Sunday, April 10, 2016

Poetry Today: Trends & Traditions
April 2016
Collaboration Poems


Compiled and Formatted by Anthony Servante



Introduction

In this month's poetry column, we look to the works by two poets who together created a poem. We call these poems, Collaboration Poetry. The idea came to me from a wonderful source of inspiration: Kim Acrylic, and so I dedicate this column to her. 

It is, therefore, fitting that we open the column with the first collaboration poem by Kim Acrylic and Julea Callinicos, followed by Howard Carlyle and Lemmy Rushmore, Rick Mohl Sr. and Rosefyre Flannery Wicks, and Michael H. Hanson and Martin Reaves

Also, to pad out the piece, I've included critiques of each poem this month. My analysis of the poetry will involve how well the collaborations work, you know, are they seamless? are they cohesive? and so forth. 

I have also included a bonus poem by yours truly just to make the column look bigger than it really is. Sit back now and enjoy our first and hopefully not our last Collaboration Poetry column. 




"Candied and Pickled"

I am down to malignant marrow as chem-trial tears peal my baby skin 
away 
I lean back and loosen the hinges of my lacrimal ducts, 
spilling tea-rose-aborted petals - - these acid tears torn, 
from an English garden womb, pull my face away 
with the gravity of Alice falling, dropping like false fairy-dusted eyelashes 
into the chiseled crystal bowl, Tiffany and hymen-pink 
I'm not your debutante queen, so let your teen dreams of that keep on 
drowning 
In the same cheap champagne and cherry Kool Aid dreams that created
us 
It all started with reverse tears, our DNA, the mating upside down and 
rolling back into those eyes … 
Those Torrid sized trick or treat eyes, milky with nude phantoms that 
now become ill with ease. 
Phallic shaped universe, rapes from you all pastel, organic-tainted 
solace. 
Ripped and torn butterflies, dance right side up as bubblegum kisses 
bloom in their infancy. 
Candied and pickled will be the flavor of all your wishes that fell asleep 
to dream upon dead stars. 
Wide open for the Valium blessed speculum of vast, unnerving 
intoxications, I am stripped!


The Critique

In Candied and Pickled, Kim Acylic and Julia Callinicos collaborate to create a poem of contrasts, uniting opposites to meld them into unity. The title itself presents the sweet and the bitter; as in great cooking, the acidy offsets the sugary to create a third flavor that is neither of its ingredients. In true collaboration, the critic should not be able to discern who represented the sweet and who the sour, and here I can but see the merger into the subjective aesthetic: There is nudity, as we see with the "unskinned baby", the color of "hymen pink" suggesting nakedness, and the act of lovers "mating upside down", culminating into the final line, "I am stripped!". There, then, is the clothing that cover the nudity: the "hinges" binding "tear ducts" with "rose petals" (tears), "the false fairy-dusted eyelashes", masking "trick or treat eyes", and "pastel, organic-tainted solace" disguising the "milk with nude phantoms", a unification now of nudity and dressing, a metaphoric rendering of two unrelated subjects into a coherent new form. The term "dead stars" perfectly sums up the play with light and darkness, for a star is light, but a dead star is dark; we can have both with the phrase and it would not have been a bad idea to title the poem so: Dead Stars. 

However, it works as it stands. Kim and Julia have created a lovely poem that is dark yet hopeful. Even as they play off each other's words, I can see their spirits working in harmony.





Drip After Drip
by Howard Carlyle and Lemmy Rushmore

There’s a drip, there’s a drop
There’s a ping in the sink
It’s dripped and it’s dropped
Till it’s drove me to drink

I had one, I had two
I had three and then four
But the damn thing still dripped
So I drank down some more

It has dripped as I drank
And as I drank it’s dripped
Until I’ve seen the last
Of my sanity stripped

I’ve heard this drip repeat
Till I’m mentally weak
And if soon it don’t halt
It shall cause me to freak

Should the landlord be found
Should I hack him to bits
For this damn sink that drips
That’s now giving me fits

Should I go to the place
Where the damn thing was made
Take a knife with me there
See the workers filleted

But the landlord comes first
And my wrath he shall feel
And the wounds I inflict
He won’t live to see heal

