Interview with Brendan Flaherty, Author of “Welcome to Arcadia”
The seventh issue of Geek Force Five, “Welcome to Arcadia,” is out today, featuring two new stories by Brendan Flaherty. Since we’re fast approaching Halloween, I took this opportunity to ask Brendan some questions about not only his story, but about scary stories in general.
ECC: What’s your favorite monster type? Why?
BF: My favorite type is far and away dragons, I’d say. There’s all sort of different types of dragons and they all do different stuff and have different characteristics. Besides the fact my high school mascot was a dragon, I’d say that I like dragons—western ones in particular—because they’re sort of in the top tier of legendary creatures. They’re these massive lizard king things and I just find them very cool. There’s a lot of potential for them, and generally they’re on the higher end of the whole monster power spectrum I’ve got imagined up. I like the idea of characters and beings that are more forces of nature than anything else, which is pretty evident when you realize I have a character that is literally Death, and I feel like dragons are a good fit for that paradigm I’ve got going.
Honorable mention goes to vampires and werewolves. How well they’re received depends entirely on the execution, though. Werewolves are pretty difficult to mess up, though. What I like about werewolves is pretty simple (and something that shows in my writing, hopefully): they’re pretty badass. Werewolves have the potential to be these great, big, hulking, living war machines. And yet, they’re still people, by and large. They can be normal folks during the day or whenever they’re not busy being marauding murder beasts. Plus you’ve got all the interesting native mythology to pair with them and all that. They’re very open-ended as far as a monster type is considered, and I find them fun.
ECC: What about your least favorite monster type?
BF: This is a hard question for me because I like more or less all monster types for one reason or another, but I could go the easy route and say I don’t like poorly executed vampires because they’re terrible. For a more useful answer, I think I’d say I don’t like the long mega-snake eastern dragons because they freak me out.
ECC: Which form do you think does monsters better: film or literature? What can the better learn from the lesser?
BF: I’m not big on films in general, and I’m not sure why. I just don’t really watch movies all that much. That being said, I don’t think it’s fair to say one medium does monsters better than the other, because it’s two entirely different takes on the subject. I think they do them very differently, and each has its set of pros and cons.
On average it’s a lot easier for a movie to scare me than a piece of writing. Part of that has a lot to do with that it’s much easier to get a reaction from a film, because you’re hitting the senses with a lot less room for interpretation, so to speak. You listen to and watch films, and that gives them a much more direct line to the imagination and to the fear response.
Of course, literature is more capable of hitting in on all cylinders. With well executed writing you can attack every sense and paint a much more vivid picture, assuming the reader has a halfway decent imagination and you’re a halfway decent writer. There are things you can express in writing that could never happen on screen. Things like Ben’s knee pain and the fact he’s missing a heart are both things that translate much better through writing than they would a movie, I feel. On top of that you get things like Lovecraftian horrors and nightmarish things that defy description, and part of the horror in that is that they’re unknowable and impossible to comprehend. A lot of the punch with things like that would be lost if you tried putting it to film or a visual medium, I think. That’s kind of what I was going for with the Spade: an utterly alien creature that looks too unnatural to exist. That works way better in text than it would on screen, and to be honest I don’t think the true horror of the Spade is something that could ever be shown on screen.
All said, I think that film and literature are both capable of producing quality pieces of horror.
ECC: The two stories that appear in this issue are part of the larger universe you introduced us to in “Hello.” Do you think it’s more important, in linked short fiction like this, to make it easy for new readers or to reward long-time devotees?
BF: I think that you’ve got to do a bit of both. It’s actually something that I get a bit annoyed with while writing short stories in the same universe—setting up the same places and people gets pretty old pretty fast when you’ve done it twenty times—but I also think it’s absolutely necessary. To me, short fiction is the sort of stuff you have to make as accessible as possible to everybody. To that end, I try to make my short stuff accessible to new readers, but it’s also obviously linked and self-referential. With the three pieces I’ve got out now, there’s no real mandatory order to read them in. There’s a chronological order in-universe, sure; “Hello” takes place a while before “Welcome to Arcadia,” but you don’t necessarily have to have read “Hello” to understand “Welcome to Arcadia.”
As far as rewarding long-time readers is concerned, I kind of think that the references to other works are a decent enough reward in this format. Having read the other stories in Arcadia’s universe and understanding the characters that much more is (hopefully) fun for the long-time readers, and it adds another layer of depth to the universe. On top of that, I think it’ll be cool for folks to say they got in on the ground level when I manage to get Arcadia novels published.
ECC: “Welcome to Arcadia,” while it still features the ubiquitous Benjamin S. Marshall, is told from Anna’s point of view. Do you see yourself branching out more in this direction in the future, or was relegating Ben to the co-star role a one-time thing?
BF: I actually had the idea to write a ton of origin stories for big characters in Arcadia from their perspectives, but it’s something I’ve been taking slow to preserve the individual voices of characters, since I’ve been doing a lot of work in the first person lately. It’s definitely something I’m interested in pursuing, however. I also had a ton of fun writing from Anna’s perspective, and it’s something I have done since and will continue to do. She’s fun to write.
Kicking Ben to the curb as the sidekick was sort of a one-time thing, but it’s also not really going to be a one-time thing, because not everything that goes on in Arcadia revolves around him. He’s an important character and figure in the city to be sure, but there are stories I have in mind for Arcadia that have little to nothing to do with Ben. So while he was the co-star of “Welcome to Arcadia” he won’t always be the #2 for Arcadia stories. Sometimes he’ll be #10, or not present at all. For the most part, he will be the focal character though, because he’s kind of the protagonist of the Arcadia canon, with Anna coming in at a very close #2.
Check out Welcome to Arcadia (Geek Force Five #7) today, available both in print and as an eBook!