Prolonged Eye Contact with Patrick Loveland
Updated: Mar 28, 2020
If you’ve read any of Patrick Loveland’s short stories, or his novel A Tear in the Veil, you know that he doesn’t fit into a perfectly squared-off genre box. Do strains of science fiction run through his work? Absolutely. Does he tend to work with very dark themes? As a matter of fact, yes. Is there a fantastical quality to his approach? You bet. So what kind of fiction does he write? As far as I’m concerned, he writes fiction with far too many eyes, and that’s that.
As proof, I give you the title of his debut collection: TOO MANY EYES and Other Thrilling Strange Tales. Out last year from Stay Strange Publications, this book is indeed a journey into the strange, and one you won’t regret taking. I thought it would be fun to sit down with Patrick and talk about the stories collected in the book.
But there’s more to Mr. Loveland than words. He’s an accomplished artist as well. I’ve had so much fun looking at his monstrous illustrations on social media that I got to thinking, why not ask him if he’d mind contributing some art to this interview? I’ll let you decide whether he lived up to the challenge with the following poster image, which he had already drawn but painted in specifically for this post:
It’s a distinct pleasure to showcase Patrick’s artwork along with his writing, as I’ve loved comic books, newspaper funnies, and fiction illustrations all my life. But don’t worry, we haven’t gone overboard here. There’s plenty of art left for you to discover inside the book itself. That’s as it should be.
Okay, then. In we go. Do mind the tentacles.
Pete Mesling: I'm sorry to have to put you through this interrogation, Patrick, but it's really for the best. I trust the trouble light isn't too bright for you? Good. Now first off, each story in the book is preceded by an illustrated figure drawn by you. There’s a similarity in style to these illustrations, but each one also has a distinct thematic connection to the story that follows. Did you do these as you were writing, or did they come about later?
Patrick Loveland: W-well ... the light is a little bright ... but I'm fine. And yes, the illustrations are all variations on a character of mine I call Spoop Boy. They were all done while I was putting the book together. I had been playing around with a lot of sketches of similar figures, then two of them basically crystallized the base design around the time I finished the titular novella and started into design and formatting. I wanted the book to have something like a Crypt Keeper-like figure as a wraparound or visual through line. Something like a host, but with themes only conveyed by what Spoop Boy was wearing or doing. After giving it some more thought (triggered by me revisiting my Fallout 4 save recently) I realized he also probably subconsciously grew out of my fondness for Vault Boy from the Fallout game series, as he is treated similarly—especially on the stats building interface.
Also, I just wanted to mention for anyone who might read the ebook and could be confused, my Spoop Boy illustrations were left out of the digital version. There were a few reasons. I didn't feel like they had the effect I wanted the reader to experience with inconsistency across different apps I was testing the file on, and I felt like, while I think ebooks and readers are great, there's nothing wrong with having the print version be a more premium presentation. I discussed it with the others at Stay Strange Publishing and they agreed.
PM: All hail Spoop Boy! It's great to have a name for the little fella. Well, it's no surprise that you're a gamer. That really comes through in your novel A Tear in the Veil, and there's a hint of it in some of these stories, to varying degrees. Now, you've kindly agreed to share a composite art piece that ties everything in TOO MANY EYES together but doesn't actually appear in the book. Can you talk a little bit about the origins of that, and how it might be used in the future?
PL: Yeah, I've been a gamer since Commodore 64, Atari, NES days. They just keep getting better and more interesting. So many possibilities now.
As for that art piece, I created it with a specific feel in mind. The core novella, as you've now read, has movie theaters as settings for a lot of it (which become weirder and are followed by a much weirder place ...) and with the overall cinematic feel I was going for with the stories I chose for this collection, I decided I wanted to make a film-poster-style piece for a special purpose. By film-style poster, I mean a Drew Struzan popularized "lots-of-things-from-the-movie"—where the lots-of-things are different sizes based on importance or focus—type of style. I originally created it in anticipation of a special hardback release of TOO MANY EYES, which would include a bunch of fun schwag like bookmarks, stickers, maybe pins based on my own artwork. Plus, this throwback big folded movie poster I made. It might still happen. I'd need to feel like there was some level of demand. Who knows? Also, I've thought about making a novella-only version of TOO MANY EYES, which would also have its original middle third/second act tucked in after the end of the novella as published as like a dvd "alternate scene" ... except it's really the whole middle. Haha
PM: Those are great ideas. I'd love to see that limited edition. I also want to talk a bit more about the novella, but I was thinking about coming at things chronologically. So, if it's all right with you, let's move into the stories themselves. You mentioned that you were going for a cinematic feel with all of these stories. That makes sense, even though it's the most obvious with the eponymous novella. But you start things off with a Lovecraftian steampunk horror western, as I see it (your work is not easy to classify). Now, the book is divided into sections called YESTERDAY AND TODAY and TOMORROW AND BEYOND, so that must have helped with deciding on the actual story order, but how did you decide on "Ekwiiyemak (The Place Where It Rains)" specifically as the opener?