 I'll make sure that it looks
Like a bloody mishap
Should have heeded my pleas
 And fixed this dripping tap

Could have fixed it I bet
Could have fixed it with ease
But seems he left it here
Just to torture and tease

 It just echoes around
 As it pounds at my brain
Never thought that a drip
Could drive me so insane

Think I need to go out
Clear my head in the air
Get some space from that drip
That’s been constantly there

I go out, I come back
But it drips just the same
And so I drink some more
Thinking who I should blame

I’m past stark raving mad
And I’m drunker than hell
Yet it drips and it drops
And it’s pinging as well

Should I run down the street
To that old water plant
And go off on them all
In a murderous rant

Does the neighbor’s sink drip
Have they caused mine to drop
Can’t they come the fuck here
And make this dripping stop

Could the plumber be blamed
Did he bring this to be
Did he bring on this curse
That’s been picking at me

I have called and I’ve called
Yet he don’t come to see
Is it his fault my sink
Drips so torturously

Should I go to his house
And go off on his door
Kick it right the hell down
Leave him dead on the floor

It just drips and it drops
Till it’s slaying my will
To make this dripping stop
Who the hell must I kill

Could have gave it a go
Tried to fix it myself
Might be safer that way
Save the robbing of health

But it’s been long enough
I should force them to pay
It was them after all
That brought mental decay

It was them and that drip
That would cause me to crack
And now broken I am
And there’s no going back

I’ve thrown hands to my ears
I’ve grabbed drink after drink
But it seems from those drips
That I’m going to sink

Thought I’d drink till I’d faint
But I’m still crawling ‘round
And I’m plagued it would seem
By that god awful sound

It’s annoying at best
As it pounds and it pounds
Till I just have this urge
To start making my rounds

Maybe visit each one
Maybe force them to see
What this faucet that leaks
Has been doing to me

I am drunk, driven mad
Long lost losing my grip
Yet this sink keeps it up
With its drip after drip

It has driven me nuts
The stress shows on my face
Time to pack up and quit
Say to hell with this place

I just can’t stand this drip
Nor the pain that it brings
Seems this sink hates my guts
So out to me it sings

When the next tenant comes
Hope they speak up and tell
Of the drip after drip
That shall put them through hell…


Copyright © 2016 Lemmy Rushmore All rights reserved

Copyright © 2016 Howard Carlyle All rights reserved


The Critique

In Drip After Drip, Lemmy Rushmore and Howard Caryle collaborate to create a form that is both playful and damning; this form is known as "diddling", and as those who have studied the form know, Edgar Allan Poe was the leading writer of his time who used the form to betwixt and befuddle his readers. So, too, do Lemmy and Howard diddle their readers with this collaboration. Primarily, they play with the usage of language. Poe, in his poem The Bells, also incorporated assonance, consonance, and repetition not only to mount suspense but also to mess with the head of his reader, to lead him into the labyrinth of the madness the narrator is slipping into. The word "drip" resounds with the suggestion of a dripping "tap". The penultimate stanza echoes the internal short vowels in the first stanza (and throughout): The short "i" (pronounced ih as in the i in "it") is used nine times in the first alone and eight times in the next to last stanza. Imagine how many times the poor reader has been treated to the sound of "ih" from beginning to end! And I could go on and on about the other devices that mess with the reader's inner ear, but I won't spoil the fun for you. Let's just leave it that Edgar Allan Poe would be proud that diddling is still alive and well in 2016, and in the hands of two capable poets who share a common bond--discombobulating the reader's head.  



Bedroom6 by Steinsdotter




From Darkness To Light

Suppressive darkness presses ever near,
A river of blood so frightening clear.
A pinch, a twist and hallowed screams,
Provokes magic in our deepest dreams.

In the confines we flail and we scream,
We run, we cry, we see our blood stream.
We are so lost and life is the dark ruse,
What can the soul seekers want to abuse?

We see through a weeping glass clearly,
And pain rides another long day wearily.
Can a light somehow overcome all this?
Or here waste we lay in this dark abyss?

Into the darkness of the abyss I gazed,
I drop onto knees with my hands raised.
The struggle is real and hope is denied,
Still my screams echo from the other side.

