest projects?
My literary agent has been after me to complete four novels, so I’m at work on those at present, and there are several other publications, including my second short story collection called The Dark Sea Within and Other Macabre Revelations, that I have pending between now and the middle of 2015, in addition to numerous appearances at conventions and film festival screening invites across the US. Things are busy, and it appears that they’ll be getting busier between signing events (we had a couple recently, in fact—one in Los Angeles on 11/6/2014 at Mystery & Imagination Bookstore in Glendale, and another in Seattle on 11/23/2014 at the University Book Shop) and industry cons, such as the World Horror Convention, local horror and S-F shows, and World Fantasy, where I frequently appear as a guest.
As to our output, people can find out more about the Charles Beaumont movie on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Official.Charles.Beaumont.Documentary
As well as the Forrest J Ackerman film: https://www.facebook.com/AckermonsterChroniclesMovie
Our third documentary, on Fantastic Imagery, entitled Image, Reflection, Shadow: Artists of the Fantastic (showcasing H. R. Giger, Alex Grey, Roger Dean, Robert Williams, and about twenty other artists from all over the world): https://www.facebook.com/FantasticArtDocumentary
A Darke Phantastique: https://www.facebook.com/DARKE.PHANTASTIQUE.BOOK
And our digest and website, Nameless: https://www.facebook.com/Nameless.Digest
Please in your own words, write a paragraph about yourself and your work.
I hope to continue for many years as a writer, editor, filmmaker, composer, and artist. I’ve been fortunate to have been published in a wide array of venues—online, in comic books, magazines, and anthologies, such as Qualia Nous, Simulacrum and Other Possible Realities (my illustrated fiction/poetry collection), Fungi, Weird Fiction Review, Fangoria, S. T. Joshi's Black Wings series, and many others.
From my time as Art Director/Managing Editor for Dark Discoveries magazine for several years, I decided to stick with publishing by expanding into the pro journal called [NameL3ss], which can be found on Twitter: @NamelessMag, and online at www.NamelessDigest.com. We also run Cycatrix Press (our books include A Darke Phantastique, and The Bleeding Edge, to name just two anthologies, and we are planning several collections and novels in the next couple years in addition), as well as our technology consulting business.
Of course, there are the film and music projects, as I mentioned, and the various personal appearances, signings, film festivals, and conventions. Along the way we make time for our friends, and our family of reptiles/amphibians, travel, and vegan/vegetarianism. Folks can keep up with our travels and appearances on social sites such as Facebook and Twitter (@JaSunni_JasonVB), and our personal website/blog, www.JaSunni.com