When it came time to make a horror selection for this month’s BOTMC, I decided to defer to editor/avid reader/occasional ninja Lou Anders. Lou suggested Brian Lumley, a legend in the field of horror. Coincidentally, around the same time I announced we would be reading Lumley’s seminal novel Necroscope, another friend to this blog, SFSignal’s John DeNardo, published his own review of the book (http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/007256.html). Well, in addition to Lou and John’s recommendations, it turned out that a number of blog regulars were also fans of Lumley’s work, and Necroscope in particular. And, after reading the book, so am I.
Brian has kindly taken the time to drop by and answer some of your question. If your question didn’t get answered or if you missed the opportunity to ask one, fear not. Check the blogroll on the right-hand sidebar for the link to the author’s home page.
Over to the Q&A…
Ytimyona writes: “Questions/comments for Brian Lumley:
1. Several people have already mentioned the graphic imagery they found while reading Necroscope. I, too, found that the “movie in my head” was very vivid. Do you just write straight from your imagination, or do you go “on location” to write such vivid descriptions?
2. I really enjoyed the math-y bit of Necroscope! Do you have a math background, or was the math just another way to show Harry’s new talent? On writing: Do you outline or does it kind of take on a life of its own?”
(QS 1 & 2) Answer: You mean did I specialize in math during my schooling? No, but I’ve always been interested in numbers – even numerology, the metaphysical – and the way math seems to govern space and time, and certainly rules relativity and the universal laws of physics. The math I use in Necroscope® is basic: mental arithmetic, more or less; a matter of figuring it out for myself. Once you begin to look at simple numbers close up you see some remarkable things. For example: how do you work out the sum of all the numbers from 1 to 100 inclusive? Well, if you split a hundred dollars with a friend, what do you get? You get fifty-fifty, right? And that’s the answer: 5050. It works for 10, (55) for 100, 1000, a million, and so on. That’s just a start, but it can lead to so much more…
And of course you are right: I used this sort of mind trick – a bit of numerical magic – as an illustration of certain of Harry Keogh’s weird skills. (Hey, if you’ve got it flaunt it, why not?)
You also ask if I outline my stories. No, I just write them. And no second or third drafts for me. What goes down the first time around stays down. I may seek and destroy any obvious ambiguities later, but that’s about it…
“Having read so much of Mr Lumley’s works I find it hard to narrow down the quetions I have to just about the one book, but three stand out :
1. How did you come up with the idea to have the hero continue his exsistence in incorporeal form?
2. If you could possess any of the abilities you’ve written about which would you chose and why?
3. and finally is there any truth to The Necroscope movie rumours?
Thank you for the years of pleasure reading and re-reading your books have given me and my family (yes, I even convinced my mother to read them).
And thank you Joe for giving me the opportunity to ask these questions.”
(QS 2 & 3) Answer: I would choose instantaneous travel via the Möbius Continuum. Why? I can’t stand long journeys anymore! We’re not long back from the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon. I was a Guest of Honour and they gave me a “Howie”: a really wonderful statuette of HPL, for my work in that genre. Very nice – but the journey from the south-west of England to the west coast of America and back again was murder! And I came back with conflug: that’s like flu, lethargy, and a strong desire to die combined. Also, I used to like visiting friends in the Greek Islands. But it’s got so the air, ferry, and bus routes are just so tortuous and time-consuming that we don’t bother anymore. And what about all those big World Conventions I could attend, eh? And all the old army pals I could visit without eating into my writing time? Oh yes, definitely the Möbius Continuum.
As for a Necroscope movie: yes, Necroscope is under option and has been for three or more years. And right now it seems there’s a sudden rush of new interest in the project, so I’m reasonably optimistic. But I won’t say any more because to talk of these things is like the kiss of death.
HorrorDemon writes: “Hello Mr. Lumley,
Thank you for coming here to answer our questions and, more importantly, thank you for writing so many wonderful books. I have some questions if I may –
1. I read somewhere that, growing up, you were a fan of science fiction. What works of SF would you say shaped you as a writer? Have you ever given thought to writing science fiction?
2. Also at an early age, you were influenced by the works of H.P. Lovecraft among others. How do you think contemporary horror writers measure up to the master? Are there any you would single out?
3. Before the advent of film and television, audiences would get their scares from reading a good horror novel (ie. Dracula, Frankenstein). Today, all it takes is a trip to the cinema or your local dvd store. Since you were a fan of horror growing up, did you enjoy the scares of a good horror movie as much as that of a frightening book? If yes, are there any in particular you would single out?”
(QS 1 & 3) Answer: Yes, I used to enjoy SF, but I can’t say I was much influenced – well, except of course by H. P. Lovecraft’s SF, such as Mountains of Madness and Shadow Out of Time. And I have written some SF: try Screaming Science Fiction, from Subterranean Press; or the Titus Crow novels, which are pretty much SF/Horror. What about Necroscope: The Touch? Or The House of Doors?