But in the distance there's a light that I see,
A doorway whispers and it beckons to me.
I run, I cry, I see a river of tears run deep,
Drowning in the depths of a dream I keep.

I awake with a shudder, drenched in sweat,
Shake off the visage of a nightmare threat.
I embrace the light with a loathing of relief,
For nightmares in the dark steal like a thief.

Rosefyre Flannery Wicks and Ricky L Mohl Sr.
April 3, 2016




The Critique

In From Darkness to Light, Rosefyre Flannery Wicks and Ricky L. Mohl Sr. collaborate to achieve a waking dream, that is, the elements of dream with the elements of wakefulness. They employ poetic devices ranging from personification to figurative voice. "Darkness" acts like a person; he "presses" and "provokes". A "doorway whispers" and "beckons". Nightmares "steal like a thief". In contrast, the narrator reacts to the activity of the animated and surreal elements ("pain rides"); "I run, I cry, I see...in the depths of a dream". The narrator has become part of the dream, even in waking. The poem melds the elements as the narrator embraces "the light" after peering into the abyss of night. This is a fine study in similes wrapped in a rhyme scheme that does not detract from its darker elements. 

Rosefyre and Rick work well together here. The poem is seamless as both poets know how to play off their collaborator to great aesthetic effect. 






ON BLACK AND BLUE

ON BLACK AND BLUE THE GREAT BIRD RISES,
FLEET OF WING AND DEADLY SURPRISES.
A SHADOW SOARING UPON THE GROUND,
FREE OF RESTRICTION AND SO UNBOUND.

OVER HILLS SO HIGH AND VALLEYS LOW,
FAITH IN THE WINDS ON WHICH TO FLOW.
EXTENDS THOSE WINGS FROM TIP TO TIP.
CATCHES A BREEZE LIKE A SAILING SHIP

GLIDING THE SKIES SO BRIGHT AND BLUE,
SUN STRAIGHT ABOVE, THE MOON IS NEW.
CATCHES THE HORIZON ON A SUMMER’S DAY,
WAITING FOR AUTUMN TO SHOW THE WAY.

THE SUN REACHES OUT TO KISS THE EARTH,
EVENING WILL FALL, THE STARS GIVE BIRTH.
INTO THE NIGHT AND THE GREAT UNKNOWN,
HEARD THE CALL OF THE MOUNTAIN STONE.

ON BLACK AND BLUE THE GREAT BIRD RISES,
FLEET OF WING AND LORD OF DISGUISES.
A SHADOW UNSEEN, IT CANNOT BE FOUND,
FREE OF RESTRICTION TO TAKE YOU DOWN.

RICKY L. MOHL SR. and ROSEFYRE FLANNERY
APRIL 29, 2015


The Critique

In On Black and Blue, our collaborators surmount an impressionist rendering of night and day, the seasons of the year, earth and sky, without relying on metaphor or simile as the previous poem did. Here they follow a "great bird" in the air, but whose shadow is on the ground--great image. A painting image. Hilltops match valleys, the sun and the moon occupy one stanza with clever balance. Then we understand why the poem is titled "On Black and Blue" (my italics): they represent the seen and unseen in unity, "A Shadow Unseen". It reminds me of "The Second Coming" by William Butler Yeats, where the falcon in the sky begins the poem and the waking leviathan ends the poem. Not as intense as Yeats, but in and of itself, On Black and Blue captures an image that represents more than we see. Rosefyre and Rick show that they can tackle a metaphoric poem as well as an impressionistic one. 






~ A Midnight Ride to the House of Broken Corridors ~

Charon stands at the helm, in fine foul garb
A gnarled fist to the wheel
I cannot see his face
I cannot feel
Another ride
Midnight Crossing
Gentle swells urge us on
Over Styx, foghorn moans
Bright Lights into Dark Wood
At Seaview terminus doomed to roam
Along tainted shores, and Broken Corridors.

Looking back twice to distant mists
From whence some memory persists
A flagging failing innocence
I leave behind to take this trip
On dark waters that don’t reflect
Or mirror my humanity
Or echo any harmony
‘Til harbor greets this simple ship
With shadowed arms
And pale damp kiss.

