1) Why Penanggalan (listed elsewhere as a favorite monster)?
She’s a flying head with guts hanging out! What’s not to love? I think she’s among my favorites because she’s so distinctive, and her lore is appealingly complete. I first heard about her when I was spending a lot of time reading about ways to identify and deal with folkloric creatures. The Penanggalan has distinct identifying characteristics–the smell of vinegar and, I don’t know, being a flying head with guts hanging out–and there are specific, concrete ways to defeat her: you catch her in thorns or keep her away from her jar of vinegar. She’s G. K. Chesterton’s dragon that both exists and can be beaten.
2) Your garden sounds great, and I’m intrigued by the fishing. And jealous. How did that come about?
My parents, on both counts. They’re apple growers; we were raised as farm kids, and I must have inherited my father’s green thumb because there’s nothing I like more than rescuing a dying plant from the grocery story for a dollar, nursing it back to health, and eventually whining about how much space it’s taking up. I don’t even have any land. I live in an apartment. I’ve just got several dozen pots crammed with vegetables. And three trees.
For fishing, we vacation on the same island every year. It’s like a second home. We all like to keep busy, so why just hang out on a beach when we could hang out on a beach and ALSO catch dinner? We’re not the easiest people to vacation with. We treat Disney World like it’s a triathlon.
3) You are clearly a horror movie expert. We are fans of Dario Argento & Takashi Miike around RSF. What is it about the horror genre that intrigues you?
I’d say “aficionado”, since I still have huge gaps in my knowledge, but that’s a question I wonder about myself! I’ve split it down into serious horror and silly horror, though of course there’s overlap. Serious horror can and does deal with incredibly powerful themes; the stakes are naturally high, from death to damnation and worse, and in skilled hands those stakes can be used to push characters to their absolute ends. I love, love a good story about sacrifice. Not the “Satanic panic” kind, but the soldier drawing zombies away from his friends. The captain going down with his ship. The light seems so much lighter when it’s coming out of the dark.
Then there’s silly horror, in which useless people get slaughtered in interesting ways. Either the characters are terrible people, or the killer/monster/setting is incredibly unconvincing, or I recognize the actors from other (usually terrible) movies, and it’s fun to see how they bite it THIS time. In silly horror, the stakes are absolutely null. That character’s not really dead, I saw him on Supernatural! And he had it coming anyway! So it’s fun. I love playing compare/contrast with horror movies. My lifetime goal is, upon hearing about or watching any horror movie, to be able to name three other movies I’ve seen that have something in common with it. I want to be a walking decision tree for horror movies.
4) Your story is RSF draws on many ideas about religion, colonization, societal collapse and social responsibility. What led you write such an excellent story?
Wow, I wish I could say I planned it out like a piece of clockwork, but it went like my stories usually do, and all those elements (some of which I’m not even sure I consciously included) grew out of other elements. Like I mentioned in my bio, the first line was based on a line in my company’s troubleshooting manual. “Purge” is essentially the process of passing large quantities of air through a boiler to get rid of any residual flue gasses. I just thought that phrase “purge failed” was so evocative: a strong word like “purge”, with a reversal built right into the condition. Then I had to decide what my Purge was, who was getting it, and why, and what were they going to do when it didn’t work…? It came together in pieces, and apparently many, many things that had been on my mind at the time influenced the end product. I will say the idea of a disposable population seems to me like one of the less speculative parts of the story. I don’t think it’s uncommon for people in my generation to wonder if they’re really just taking up space, or to believe they’re being treated like they are.
5) What should we look for from you in the future?
I’ll be in a few upcoming anthologies, including Night Terrors II from Blood Bound Books, FISH from Dagan Books, and Zombie Kong from Books of the Dead Press. I’m especially excited about those last two since I’m sharing the table of contents for both with my sister, Meg Engelhardt. Plus I cannot tell you how excited I am to be in an anthology entirely about giant zombie gorillas. Otherwise, it’s NaNoWriMo, so my Twitter is bound to overflow with misbegotten lines and bad advice, along with the usual attempts at wit and live-tweeted horror movies. I have no power to resist either one.
Great stuff! Thanks for joining us here at RSF. You can visit Amanda at amandacdavis.com.