On your question number 3: it sort of links up with what I’ve just said. It’s mainly SF/Horror movies that I’ve most enjoyed recently. Stuff like Alien, Predator, Terminator, which have all been big earners. But when I was just a kid the Universal Famous Monster movies were still reasonably new. And there were some decent horror movies around from other outlets, too. I remember a guy called George Zucco in a black-&-white something called The Flying Serpent. And in my teens I remember going to see a certain film with a really corny title. I took my girl just for a laugh. But we didn’t get to laugh a lot watching it, because the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers was one killer movie!
Kaziwren writes: “QUESTIONS FOR BRIAN LUMLEY:
Hello, Mr. Lumley. I’ve enjoyed the entire Necroscope series for years and I’m thrilled you’ll be answering questions at Joe’s awesome blog. We love Joe. Joe is like …. incredible chocolate.
1. If there really was a necroscope, do you believe the teeming dead would embrace someone being able to speak with them? Why or why not?
2. I once heard there were discussions about making your Necroscope novels into movies. Would you want to see the books made into films? If so, do you imagine it along the lines of the “Hellboy” or “300″ variety (live action), or perhaps an animated/computer graphics film?
3. I’ve often felt sorry for Harry because of his gift. He had trouble relating to “normal” people, but was at ease with the dead. Do you see Harry’s gift in a similar way?
4. As the novels progress, we’re given a lot of detailed descriptions of the Wamphyri – their reasons for being, conflicts, passions, etc. You describe their world in such detail, I could almost SEE it through your eyes (Starside/Sunside, for example). Where do you draw on that kind of detail? You remind me of Tolkien!
5. At the time I first read your books, only one other writer of vampire fiction had grabbed my imagination with them – Anne Rice. You, however, gave them another spin that was unforgettable. Was it difficult to carve a niche in vampire fiction? Do you still enjoy writing them, or do you prefer to move into other areas of the genre?
Thank you for all the nights I spent unable to put down your books. You’re a master of the art!”
(QS 3&4) Answer: No, Harry had no problem relating to normal people, but because of his gift people had difficulty relating to a distant-seeming, daydreaming, and lost-in-his-own-world sort of kid. As for his relationship with the dead: how could he be other than at ease with the Great Majority when his Ma was their spokesperson? Still, I understand the question … let’s face it, Harry is a very complicated fellow!
But hey Kaz, be careful! The Lord of the Rings fans will chew you up and spit you out in little bits! Sunside-Starside sort of wrote about itself. What I needed was a planet where the Wamphyri would be safe in their own domain in daylight, and Lords of all they surveyed by night. A good start would be to build Barrier Mountains to keep out the sunlight. And the rest followed on without me needing to think about it too much…
KellyK writes: “Mr. Lumley,
1. One of the things that struck me about Necroscope was the care with which you fashioned the characters, particularly the villains. Like Joe, I found the character of Max Batu especially interesting because, even though he was a villain, he seemed to be a lonely, lost soul. Was it your intention to have the audience feel some sympathy for him?
2. What kind of research did you do into vampire lore to create your own unique version of the wamphyri? Historical and cultural as well?
3. Finally, in the event you hadn’t followed a path to literary success, where do you think you would have ended up? Was there a back-up profession you were considering?”
(Q1) Answer: Yes, it’s possible that was what I intended. And the same thing applies to the dog-Lord (werewolf) Canker Canison, in the Vampire World Trilogy. What’s more, and despite that Canker is a real villain, he is one of my personal favourite characters, and most of my readers seem to think so too! Then again they also like Faethor Ferenczy a hell of a lot… Go figure!
Mkspivey writes: “Question for Brian Lumley –
1. – Of all the books you have published to date, is there one you are most proud of? Which one and why? I’ve often been surprised by how authors have answered similar questions. Their favorite is often not the obvious choice nor necesarily their most popular title.
2. – What was it about the works of HP Lovecraft that inspired you to start writing in the first place? Is it safe to assume he was your greatest literary influence? And were there any non-literary influences that led you to become a writer?
3.- Finally, a non-literary question. I see by your website that you do a fair amount of travelling. Is there a country or city you’re particularly fond of?
Thanks in advance for answering my questions.”
(QS 1 & 3) Answer: Well my favourite “I-wrote-it-book” is my most popular. Necroscope was my breakthrough book, a hit in more than a dozen countries, and after 22 years it’s still selling. As for the ones I most enjoyed writing: that would have to be my Hero of Dreams stories. I had lots of fun with those.
I love the Greek Islands; the light, the colors of the sea where it meets the land, the talcum powder beaches in some places and marble pebbles in others, the simple foods and wines. It’s the only place in the world where you can drink retsina … bring it home and it’s like so much vinegar! But out there under the Mediterranean sun – on a beach where the tide goes in and out just six inches twice every twenty-four hours – for some strange reason it’s delicious.
As for cities: I just love Las Vegas because it’s so goddam sleazy! And I also like Boston, Phoenix, and almost anywhere else in Arizona; and New York just to visit but I couldn’t live there. It’s just too fast! And I’m at that time of life when I’ve started to slow down…