Ferried ashore
In canvas embrace
Shambling, manacled
Into familiar, rotted edifice
This I know, if nothing else
I’ve been here before
It desires my taste.

A chorus of harsh suffering
An excess of withering death
A testament to the white plague
Slaughterhouse of the mind’s soft flesh
Hallways dripping with ancient mold
Once stalked by gleeful coroners
Wet whispers paint windows and doors
My damned soul has been here before
Dragged through these broken corridors.

It waits outside my door
I’ve told this tale before
Of windows and faces and rusted braces
This is how it happens
This is why it happens
First the pain, then the rain
Of tenderness
First the blade, then the trade
Of flesh for blood.  Blood for desire
Each caress opposite payment for a moment’s distress
All leading back to the long, long flight
Past broken faces and lunatic light
Across enraged waters, down fractured corridors
Where it waits…behind Seaview’s doors
Savoring the taste
Of the mad dreams
Of children.

Innocent wraiths ask why they’re sick
And where have all their mothers gone
A rusty moon, a midnight rune
It comes for me like a sad song
And my weak soul is not immune
Lamenting sanity ‘til dawn.

When I awaken to
Sad reality
Adrift in shades of Normal
And I reach again
For Charon’s fare
That shining, apposite trade
Crimson glint, razor’ed blade
The only true way back
To those fouled shores
Those broken

Corridors.


The Critique

In A Midnight Ride to the House of Broken Corridors, Martin Reaves and Michael H. Hanson collaborate to create a Renaissance ode. As those who have studied the form, we know the "ode" was originally meant to be sung. But as the form evolved, the structure of the poem remained as the music took on new forms. The original form addressed an object or god in elevated language that was meant to bestow importance to the subject while impressing the reader with the manner of the approach. One can easily see how in song this might court the listener while praising the starry night or the cloudy sky back in the day of the Renaissance, but when the ode form reached the Romantic Era, poets like Keats and Shelley showed that music was no longer needed to make the ode a classic form. And Reaves and Hanson deliver us an ode that reflects both Renaissance and Romantic elements while keeping its roots in the 21st Century. 

The traditional elements that shine here are the use of mythical allusions. "Charon" both opens and closes the ode, framing the poem with classical structure. A "ferried" trip across the river Styx also reinforces the address to a god who would understand the importance of this journey (journeys were quite common to connect man and god--Jason and the Argonauts comes to mind). Another allusion to the "persistence of memory" echoes the Odyssey and the epic journey taken by Odysseus to return home or the tragic return of Agamemnon, just as Salvador Dali used it to twist time to show that beginning and end were interchangeable. As we know, the River Styx leads to Hades, so we must imagine in the middle stanzas that there are hellish elements at play here. 

In Dali-eque fashion, the poem leads us on a circular path: 

Shambling, manacled
Into familiar, rotted edifice
This I know, if nothing else
I’ve been here before

That deja vu element here captures the idea of place and of life and death: I have been in this place before and I know life is but the path to death. Both meanings are applicable.

Later, we read: 

A chorus of harsh suffering
An excess of withering death
A testament to the white plague
Slaughterhouse of the mind’s soft flesh

Here a "chorus" can be read two ways: one, as the voice of many in suffering; and two, as the chorus in a Greek tragedy, a group of actors who broke the fourth wall to address the audience as important events unfold. 

The occasional rhyme conjures the traditional form of the use as song. But when prose plays against this form, it becomes like watching the ball go to and fro in a game of tennis. It's a pleasant device for the ode, but more modern in its unpredictable style. An older ode would either completely rhyme or not. 

So, does the collaboration work with this style of ode? Had I not known this was a partnered effort, I could have easily placed this in the Romantic Age of poetry, more Keats than Shelley, but that was my field of expertise, so naturally I lean toward the likes of Coleridge, Blake, Wordsworth, and Byron. And for a first time collaboration by two writers such as Martin and Michael, that is not bad company with which to be compared. 



