Welcome to this week’s installment of The Scariest Part, a recurring feature in which authors, comic book writers, filmmakers, and game creators tell us what scares them in their latest works of horror, dark fantasy, dark science fiction, and suspense. (If you’d like to be featured on The Scariest Part, check out the guidelines here.)
My guest is Scottish author Chris Kelso, whose latest novel is The Black Dog Eats the City. Here’s the publisher’s description:
You just can’t win.
You feel it before you see it, The Black Dog – the Cimmerian demon with baleful breath, diminishing the light wherever it tracks…
…the size of a large calf, its footfalls are silent – the portents of death hidden behind caliginous evil.
It squeezes into the soul. You know it because he scrunches your stomach into a tight paper-ball and forces it out through your anus.
Then you’re a goner…
You just can’t win.
And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Chris Kelso (heads up, this one’s got some NSFW language):
The scariest part of my latest novel, The Black Dog Eats the City hasn’t got so much to do with specific scenes or content, but more to do with my chosen theme in general.
That’s not to say there aren’t some pretty grotesque things in here mind you — I mean the opening scene is of a sexually perverse backstreet dentist removing a young girl’s teeth in a stock room. There’s also a lot of gratuitous sex, violence, rape, incest and whatnot littered throughout, so, please, bear with me!
If I’m being honest about things, the part of this book that really set my teeth on edge and had my toes curling into the bases of my feet actually occurred after the book was accepted for publication. The Black Dog Eats the City is about manic depression. Heck, it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before in literature and some writers have been fairly successful running with it.
Granted the other books I’ve had out before this have all been equally repulsive, offensive, utterly abhorrent works of fiction, but this particular book had a lot of ME in it. It’s the first time I’d tried to capture a moment in time, stuck in the heart of a psychological nightmare. If I wanted to probe the subject and come out with an authentic extrapolation, to me that meant — no happy endings, no redeemable characters, very limited humour, loads of cut-ups and non-sequiturs thrown in to piss people off, the lateral insertion of confusing, irrelevant nonsense then place all that in a thermodynamically unstable universe.
That was how I went about it anyway. It was my way of communicating the black dog.
If you’ve suffered at the hands of mental illness then you’ll know how difficult it can be even just talking about it. So, yeah, it couldn’t sound more pretentious, but the thought of other people reading this scared me a lot. You might even say it’s the book I’ve worried about the most.
I should mention that I think Kate at Omnium Gatherum took a real risk putting this out and for her faith in The Black Dog Eats the City. I’m eternally grateful. It can’t be an easy thing to try and market, especially when it’s as dark and uncathartic as this book!
It might even also be, maybe, a little irresponsible of me to try to bottle the awful, poisonous feelings that accompany depression. Depression is an ugly motherfucker and, I mean, who the hell wants to read about that kind of agony all day? No likable characters? Cut-ups and other crazy shit that make reading a challenging and cerebral experience instead of a straight up enjoyable one? Even I’d think twice about picking up something so inaccessible (well, not really). I was also terrified people would see all this non-linear content and not realise the insanity was my metaphor for depression, and that they would become frustrated by it. What if I hadn’t properly articulated my point? I’d be exposed as a fraud, as an irresponsible poser, as a pretentious wee cunt…
Now, I might very well be all those things, but I didn’t want YOU guys to know that about me! But it’s out there and my biggest fears have yet to be realised. People have been nice about it, people seem to get what I was going for. I won’t get comfortable yet. There’s still time….
Chris Kelso is a writer, illustrator and editor. His books in addition to The Black Dog Eats the City include: Schadenfreude (Dog Horn Publishing), Last Exit to Interzone (Black Dharma Press), A Message from the Slave State (Western Legends Books), Moosejaw Frontier (Bizarro Pulp Press),Transmatic (MorbidbookS) . He recently edited Caledonia Dreamin’ – Strange Fiction of Scottish Descent with Hal Duncan and is the co-creator of the anti-New Yorker, Imperial Youth Review.