Tuesday, January 14, 2014

TC Editor Interview: Brian M. Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass Discuss Release of Lovecraftian Cyberpunk Anthology 'Eldritch Chrome,' Now Available from Chaosium, Inc.

Cover art by Daniele Serra

I'd like to share a recent interview I conducted with authors/editors Brian M. Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass, on the occasion of the release of Eldritch Chrome, an anthology bristling with 18 tales of Lovecraftian Cyberpunk penned by some of the finest names working in Speculative Fiction today.

If you like your punk cybernetic, your future dystopian, and you tentacles biomechanical, this is the book for you.  Pull up tight your vinyl sheets, strap on your kinked out breathing apparatus, and settle in for an unsettling read.

Please enjoy my chat with Brian and Glynn, and thanks to the lads for sitting down with The Cosmicomicon.

First of all, let’s set the table and give a little background on each of you.  

Glynn: I took up writing rather late I suppose, in my late 30s, but have always been a fan of the written word. Since I first read Lovecraft, at the age of 13, I always wanted to be a writer, and when I graduated university, again late in life, I took pen to paper and began in earnest. Lovecraft, Ramsay Campbell, Raymond Chandler and the Cyberpunk genre are heavy influences in my work. I’ve written over a 100 short stories, most of which have been published in America, England, and Japan.

Brian: I've always been a story teller and that’s why I started running role playing games as a youngster. It allowed me to make up and tell tales to my friends. So as a RPG nerd and a lover of all things horror, I started writing for the Call of Cthulhu RPG in the late 1990s. I then took a long hiatus (not by choice) and when I returned to my keyboard, I started focusing on fiction. While my mainstay has always been horror, I have dabbled in many subgenres such as Lovecraftian, weird, splatter, and I have dabbled in sci-fi, action, and fantasy. I still do game work today and I am currently working with a film company on the screenplay for one of my stories they have optioned to turn into a movie and that’s a real kick.

You both write as well as edit.  Do you value/enjoy one over the other?  

Glynn: Both have their thrills, and I enjoy editing greatly as it gives me a chance to read awesome fiction! Creating fiction is excellent too, the process that goes into bringing a story to life, so this is a tough question. Right now – I enjoy creating a little bit more than editing, but that may change depending on what I’m working on.

Brian: I also prefer to write, because I have that insatiable need to create and tell stories. That said, I do really enjoy editing anthologies and I seem to keep adding more editing projects to the ‘to do’ pile every day. I think I like doing them so much because then I can make the books that I would want to read that no one else seems to be doing. It is a lot of work, and it’s never fun when you have limited space in a book and twice that in great stories to choose from. Rejecting good authors is easily the thing I hate most about being an editor. But to build a book from the ground up, from the initial concept, to selecting all of its contents, to doing all the finishing touches, well that’s what makes all the hard work worth it.

How did you two come together to work on Eldritch Chrome, and from whence did the project arise?  Did the anthology originate from inside Chaosium, or did you take it to the publisher and sell them on it?

Glynn: At the time I was writing a lot of crossed genre Cthulhu Mythos/Cyberpunk stories, and I was chatting to Brian about it one day and just asked him: ‘Wouldn’t it be great to do a book as a collection?’ Brian loved the idea, we put the pitch together, and he was straight on to Chaosium with it, on the condition: ‘Sure man, but I have this great Cthulhu/Steampunk idea that we have to do next.’ Chaosium snapped both ideas up, and a few more besides.

Brian: Glynn and I met on the internet and soon discovered that we had a lot in common. One day while kicking around thoughts about books and stories, he came up with the idea for a Lovecraftian horror meets cyberpunk anthology. I had a long relationship with Chaosium thanks to my Call of Cthulhu writing, and I knew they were looking to jumpstart their slumbering fiction line. They were very interested in the book and so we were off and running.

The cover features artwork by Daniele Serra, a favorite of mine and a name well-known in Weird Fiction circles.  How did you hook up with Dani as the cover artist?

Glynn: We have admired Dani’s work for a while, and when it came to choosing an artist he was our first choice. It was as simple as sending him an email, as Dani loves painting as much as people love admiring his work.

