Since my adolescence I constantly devour horror fiction – and over the years there arose a natural distinction in my head, between the “good” stuff I was reading and the exceptional one. And fortunately for genre-fans like me, the quality of horror novels evolved constantly over the last years. Postmodern works like Danielewski’s “House of Leaves” or Tremblay’s “A Head full of Ghosts” kept my brain in fast rotation when I lay in bed in the wee small hours of the morning when the sleep refused to come.
BUT there is also a category of dark fiction which I would label as “dangerous”; of course only if you are a sensible reader. I talk about the stuff that is able to creep into your soul, to make you REALLY uncomfortable. This is what I call “writing magic” and in all my reading life i have encountered only a few writers who are able to do that, Liz Hand, Caitlín R. Kiernan and, of course, Greg F. Gifune.
Gifune has been an outstanding phenomenon for me since the days I discovered him first in Frank Festa’s publishing programme – and as you will read later, one of his books I had to stop reading for a while, because it made me so incredibly sad. Now, I consider myself a tough guy when it comes to blood and gore – I have read countless books by Edward Lee, explored every perversity imaginable (and am really bored with this gore stuff by now ) – but Gifune? That’s another league. Take for instance “DEEP NIGHT”, a novel that was published 2005 at Delirium Books. An outstanding work that fascinates me on more than one level: It could be labeled as “Horror”, but the writing style is much more noir than you would expect – which includes all the darkness, bleakness and despair the great noir-writers have established many years ago. I would go so far to think of Gifune as a successor to Cornell Woolrich (maybe I will write about the comparisons in another article) and “DEEP NIGHT” raises also very fascinating questions, like: Is it possible that one could be “infected” by evil forces? Greg Gifune took a break from his tight writing schedule and answered some of my most burning questions.
“Deep Night” has been called “a classic” by Library Journal – when did you write the novel and what was the initial idea for it?
I wrote DEEP NIGHT in 2003 and 2004. It was first published in 2005 by Delirium Books, then reissued by DarkFuse when Delirium was absorbed by the new company and then later in the European markets. The idea, essentially, had to do with an alien invasion, but rather than a physical invasion, it was more psychological. What if, for example, the aliens manifested (or perhaps even disguised themselves) as mental illness in human beings? And what if that mental illness was contagious the way a cold or flu might be? What if one human being could infect another with the same mental illness and that’s how it spread and how the invasion took place? I’ve always been fascinated with mental illness—anything to do with the mind, really—and I thought this was an interesting approach, and one that hadn’t been done before. I then took this premise and mixed it with the love between two brothers, and the night terrors one experienced. I experienced night terrors as a child myself, and they were hellish and life-altering. I’d always wanted to write about them, and this gave me that opportunity, as I felt that if I did it correctly (and hopefully I did), I could weave it into the narrative rather seamlessly.
For me this work exemplifies what lies at the core of your huge body of work in a perfect way – dark events and/or evil deeds that set something in motion; something that can’t be stopped and slowly destroys the lives of guilty, but also sometimes innocent bystanders – could this be the concept of “true evil”?
I think so, sure. I write about evil a lot. Again, usually from a psychological angle, as to me, that’s the most interesting approach–and by extension, the most frightening. Certainly DEEP NIGHT, while not the study of evil that say my novel THE BLEEDING SEASON is, does delve into what evil is, what it might be and how it might move from person to person, again, like some sort of contagion. And yes, collateral damage is always a part of evil, so I write about that as well. I think, for me, I’m intrigued by people—innocent so-called or not—faced with evil in all its many forms—and how they survive (or don’t) its clutches not just in the physical world, but the psychological and spiritual as well.
I have the impression that your writing has some special power to influence readers; i remember i had to quit “Blood in Electric Blue” (dt. “Die Einsamkeit des Todbringers”, Festa Verlag 2011) once because reading it made me so incredibly sad – what is your special magic that makes your books so special?
Thank you, that’s very kind. I think maybe it’s my approach. I try to come at the reader from within rather than externally. I never want a reader to have to suspend their disbelief. I feel if a reader has to do that while reading something I’ve written, then I’ve failed. So I try very hard to make even the more bizarre things I sometimes write about believable. I want the reader to believe what I’m telling them, and when and if you can maintain that with readers then the experience becomes much greater than simply reading an entertaining story or enjoying a few escapist moments. The reader becomes invested in the material personally, because they believe it, and it touches a chord internally, from within, and in a way we can all relate to. This, I believe, is what immerses the reader into the worlds I attempt to create, and often results in a kind of magic. I’m humbled and deeply appreciative that you used that word, magic, because in some ways that’s the intent, to create a kind of magic that allows readers to do more than simply read my work, it allows them (and perhaps in some cases forces them), to experience it, to feel it and believe it right along with the characters. I’d also like to think that while my work can be bleak and very dark, there is always a sense of hope there too. It may be small or remote, but it’s always there, and I think that, combined with a humanity I try to inject into all my work, helps finish off the experience for readers. I rarely tie things up in neat little bows, and usually allow the reader to figure things out on their own, and I think that’s important. The artist, in my mind, should create the art then let those experiencing it interpret and live it however they need to. This not only involves the reader more deeply in the entire experience, it also helps to personalize it. Hopefully, as you say, if I do my job correctly, the result is magic.
BUT if you are a bookworm like your blog host, than you should consider to buy Gifune’s amazing works in paperback – here is a complete list of his books at the big A.