PL: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to jump ahead. Did you really need to turn the lights up more, though? They were pretty bright already. You know what, never mind. I'm fine.
Okay, stories, stories ... Yes, "Ekwiiyemak"—well, what I meant is that I chose the stories I had already written that all fit into what I've been told is my cinematic style of prose storytelling. I take it as a compliment, as a once and future screenwriter, when my style is called that. But I will feel a little better about it when I'm able to get my first novel back into print and hopefully be able to show those who haven't read it (basically, most readers ha) some of the more layered nuances I can bring to the table. I'm not saying A Tear in the Veil (probably to be reverted to its long-held working title FIFTYONEFIFTY when it's republished) isn't cinematic and pulpy—fuck yeah, it's both of those through and through, as you know. But I feel like I really let myself explore my own style in that first book, while also keeping the story moving. Some might say not moving fast enough, so the republished/probably retitled version will be revised and slimmed down some.
You ... You turned the light up again, didn't you? Fine, okay, I understand. The point I was meandering around to is that every story in TOO MANY EYES, other than the titular novella, was already written when I started putting the book together. Part of the reason I decided to do the book is that I was starting to get a decent amount of my stories back after their vacations out in the worlds of Anthologyland and Periodical Town, and I had a handful that had never been published that I was also fond of. Serial near-misses and ones I'd never submitted for one reason or another. The YESTERDAY AND TODAY and TOMORROW AND BEYOND structure was born out of my having two unpublished stories I was really happy with, that were also period pieces. Weird West and Vietnam War settings. Of all the stories I decided to include, "Ekwiiyemak" was the first chronologically—and chronological presentation just felt right for what I wanted the reader to experience. It's odd to remember this now, but thinking back, there was a time before I had come up with the "Too Many Eyes" name at all and the book was going to be called The Place Where It Rains: and Other Thrilling Tales of the Strange. A couple things changed that. I realized that, while "Ekwiiyemak" borders on novelette length, it's the only Weird Western story in the bunch. And I think another author used a similar wording to that subtitle in their titling, which made me uncomfortable, even though I'd had that wording in my head for about a year before seeing their release promo. At some point, I thought of the "TME" title and theme and then wrote that as the core piece. I kept the chronological framing, though.
PM: I hear there's an affordable motel in Periodical Town. Good eats, too. Strange sounds coming from the woods at night, though. Anyway, "Ekwiiyemak" is a great way to show readers what they're in for. It's almost like a challenge: "If you can handle this sucker, you might be able to make it through the other terrors and teeming oddities that are on offer." From there we move on to "The Ballad of Chihuahua Puente." This was a highlight for me, I have to say. I really dug how the story has one foot in the gritty reality of war and the other in the world of supernatural terrors. Did a fair amount of research go into this one?
PL: Yes, definitely. I'd grown up with Vietnam shows, being a child of the 1980s. My first exposure to the music of the The Rolling Stones was "Paint It, Black" being used as the intro music for the first season of the show Tour Of Duty (and it's still my favorite song by them, I must admit). Even Magnum PI had an underlying Vietnam War backstory that became slowly revealed later in the show's run. Then I got a little older and came across Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Casualties of War, etc. I was fascinated by the real horrors on display in that war, and what it did to the people being ordered to fight it. From what I've researched and come across from veterans' anecdotes since, those films didn't even need to exaggerate. It was awful.
One of the things that seemed most horrific to me was that we would make people go into the tunnels the VC had created from the conflict we joined, and an earlier one, that were only a few feet tall and wide and have them ferret around in their in the dark disposing of traps, trying to roughly map them, and sometimes fight. There was an open call for Lovecraftian stories set in the 1960s. For some reason, my mind went straight to Vietnam "tunnel rats" and that story was the result. Possibly because I have always had an issue with claustrophobia. I feel like it's pretty natural to fear tight spaces but I think it bothers me more than your average person. The editors really enjoyed the story but they were trying to stay away from Vietnam for what they were going for with that book. More of a hippies and psychedelics type of feel they wanted, I think.
I did a lot of research on the VC tunnel construction and layouts, military squad structure, and even lurked some forum threads of veteran military doctors and nurses to get a feel for what really stuck out to them, as a setting they had to try to medically treat people in. I think that's how I got the idea for the howitzers being close to the medical huts, booming sporadically while they had to patch people up—and how that plays into the story itself.