A Bonus Poem:





The Whistle
by Anthony Servante

When bad memories arise
from the caverns of whim
where they have been exiled,
she whistles a hymn

A happy song without sound
a blathering of blessings
to lift the spirit with mirth
albeit conjured by evil dressings

For she often recalls
the fall of the crimson spade
the shame of the flesh
and the glory of the blade

Perhaps a family gathering
to set her mind at ease
to imprison the escapees
from the mental disease

A dinner with kin and friends
a roasted turkey and sides
a pumpkin pie and cherry too
enough to quell the rising tides

And there must be merriment
parlor games and nursery rhyme
to cheer both young and old
to pinch the thoughts of crime

But there cannot be lies
untruths that shield the beast
beneath the dermal surface
of the familial feast

One stray word of malcontent
or a hint of subtle complaint
might set the rage aflame
and unlock the hound's restraint

And so begins the carving
of the plump and juicy roast
as servings pass from hand to hand
and glasses are raised in toast

To our hostess most kind and fair
may she find a mate in old age
before the last of her youth expires
and lives on an elderly wage

To gales of laughter they drink
and the children spit the thistle
and time itself slows to a crawl
as the knife awakes with a whistle.



**********************************************


And there you have it--our first but not our last Collaboration Poetry column. In the coming months I will work to pair up two writers, poets, musicians, lyricists, artists, and Arkham inmates for another round of poems by collaborative. Until then, look for other poetry columns to come. 

Thank you for visiting. 
AS









Sunday, April 3, 2016



James Chambers Interview: 
The Return of Carl Kolchak 

Conducted and Formatted by Anthony Servante






Introduction:

Without knowing it, I've known James Chambers for years. I read Comic Book Collector Magazine in its prime, From Dusk Till Dawn, and Shadow House, all involving his talent and direction. So, imagine my surprise to learn that he is attached to the new KOLCHAK, The Night Stalker: The Poe Cases series. I immediately sought him out for an interview, and he graciously accepted. And one surprise followed another as I learned that there's a lot more stories coming from the mind of Chambers. Well, now it's your turn to acquaint yourself with this long-time storyteller. I welcome James Chambers to the Servante of Darkness Blog. 
AS



The Interview

1.
Servante: Can we start with the beginnings of your career as a writer leading up to the Kolchak books?

Chambers: I’ve been at this writing and editing thing for a long time. My first paid writing gigs included columns, reviews, and feature articles about the comic book industry for Comic Book Collector Magazine, which later became known as COMBO Magazine. In the 90s, comic book speculation peaked, and magazines about the industry came and went frequently. COMBO lasted several years. I’d done a brief stint there as an editor before moving on to a production job at another magazine, but I wrote for COMBO for its entire run, covering Golden Age and Silver Age comics as well as reviews of new comics. I think I may have appeared in nearly every issue. I also did feature interviews with comics creators, including Dan Brereton, Howard Chaykin, Rob Liefeld, and staff of the original incarnation of Valiant Comics.





I grew up reading comics, and they inspired my love of reading and publishing. As I got older, I branched out to other types of books and genres. I read a ton of classic science fiction thanks to my Dad's collection of sf paperbacks, which introduced me to Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Dick, Herbert, Niven, Pohl, Sturgeon, and Tolkein. My Mom’s love of the classic Universal horror movies sparked my interest in horror, which led me to King’s Night Shift and Skeleton Crew and Barker’s Books of Blood, which along with Bradbury’s various collections fully formed my love of the short story. Comics’ episodic nature appealed to me in that vein, and my next big writing gig came following a jump deeper into the comic book industry.

In the mid-90s I joined Tekno*Comix, where I found myself editing the monthly books Isaac Asimov’s I*Bots, Gene Roddenberry’s Lost Universe, and Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals, as well as a graphic novel adaptation of From Dusk Till Dawn, a pair of illustrated prose anthologies (one based on I*Bots, the other on an Anne McCaffrey creation) published by HarperPrism, and a few other things. Around the middle of Primortals run, the opportunity to collaborate with Leonard Nimoy on a two-part origin story arose, and I wrote Primortals: Origins. I’d spent a lot of time talking with Mr. Nimoy about his ideas for the series and the characters, and I continued for four more issues after Origins before handing the series over to the supremely talented Doug Wheeler, who took it in a darker direction.