Brian: This was the first time we worked with Dani, but it would not be the last. He also did the cover for this book’s unofficial companion anthology, Steampunk Cthulhu (another collaboration between Glynn and I), and I tapped him again for an amazing cover for an upcoming horror western book called Edge of Sundown. Dani is amazingly talented and just a great guy to work with, so I am sure we will be working with him again and again.

How many submissions did you receive?  Was the volume and quality of the subs about the same as past projects?  What was the most surprising part of the process (if anything)?

Glynn: This was a closed project, so we received about 25 stories. Also this was our first editorial project together but being familiar with the authors already, we knew we would receive quality work.

Brian: Yes, for our first effort together, we decided to go with the authors we were familiar with. Those that we were already fans of. The book that followed it, Steampunk Cthulhu, would be an open call and for that one we read over one million words in submissions! But that’s another story. As for the quality of submissions on Eldritch Chrome, they were all excellent, and perhaps the most surprising part of the process was the number of great stories we got for the book. Of course that meant that many good stories had to be rejected just for lack of space. The one upside to that is that the only best of the best will be found between the covers of Eldritch Chrome, and that makes me very happy.

What can readers expect to find in Eldritch Chrome?  To whom would this anthology appeal?

Glynn: Readers can expect to find unique takes on Cyberpunk and the Cthulhu Mythos genres – the writers here really have excelled in their craft. Really, this anthology will appeal to a lot, we’re not just saying that! Fans of Cyberpunk and Cthulhu, of course, Horror fans, and fans of the individual authors are in for a treat.

Brian: The criteria for making it into this book were twofold. The stories had to be great Lovecraftian/Cthulhu Mythos tales, and they had to be excellent examples of the cyberpunk genre. The authors had to have a strong grasp on both types of tales and those that got the thumbs up from us had that in spades. So if you enjoy reading about the creepy, cosmic horrors that H.P. Lovecraft gave to the world, this book will be for you. If you’re a fan of the dark, dystopian future of cyberpunk, then you’ll also dig Eldritch Chrome. If you are a fan of both, as Glynn and I are, then you’ll love the book.

As editors with a (rapidly growing) track record, what advice can you give to writers seeking to place their work in anthologies such as yours?

Glynn: Heh, well... First of all, read the guidelines well as we are very particular about what we’re looking for. Whatever you do, don’t take an old story and just tack on something to make it match the theme we’re looking for – that stands out terribly and we reject stories like that. Also, proof and edit the hell out of your work before sending it to us. Stories with typos every paragraph rapidly get rejected, but thankfully, the authors we go to are so good at their craft we get stories near hand perfect, which makes an editor’s job far easier.

Brian: Read everything Glynn just said again. And then once more. Got that? Good. The only other thing I could think of to add would be for you to know the genre(s) and the type of stories we’re looking for intimately. If we would do an anthology of Robert E. Howard-like, two-fisted adventure tales set in the world of Alice in Wonderland, then you had better know both R.E.H. stories and the fantastic world that Lewis Carroll crated like the back of your hand. Not having a good understanding of the genre(s) we’re looking for is the surest way to get rejected.

What sort of books would you like to see more of in genre fiction, as writers, editors, and readers?

Glynn: That’s a difficult one. Hmm, more books by us for a start (Laugh, Out, Loud). But seriously, there are some great authors out there that deserve a lot more recognition than they have so far, people that work hard, produce consistently quality work, that we hope we are helping to introduce to a wider audience.

Brian: Glynn beat me to the punch, as he often does, with the answer to what books we would like to see published as writers and editors: books by us, of course. As for what books I’d like to see as a reader, well I have a few more ideas for anthologies that I would love to read. That’s how I usually come up with ideas for the books I edit, so I think I’ll keep those idea to myself for right now. In addition to that, anything by my favorite authors or perhaps more of a return to form from some of my old favorites. Stephen King jumps readily to mind in that regard, although I must confess, I still have yet to read his Doctor Sleep.

What’s next for both of you lads, both individually and as an editing team?

David Lee Ingersoll
Glynn: As a team, there are three more anthologies coming out in the near future: Steampunk Cthulhu and Atomic Age Cthulhu (both from Chaosium) and another project that is sort of a secret that you, Ted, are appearing in with a truly brilliant piece of work. Brian has also written some Call of Cthulhu RPG campaigns that I am proud to have contributed to. Solo-wise, I have a novel being released early 2015, based on the King in Yellow Mythos, and also various Call of Cthulhu and anthology appearances. Brian and I are also soon to be pitching a new Cthulhu Mythos anthology to publishers.

