Welcome to the fourteenth installment of my “Author of the Week” (this series was on hiatus for the Holiday Season)! These articles focus on Weird Fiction and/or Lovecraftian authors that I think more readers should know about. If you have suggestions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
This week’s author is Jeffrey Thomas. Jeff is the author of Punktown and many other books. He’s also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. (Check out Jeff’s Patreon page — for a very small amount of money, you’ll be able to read brand new Jeffrey Thomas stories!)
I asked Jeff five questions:
MD: Please tell us about yourself—as much or as little as you’d like to say.
JT: I live in Massachusetts with my five year old daughter, and I have a twenty-two year old son. I’ve done illustrations and occasional cover art for small press publications and indie book publishers, and I used to run a small press imprint myself called Necropolitan Press, publishing such authors as Jeff VanderMeer and W. H. Pugmire, but my first love is writing. My daughter is half Vietnamese, and I have a great love for her mom’s country — I’ve been there nine times in ten years. My daughter’s been there four times in five years! Vietnam, sometimes in a fantastical guise, has found its way into a lot of my work in some manner, over the past decade.
MD: How and why did you begin writing?
JT: Who can ever really say why one person becomes a writer and another doesn’t, when every single one of us loves stories, whatever medium that story is told in? I could say my need to write was due to me being shy, and writing was my alternate mode of expressing myself, except that I know quite a few gregarious authors, so I don’t think there’s a viable theory there. Maybe it’s due to a creative gene, since my father was an artist and my brother Scott and I are artists, both my parents wrote poetry, my mom and sister wrote newspaper columns, and my brother Scott also writes dark fiction — his most recent book, of course, being The Sea of Ash, which may sound familiar to you. As to how I began, well, I started writing novels by hand as a young teenager, having graduated from making my own comic books. In the late eighties I started placing stories and poems in small press zines, and in 2000 my first two books were published: Terror Incognita, from Delirium Books, and Punktown by Jeff VanderMeer’s Ministry of Whimsy Press. Many more books, anthology appearances, and occasional magazine appearances have followed.
MD: What is it about Lovecraftian horror and Weird Fiction that appeals to you?
JT: Having grown up on the classic horror movies and their monsters — the werewolves and vampires, the dinosaurs and giant bugs — when I first discovered Lovecraft in 1985, after previously only being aware of his name, it was a revelation to me. A breath of fresh — of alien — air. The imagination at work was so fantastical, so out there; Lovecraft wasn’t adding a new coat of paint on the old myths and legends, but creating his own myths and legends veritably from scratch — sharing a personal, idiosyncratic vision. What particularly appealed to me was his trading the supernatural horror of much of what I was accustomed to with something more akin to science fiction. As a kid, I’d often ask myself which I preferred: horror or science fiction. (I leaned more toward science fiction.) So Lovecraft’s work addressed both those loves. But, was it he who inspired me to mix or blur genres? Nope…I was already doing it. I’d already been writing stories set in my dark future milieu Punktown for five years, though it would be a while yet before any of them saw print. Rather, his work reaffirmed what I was already doing, writing about threatening alien beings and creatures from other dimensions, and resonated with me because of that. So what I love most about weird fiction in general is that it defies the constraints of genre; I feel it’s more inclusive. There’s a lot of dialogue about what does and doesn’t belong under the weird fiction banner. Is it really horror? Strange? Dark fantasy? And it’s that very elusiveness that I think is so valuable. The boundaries are down. As writers and readers embrace weird fiction more and more, they’re embracing greater freedom in literary expression.
MD: Which of your books do you recommend that readers begin with?
JT: One could direct a reader to my Punktown work, with its science fiction setting against which the dark stuff plays out, or what I call my nonPunktown work, which is more of a mixed bag, but maybe the best thing to do is read a collection that provides samples of both. My collections Worship the Night and Thirteen Specimens, for instance, are a mix of nonPunktown stories with one Punktown story each, not to mention they both feature one story from my Hades setting, too — the world I created for my novel Letters From Hades. My next collection, Haunted Worlds, will also be a mix of this kind, with two Punktown stories and a wide variety of other stuff. That one’s coming from Dark Renaissance Books, hopefully later this year. And Unholy Dimensions is a collection of my old Lovecraftian stuff, wherein the opening three stories are set in the Punktown universe.
MD: Please list your books for us!
JT: You asked for it. My short story collections set in the Punktown universe are Punktown, Voices from Punktown, Punktown: Shades of Grey (coauthored with my brother, Scott Thomas), and Ghosts of Punktown. The Punktown novels thus far are Deadstock, Blue War, Monstrocity, Health Agent, Everybody Scream!, and Red Cells. Besides those I’ve already mentioned, my nonPunktown short story collections are Nocturnal Emissions, Doomsdays, AAAIIIEEE!!!, Honey is Sweeter than Blood, and the Lovecraftian collection Encounters with Enoch Coffin, coauthored with W. H. Pugmire. My nonPunktown novels include Boneland, Subject 11, The Fall of Hades, Beautiful Hell, Beyond the Door, Thought Forms, Lost in Darkness, Blood Society, and the original franchise tie-in A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Dealers. Whew!
MD: Thanks to Jeffrey for answering my questions.
Remember to check out Jeff’s Patreon page — you’ll be able to read some incredible tales while supporting an author who truly deserves it.
(Previous “Authors of the Week”: Richard Gavin, Molly Tanzer, William Holloway, Brian Hodge, Elizabeth Bear, Don Webb, Nathan Ballingrud, Stephen Mark Rainey, Scott Jäeger, John Claude Smith, Livia Llewellyn, Daniel Mills, Gary Myers.)