Sadly Tekno only lasted a few years. When that house of cards began tumbling, another editor there, Christopher Mills, and I launched an independent horror comic, Shadow House. Set up like the classic Strange Tales model, each issue featured two ongoing series, “The Revenant,” which I wrote, and “Nightmark,” which Chris wrote. We put everything into that comic, collaborating with amazingly talented artists—Dan Brereton, Pat Broderick, John Estes, Fred Harper, and Kirk Van Wormer—but the book proved slow to catch on with readers and ran only five issues.





Around the time Shadow House ended, I turned my attention to short stories. I needed a break from comics so I wrote some short horror and science fiction pieces and found homes for many of them rather quickly in various anthologies and magazines. That became my primary focus, and since about 2002, I’ve published somewhere around 80 or more short stories and novellas and three collections of short fiction. Some of my stories have appeared in anthologies that have also featured authors such as Stephen King, David Morrell, Harlan Ellison, and Denny O’Neill, and it’s been genuinely surreal seeing my work alongside stories by writers whose work fueled my love of reading and writing.

I wrote more comics along the way, a short-lived web comic, Tabula Rasa, and then in 2015, Moonstone Books contacted me about writing Kolchak, The Night Stalker. I’d first pitched Moonstone for Kolchak some years earlier, and in the meantime, I’d written for several of their pulp anthologies, featuring The Avenger, The Domino Lady, The Green Hornet, and The Spider. The chance to write Kolchak reignited my love of writing comics. The blending of Kolchak with Edgar Allan Poe tapped into my love of horror. Since Shadow House ended in 1998, I can honestly say writing Kolchak, The Night Stalker: The Poe Cases is the most fun I’ve had writing comics this century.







2.

Servante: What are the books and genres you started with?

Chambers: I’ve almost always written genre fiction. The first story I remember writing as a kid involved my Shogun Warriors toys. Later pieces imitated stuff I read in horror comics and possibly made the adults in my life wonder just where I was headed with all this writing stuff. My first professional comic scripts were science fiction stories, Primortals, and I moved on to horror next. When I put my concentration on prose fiction, I wrote a lot of horror because it felt most natural for me but I never lost my interest in science fiction, fantasy, crime, and other genres. I’ve been very fortunate to have connected with a variety of editors, such as Danielle Ackley-McPhail, John French, Kevin L. Donihe, and Michael Bailey, who like my work and have given me chances to write in many genres. My most recent horror stories appeared in Chiral Mad 2, Reel Dark, and Shadows Over Main Street, my last science fiction piece appeared in Qualia Nous, the latest tale in my Machinations Sundry steampunk series will be published in Gaslight and Grimm this spring, my favorite piece of fantasy writing, “Meet the Tuskersons,” was published in Kevin L. Donihe’s Walrus Tales, and my crime stories have shown up in Bad Cop, No Donut and To Hell in a Fast Car. I’ve written pulp for Moonstone, military science fiction for Mike McPhail’s Defending the Future anthology series, and other types of stories too.


by James Chambers



My first short story collection, written in collaboration with illustrator Jason Whitley, The Midnight Hour: Saint Lawn Hill and Other Tales was a blend of horror and supernatural adventure. Resurrection House collected many of my previously published horror tales and some new ones. I also wrote a collection of four, interconnected Lovecraftian novellas, The Engines of Sacrifice, which received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly and a very thoughtful review from The Lovecraft eZine.







One of my favorite pieces is an urban fantasy novella, Three Chords of Chaos, which follows a “fallen” faerie, who was the greatest musician in the Enchanted Lands but gets kicked out for playing forbidden music. He winds up in New York City around 1980, playing on the punk and indie scene to rebuild his magic by performing for live audiences. I did a lot of research for that story to capture the time period and the music scene in the city back then. A good portion of my research, though, consisted of listening to music from that era for hours on end—and at very high volume!

All of these books are listed on my website, www.jameschambersonline.com, and my Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/James-Chambers/e/B007J63PLO. I also have a selection of stories and excerpts available here: http://www.jameschambersonline.com/blog/?page_id=7.