Brian: Since Glynn nailed our team-up projects, I’ll just list some of my other efforts. I am currently working on a novel with an author I admire the hell out of, Jeffrey Thomas. I am editing another Lovecraftian anthology called The Dark Rites of Cthulhu for the brand new publishing house, April Moon Books. I will be co-editing another anthology called The Legacy of the Re-Animator (three guesses as to what that’s about) with the very talented writer, Pete Rawlik. I will be overseeing and editing a collection/shared world anthology for my good friend, C.J. Henderson. I have two ‘straight horror’ (read as: non Cthulhu Mythos) anthologies that I will be starting up soon. I am working on a screenplay for a film adaptation of one of my stories. I continue to write short fiction and scenarios/books for the Call of Cthulhu RPG game. And somewhere amidst all that I try to have a life.

Any closing thoughts?  Prescient insights?  Favorite casserole recipes?

Glynn: Well first of all, thank you kindly for this interview Ted – it has been a pleasure answering your questions. I was thinking of saying something controversial as a closing thought (‘Reptoid Freemasons run the country!’ ‘Recycle your pets!’), but instead I’ll leave you with this: “My brother, knows Karl Marx, He met him eating mushrooms in the people’s park, He said 'What do you think about my manifesto?' I said 'I like a manifesto, put it to the test-o.” (Thank you, Sultans of Ping, F.C.)

Brian: Oh dear, it seems Glynn has gone off his meds again. Well before I give him a hand with that, I will also echo his thanks regarding you and this interview, Ted. You’re one of the good ones, I don’t care what everyone else says. But seriously, I hope people out there enjoy Eldritch Chrome and all the other books Glynn and I busted out butts on to bring out. I hope they also stick around to see what we do next, as it’s going to be pretty damn cool.

From the Chaosium, Inc., website:

Unquiet Tales of a Mythos-Haunted Future

DURING THE DECADES since H.P. Lovecraft first wrote of the Cthulhu Mythos, many authors have crossed his themes into other genres, enhancing his original vision with stories taking place in the distant past, in the far-flung future, and in myriad places in-between.

Cyberpunk tales are written in dark, gritty, film-noir styles. Their protagonists live and die at the bottom echelon of an electronic society gone awry. They may be seedier, poorer, and less inclined to make moral judgements than stoic Lovecraftian New Englanders, but in Cyberpunk-Cthulhu tales they encounter the same horrors as their more-genteel predecessors.

Confronting monstrous entities and fiends from beyond space and time, the Cyberpunk-Cthulhu hero may wield high-tech weapons and have other advances at his or her disposal. To beings where time has no meaning and whose technologically is so advanced that their actions seem supernatural or powered by magic, no human finds an advantage.

This is the Cyberpunk-Cthulhu world—mythos horrors lurk at the edge of society, mythos-altered technology infects human beings, dark gods lurk in cyberspace, and huge corporations rule society while bowing to entities inimical to humankind.

Selected and edited by Brian M. Sammons & Glynn Owen Barrass. Cover art by Daniele Serra. 272 pages. Trade Paperback.

ISBN-10: 1568823894
ISBN-13: 9781568823898

The Tales Included:

"Obsolete, Absolute" by Robert M. Price
"The Place that Cannot Be" by D.L. Snell
"The Battle of Arkham" by Peter Rawlik
"The Wurms In the Grid" by Nickolas Cook
"SymbiOS" by William Meikle
"Playgrounds of Angolaland" by David Conyers
"Sonar City" by Sam Stone
"The Blowfly Manifesto" by Tim Curran
"Flesh & Scales" by Ran Cartwright
"Inlibration" by Michael Tice
"Hope Abandoned" by Tom Lynch
"Immune" by Terrie Leigh Relf
"Real Gone" by David Dunwoody
"CL3ANS3" by Carrie Cuinn
"Dreams of Death" by Lois Gresh
"The Gauntlet" by Glynn Owen Barrass and Brian M. Sammons
"Indifference" by CJ Henderson
"Open Minded" by Jeffrey Thomas

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