Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s stories have appeared in Imaginarium 2012: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing, The Book of Cthulhu, Bull Spec and a number of other publications. In 2011, Silvia won the Carter V. Cooper Memorial Prize sponsored by Gloria Vanderbilt and Exile Quarterly. Silvia was also a finalist for that year’s Manchester Fiction Prize. She has co-edited the anthologies Historical Lovecraft, Candle in the Attic Window and Future Lovecraft. Her first collection, Shedding Her Own Skin, is due out in 2013.
Orrin Grey writes stories of the supernatural and macabre, which have appeared in a number of Innsmouth Free Press anthologies, as well as other venues like Bound for Evil and Delicate Toxins. His first collection, Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, is due out from Evileye Books in 2012. His fascination with monsters and fungus, and fungus monsters, is longstanding and shows no sign of waning any time soon.
Together, Moreno-Garcia and Grey edited the recently published anthology Fungi, courtesy of Innsmouth Free Press. They also have a website dedicated to the anthology, with various contributions from the anthology’s writers about fungi and writing. I recently interviewed Moreno-Garcia and Grey via email about Fungi to quiz them on their own impressions of the appeal of mushrooms and fungi to writers of horror, fantasy, and weird fiction alike, among other things…
WFR.com: Was weird fiction welcome in your households growing up? Which stories or writers with weird sensibilities do you remember most from that period?
Orrin Grey: Welcome might be a strong word for it, but my mom always encouraged me to read, and neither of my parents ever cared much what I read. My house was blissfully free of the restrictions on reading (or listening, or viewing) that plagued many of my friends and peers. I remember my mom reading Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and even the occasional Clive Barker, though she wasn’t exactly a hard core horror reader or anything. All those authors played their roles in my early reading as well, and I remember Clive Barker being a major fixture. I discovered H.P. Lovecraft by way of a couple of book-on-tape versions of Stephen King stories that my library had (“The Mist” and “Jerusalem’s Lot,” which is a kissing cousin of the more famous ‘Salem’s Lot, but not the same thing). I can also remember going through a pretty serious Moorcock phase, but probably the biggest deal for me was discovering Roger Zelazny in high school. After that there was no turning back…
Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Magic realism is pretty common in Latin American literature, so there was certainly that. As for anglo fantasy and science fiction, both my parents read it. They had books by Tanith Lee and C. J. Cherry and the like. There was no big deal with that. I started reading Weird fiction because I read a Poe collection and asked my mother if she knew any more authors like that. She gave me a Lovecraft story and she also bought me a collection of children’s horror stories. Although it was supposed to be for ‘kids,’ it contained a lot of classic horror writers. The most memorable story (and very disturbing) from that collection was one from Clark Ashton Smith about two guys drifting down the Amazon on a barge, and an orchid is growing inside the body of one of them. It’s horrid and much worse than The Ruins.
WFR.com: Who are the writers or editors you look up to the most or feel the most kinship with?
Grey: This list could get long really fast, but Mike Mignola is still who I want to be when I grow up. Unfortunately, I don’t draw, so I’m stuck doing my best with writing and editing instead.
Moreno-Garcia: It changes for me, too. I like Tanith Lee, but I had a Daphne du Maurier phase. I had a Guy the Maupassant phase.
WFR.com: Which stories do you find most influential for you and your writing, and why?
Grey: That’s a tough question. I guess the simple answer is that I’m drawn to stories of the strange and supernatural, stories that use the tropes of horror fiction, but aren’t always necessarily horror stories. I like anything that leaves a little something to the imagination, but also doesn’t skimp on the monsters!
Moreno-Garcia: My great-grandmother’s stories. She couldn’t read or write well. She had no formal schooling beyond the third grade, but she told me stories and the stories that she told me are the backbone of my output and one of my main impulses to keep on writing. I guess folklore is a big deal for me.
WFR.com: Is there any writer or artist you’re partial to that you believe is unjustly overlooked or underrated?
Grey: Since this is a Fungi interview, the obvious answer would be William Hope Hodgson, but he’s actually been seeing an uptick in popularity of late, I think. I was recently introduced to the work of Jean Ray (thanks to The Weird) and everything I’ve read by him has just been fantastic. I’d love to see him start getting the kind of best-of reprint treatment that folks like Lovecraft and even Hodgson have enjoyed.
Moreno-Garcia: It’s hard to say. I thought everyone knew who Clark Ashton Smith or C. L. Moore were, but I’ve met people in recent years, sci-fi and fantasy fans, who don’t know who they are. Similarly, I think a lot of younger people don’t know who Daphne du Maurier is and even though Shirley Jackson has an award named after her, I’ve also encountered young horror fans who have no idea who she is. I introduced a young writer the other day to Michael Ende. Had never heard of him, despite reading a lot of YAs. Charles Saunders, who wrote the Imaro books, deserves to be better known.