3.
Servante: Who have been your biggest influences early on with your writing?

Chambers: I never know how to answer this question. I read on a broad spectrum, just as likely to dip into Jim Thompson as Stephen King, or Philip K. Dick, or Joyce Carol Oates, or George R.R. Martin, or Haruki Murakami, or Maxine Hong Kingston, or Chuck Palahniuk, or David Schow, or James Baldwin, or Shirley Jackson, or Christa Faust or on and on… and then there’s my non-fiction reading, which ranges far and wide, and I feel it all influences me. Books are psychic nutrients. We are what we read, though as writers we have to try to be more than that so we bring something original into the world. Over the years, readers and fellow writers have told me that they see shades of Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman in my approaches to horror and fantasy, and I did read Barker’s short fiction extensively early on and followed Gaiman’s Sandman closely, so it’s probably safe to name them as influences. And Bradbury, of course. “There Will Come Soft Rains” was the first time I truly loved a written thing.



Joyce Carol Oates



George R.R. Martin



Neil Gaiman


4.
Servante: Which TV shows, besides Kolchak, got you started on the path to writing Horror?

Chambers: Television, other than the first adaptation of Salem’s Lot and reruns of horror movies, did little to influence my interest in horror. In the 80s and early 90s good horror television shows were rarer than an honest politician. We had Twilight Zone and Outer Limits reruns, which I sought voraciously, the inconsistent Tales from the Darkside, the weird Friday the 13th—The Series (the one with the antique shop and Robey!), and the sadly short-lived She-Wolf of London. The stuff entertained me, but it didn’t challenge me. Horror movies and, even more so, horror books and comics did, and they started me along this dark, literary road.










5.
Servante: Tell us about your first memory of watching Kolchak?

Chambers: I heard a lot about Kolchak from my Mom, who liked the movies and the show when they first aired. I was too young to see them then. The end of the 20th century brought dark days for access to dead programs. No Netflix. Sitcom reruns ruling the airwaves. Inconvenient VHS tapes with one or two episodes of a show per cassette. We are so spoiled today by the availability of so much of our historical media and entertainment that I think people have forgotten the mystique of shows and movies we knew only by reputation and a few stills in a magazine or reference book. But I digress. The first time I got to sit down and watch Kolchak was when the Sci-Fi Channel put the show back on the air. Sadly, the first episode I watched was not one of the better ones, and it didn’t hook me right away. Then I got around to the movies, which are fantastic, with teleplays by Richard Matheson, and then to the better episodes and wondered why we couldn’t have a horror show that good on the air anymore. Not long after came The X-Files and Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, and these days horror is the hottest thing on television. Carl Kolchak was ahead of his time. Maybe he should’ve fought more zombies.





6.
Servante: Can you tell us a bit about what plans you have with your take of Kolchak?

Chambers: The concept for Kolchak, The Night Stalker: The Poe Cases is that Carl encounters a series of mysterious, macabre, and supernatural occurrences all linked in some way to the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. While researching material for the script, my biggest concern was to keep it true to both the character of Carl Kolchak and the imagination of Poe. A beautiful thing occurred when I realized how alike in voice Kolchak is to Poe. Both flow from wry cynicism to morbid observation to laments for the human condition to indignity at injustices, and the story really came together on that nexus. In current continuity, Kolchak is based in L.A., but I felt strongly that these stories needed to take place in Baltimore, where Poe is buried. I created a situation that brought Carl out from L.A. for the duration, researched a ton of real locations and buildings in Baltimore, drove my artists crazy with reference photos, and carefully wove as many notions and details from Poe as I could into the whole thing. The result, in my opinion, is surprisingly contemporary horror story for one based on stories written more than 150 years ago and starring a character from the 70s. Although each chapter of the graphic novel focuses on a primary Poe story, his work in general is woven into the fabric of the tale, and people who really know their Poe will enjoy hunting for Easter eggs.





7.
Servante: How did you get the reins to the Kolchak book series?

Chambers: I pitched ideas to Moonstone some years ago. They went in a different direction at the time, but we kept in touch, and I wound up writing various pulp stories for their anthologies. At the same time, my good friend Christopher Mills, who did Shadow House with me, took on Kolchak, writing “The Night Stalker of the Living Dead” storyline, which is available in trade paperback and well worth reading. Chris truly captures Carl’s voice in his scripts. Another close friend, CJ Henderson, became the regular Kolchak writer penning numerous comics, stories, and novels. CJ and I often cross-pollinated with editors and projects. His vote of confidence in me helped Moonstone bring me in on the pulp anthologies. Those went well, and they asked me to write a Kolchak short story, “The Lost Boy,” which was published recently in Kolchak the Night Stalker: Passages of the Macabre, a new anthology. My editor liked the story, and CJ continued putting good words in for me over there. Sadly, in July of 2014, CJ passed away, and my editor, Joe Gentile, felt he would’ve liked it if I picked up writing Kolchak. I put a new pitch together and Joe approved it. So I’m trying to live up to a lot with this book to honor Jeff Rice, who created Kolchak, and Edgar Allan Poe, and CJ too.







