This week on The Scariest Part, my guest is Pete Mesling, whose debut collection is None So Deaf. Here’s the publisher’s description:
There are none so deaf as those who will not hear, but there are stories that scream to fill the void. The seventeen tales before you are such stories. From unplanned homicide and unexplained phenomena to undead vengeance, they all scream in an effort to get through. These are not quiet stories; Pete Mesling is not a quiet writer. So prick up your ears, turn down the lights…and listen. Ignorance may be bliss, but it also comes at a cost.
And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Pete Mesling:
From an early age, I was afraid of (and fascinated by) creatures from beyond (vampires, werewolves, malevolent aliens…), as well as monsters of the human variety (kidnappers, serial killers, roving lunatics…) — not to mention all the other dangers there are to be frightened by in the real world. I’ve always been more or less preoccupied with fear, and if the stories in my collection are any indication, this hasn’t changed much over the years. But I’ve also added some nuanced fears to the roster as an adult, and they color what you’ll find in None So Deaf, too.
It’s those nuanced fears, in fact, that give me the deepest chills when I read or write terrifying stories. Good fiction generally has at least two layers of meaning. There’s layer A: What’s this story about? And then there’s layer B: What’s this story really about? Layer B is where the theme of a story dwells. Take my story “Holy Is as Holy Does.” It’s the tale of a religious fanatic who incites his adherents to commit a horrible series of atrocities. It has a retributive component, and it involves the supernatural. But what really gets under my skin is that all of the brutality in it is exacted in the name of God, and that rings true to a much greater extent than we might be comfortable admitting. As a result, a ghost story about a deranged and misguided holy man who must face the repercussions of what he sets in motion becomes a story about the dark side of religion.
“Slipknot” is another good example of this sort of thing. It’s a zombie tale set in the Old West, but it also has something to say about the horrors of racism. In “Ridley Bickett’s Traveling Panoply,” a homeless man is given the opportunity to relive his childhood fondness for carnival freak shows. It turns out he’s also handed an opportunity to go back into the world and make a positive difference. It’s a story, in other words, about our insatiable need for guidance in an often dark and perplexing world, even if that guidance comes from dubious sources. That’s frightening to me. I’d rather be in absolute control of my destiny. (For a similarly themed, though very different kind of, story, see also “Day of Rage.”)
Of course, not every story has to be a thinker. There’s always room on my bookshelf for a little good clean fun, as long as it’s done with the right amount of heart. In None So Deaf you’ll find a story or two that fall into this category. But even in something like “A Pound of Flesh,” in which a cast of two commands your attention for the duration of the suspenseful plot, I like to think there’s an element of depth. Isn’t the blackness of war lurking in the corners throughout the story? I think it is. Our main character is certainly a by-product of that uniquely human phenomenon. It gives him no excuse for the things he’s done, but it does provide a context.
And of course there is “The Tree Mumblers,” which made its first appearance in the Mort Castle-edited anthology, All American Horror of the 21st Century, the First Decade: 2000 – 2010. The twist at the end is the take-away of this story, really. The magician’s reveal, if you will. Anything too thematic would have bogged it down. It’s the kind of story that needs to make its exit as quickly as it makes its entrance. Still, I want it to remind readers of the sublime wonders of childhood, and that they’re the ones who have moved on, not the wonders. Not the dreams. Not even the nightmares. Those are still watching and waiting from the fringe of every shadow and blind spot — maybe even from within the very trees whose timeless beauty we admire every day.
My hope is that None So Deaf makes for an unsettling batch of misery and bewilderment that can be enjoyed by a wide variety of horror enthusiasts. Subject matter ranges from the poignant to the extreme, from the fantastic to the gritty. So, if every story contains something that wakes you up and leaves you feeling a little more cautious, a little more filled with wonder, a little warier of the way things are — and a lot more grateful to be in your shoes instead of those of one of my fictitious victims… Well, then I’ve done my job.
And if the scariest part is what lurks beneath the surface, all the better.
Pete Mesling: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Podcast
None So Deaf: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords
Pete Mesling’s silhouette can, on rare occasions, be glimpsed prowling the watery byways of Seattle, Washington. In addition to being over the moon to have secured a deal with Books of the Dead Press for his debut collection, None So Deaf, he has sold fiction to such publications as All American Horror of the 21st Century, the First Decade: 2001 – 2010; Black Ink Horror; Best New Zombie Tales, Vol. 2; Spawn of the Ripper from April Moon Books; Champagne Shivers; Doorways; two of the Potter’s Field anthologies; Side Show 2: Tales of the Big Top and the Bizarre; Night Terrors; and a handful of Library of the Living Dead anthologies. When not writing or podcasting, Mesling enjoys dreaming up new ways to scare the bejesus out of his fiancée and revels in bike rides with his daughter, whose nickname is taken from a character in a Boris Karloff film.
Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.