WFR.com: So, how did it come to the two of you to put together an anthology of short fiction devoted to fungi in the first place? Aside from an emphasis on fungi, what were you hoping to find in the stories for this anthology?
Grey: Putting together a fungus-themed anthology has been on my publishing bucket list (did I actually just say “bucket list?” I did…) for years now. I first started talking it up to people way back at my first (and, sad to say, so far only) Readercon in 2009. Several of our ultimate contributors were there, and promised me stories if I ever got it off the ground, not suspecting that I would be calling in their chips years down the road.
Fast forward, and I was writing a column on international horror cinema for Innsmouth Free Press, and Silvia and I got to talking about Matango, the ridiculous and amazing Toho adaptation of Hodgson’s seminal fungus story “The Voice in the Night.” Silvia made what I figured was a joke about doing an anthology of fungus stories, and I jumped on it. That’s my recollection of events, anyway.
What was I looking for? Some amazing creepy, weird stories, and at least one really good Hodgson-style mushroom person, and I got both!
Moreno-Garcia: Yeah, I had been planning on doing a fungal anthology for a while but I didn’t feel a real impetus to get it going until I talked to Orrin.
Well, I was really curious to see what exactly would come in in the slush. I was afraid it would be too narrow a theme and that we wouldn’t get enough contributors, but wow, we got a lot of writers interested in it.
I think I was most interested in seeing something really out there and some of the stories were quite wild. So I guess it worked, in that respect.
WFR.com: What about fungi do you think makes it so ultimately appealing for use in weird fiction, exactly?
Grey: Thematically I think that fungi is tied in to antiquity, death, transformation, and colonization, being taken over, the loss of identity, all of which are obsessions that run deep throughout weird fiction.
Moreno-Garcia: They’re pretty strange. If you’ve ever looked at images of mushrooms, the shapes and kinds of things you find are so alien. So unusual. Glow in the dark mushrooms and huge organisms extending beneath the earth. And they’re not quite a plant nor an animal. They’re just bizarre.
WFR.com: A rather nice feature of Fungi is the list of fungal fiction at the back of the anthology, with all sorts of stories and movies recommended for readers. If you had to pick one or two fungal stories you would require of everyone, not counting stories from your anthology, what would you choose and why?
Grey: Maybe it’s too obvious, but I’d have to say Hodgson’s “The Voice in the Night” and Ishiro Honda’s adaptation of it, the aforementioned Matango. Where the whole thing started, and the incredibly weird but weirdly effective movie version of same.
Moreno-Garcia: Yeah, “Voice in the Night” is a basic one. There’s also a gross little story, it’s by Stephen King, where the dad starts to turn into a mushroom after he drinks an infected beer. It combines both the fear of an abusive parent and your worst body horror dreams.
WFR.com: What else have you done, or are currently working on, in terms of writing or editing? Anything recently published or upcoming?
Grey: In addition to co-editing Fungi with Silvia, my first collection of supernatural stories just came out a couple of months ago. It’s called Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, and it’s available now from Evileye Books. I mostly do short stories, and I’ve got several more of those either published or in the works, and I’m hoping to have enough to put out a second collection before too long.
Moreno-Garcia: My first collection, Shedding Her Own Skin, is coming out this year. The first solo anthology I have edited, Dead North, is also out in time for Halloween. I’m working on finishing a YA novel I started last year, Young Blood, about a teenage garbage collector in Mexico City who meets a narco-vampire. I’m also co-editing a new anthology this year, Sword and Mythos.
WFR.com: Finally, what is the weirdest story you’ve ever read, bar none, and why?
Grey: Is it cheating to say “Tubby McMungus, Fat from Fungus” from our own anthology? It probably is. If not that, then almost certainly something by Harlan Ellison. I still have an old hardcover copy of The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World from my high school days, and pretty much every story in that blew my mind back then, though it’s been a long time since I revisited them.
Moreno-Garcia: Does online fan fiction count? Seriously, there is some weird, weird shit out there. I think “The Aleph” is a cool story, and weird, but I don’t know if it is the weirdest thing I’ve ever read. Phillip K. Dick often got all random and weird, don’t you think? Although it’s not the weirdest thing I ever read, I remember the novel Son of Man, if only because the protagonist ends up having sex with something that I think resembles a big koi fish in a pond. Now, I may be wrong about that since I read it a long time ago, but if he didn’t have sex with a koi fish, he should have because the book was rather dull aside from that.