8.
Servante: Can we look forward to your books becoming movies or becoming part of a new Kolchak TV series?

Chambers: I honestly don’t know. If there are any plans to revive Kolchak on the silver screen or the small screen I know nothing about them, other than the long-rumored Johnny Depp film. I know the rights to Kolchak are somewhat complicated. Is it possible something in my Kolchak graphic novel might show up in some future incarnation? Well, anything’s possible, but it seems unlikely. But then who would’ve thought Carl Kolchak would be more popular today (thanks Netflix!) than he has been in decades, and that I’d have such a great opportunity to write him.



Johnny Depp the New Kolchak?


9.
Servante: What actor would you choose to play your version of Kolchak and why?

Chambers: Since you didn’t specify a living actor, I must say Darren McGavin. He is Carl Kolchak. He breathed such wonderful life into the character and is imprinted in my mind as Carl. But to choose a living actor is tough so I’m going to go with the very first one who springs to mind: Bruce Willis. Willis would capture both the hardboiled reporter that Kolchak was in Jeff Rice’s books and Matheson’s teleplay, but he can also do comedy and would nail that off-beat Kolchak charm that makes the character so memorable.



Bruce Willis as Kolchak?


10.
Servante: What else do you have on your plate besides the Kolchak books?

Chambers: I’m writing a lot of short fiction, a new novella, and working on two novels. I also have a few comic book projects in the works. Not much I can talk about in detail right now, except for a steampunk story, “In Wolf’s Clothing,” which will appear in Gaslight and Grimm, an anthology of steampunk retellings of fairy tales, coming this spring from eSpec Books.






11.
Servante: Can you share with us where we can purchase the Kolchak books and how we can stay in contact with you with news about all your new books? 

Chambers: Your best bet for getting a copy of Kolchak, the Night Stalker: The Poe Cases is your local comic book shop or ordering direct from Moonstone Books (http://moonstonebooks.com/shop/default.aspx). I suspect this book may have been under-ordered by comics retailers so I recommend asking your local comics shop to set one aside for you. You can also follow developments on the book and see lots of preview art at our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/KolchakThePoeCases/) or at my website (www.jameschambersonline.com). And it should be available on Comixology at some point too for those who prefer digital.











12.
Servante: What are some of your favorite Kolchak TV episodes? 

Chambers: I absolutely love the first two television movies, The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler. With teleplays by Richard Matheson, these are serious horror movies, tightly plotted, and wonderfully executed. They hold up very well today. From the regular television series, my top three favorites are the following:

“The Zombie” (episode two), which strikes a creepy tone that doesn’t let up and puts Kolchak in a genuinely harrowing situation to resolve the threat. It also plays by the rules of old school, Voodoo zombies, which gives the episode extra depth.

“The Horror in the Heights” (episode eleven), in which a rakshasha, an Indian demon that can appear in the form of its victims most trusted friends, terrorizes a Jewish neighborhood. A brilliant bit of characterization occurs when the demon reveals who Kolchak most trusts.

“Legacy of Terror” (episode seventeen) brought Aztec mythology to Chicago. This one has its weak points, but it’s unflinching about the brutality of human sacrifice, includes an eerie Aztec mummy, and cleverly finds a substitute for Aztec, stepped pyramids in a local sports arena. Plus Eric Estrada (of CHiPs fame!) guest stars.



Erik Estrada visits Kolchak


Servante: Thanks again to James for visiting the Servante of Darkness Blog today.

Chambers: Thanks so much for having me and giving me the opportunity to talk about Kolchak!

Servante: Hope to have him visit again as his Kolchak books start reaching the hands of new and returning fans.