PM: Well, the research comes through. And I kind of love that the editors you refer to wanted stories set in the 1960s but not directly involving Vietnam. That's a little like wanting stories set in the 1980s but not featuring enormous hair. But I digress. Here, let me switch on another light. And those straps, are they still good and tight? Fine, fine. Thanks, by the way, for letting me know about the claustrophobia. That may come in handy if I don't get the intended results with these more traditional appliances. Now, let's continue. "Pizzapokalyps." This bizarro tale is the first of the stories not to take readers into the bowels of the earth. It’s also one of the weirder stories presented, and that’s saying something. Was this written out of a love of pizza? A hatred of pizza? A fear of pizza? What did pizza ever do to you, anyway?
PL: The straps are ... tight, yes. Good? Not for me to say, I guess. As for pizza ... I wish I had a more interesting story for that one. There was an open call for a "Pizza Horror" anthology, and I believe they specifically said they didn't want straight bizarro wacky shtick, as much as they usually loved that. Something like, the premise itself is the bit. Try to play it straight. So I did. I chose to play it almost totally straight and write it as an homage to Return of the Living Dead, one of my favorite films. So, I poured on the gore and ickiness, and went for it as a metal-themed pizza-stravaganza. I will say that this one was a bit of a cheat, when it came to the chronology. Oh and before I forget, the story was shortlisted but didn't get in. And about that time, I had asked Stay Strange Publishing's resident editor, Christopher Smith Adair, if any stories didn't fit with the rest. At the time, the third YESTERDAY story was The Five Crystal Dragons, my homage to the Hammer/Shaw Brothers glorious oddity The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires that I had done for an April Moon anthology that was all about Hammer and Amicus love. As much as I enjoy that story—one reviewer said my intro "out Hammered Hammer!" or something to that effect ... before devolving into a Blade-like mess or something ha—Christopher felt the vampire thing was a bit of a standout, with everything else being more amorphous and weird. I agreed ... but I didn't have another finished period piece. Pizzapokalyps was written in present day. I decided with the pizza and metal theme, along with a lack of obvious modern tech use, it could be quickly adapted into an 80s theme. So I changed the metal bands mentioned and made some other tweaks, and I kind of liked how extra futuristic that made the tech the government pizza hunters were using.
Also, pizza stood my little sister up on her wedding day. Pizza can rot in a festering pit of living feces. I hear that's a bucket item on the Papa John's menu now, though, so that's probably not the edgelord joke I wanted it to be. . . . or was it?
PM: Thanks for clearing that up, and sorry if I stirred up any painful memories. I haven't seen Return of the Living Dead in ages, by the way. You've inspired me to take another look. Also, I'm glad you brought up "The Five Crystal Dragons" I was wondering why it didn't make an appearance here. We'll of course get to a couple of other April Moon originals in a bit, but next up in the collection is "Iris and Kayyali Beyond Trolltown." I like the way you explore a kind of moral variation among the "monster" classes here. There's also the sense that we're being given a glimpse of a more epic struggle. Any chance we'll see Iris and Kayyali again down the road?
PL: I am happy with "The Five Crystal Dragons" so it will show up somewhere down the line, I'm sure. I have almost enough shorts that weren't in TOO MANY EYES now that I could do another, shorter collection. But it would be less cohesive in styles and flow. Vampire bloodbath on an old steam ship, orbital drop troops returning to orbit after a mission to find their revolving city being overrun by monsters, a straight sci-fi piece that's cyberpunk adjacent about illegal surfers who have to wear military-grade biosuits to survive the waters of future Southern California, a father and daughter hiding out in the snowy mountains from a weird alien invasion force fixing up a car that they nickname "Bea Arthur" to go even farther north, present day otherworldly killer on a centuries-long hunt for a special artifact that was taken from him taking on the criminal underworld that is keeping him from it. Things like that.
Now, "Iris and Kayyali" is another of my stories that ended up a decent amount different from its original draft due to publishing realities. My wife and I remember it differently, but this was either the first or second story I wrote after completing my first novel. I did things a little backwards from what many others seem to. Started with longer formats before giving shorts a serious try. I had written a really bad one several years before that that was embarrassing and just decided I wasn't good at it. After the novel was mostly completed, I realized short stories could be a good way to get my name out there. So I wrote this story how I write screenplays and wrote my first novel—present tense. I wrote this story for an open call that was for stories that continue the world created in Clive Barker's Cabal/Nightbreed. I was a longtime fan of both so I jumped at the chance. It didn't get in and the only reason mentioned was that it was present tense. That may have been the editor's way of sidestepping mention of a lack of enjoyment, but I'll never know.
So, that made me think about past versus present tense. Coming from screenwriting and enjoying the immediacy of present tense for some stories, I was a bit taken aback by that. I usually write in past tense now, but I feel like my first novel feels better to me in present, so it will probably stay that way when I revise and republish it. I rewrote "Iris and Kayyali" as past tense and changed all the Barker references to things that fit in my own budding "mythos" or whatever. At this point, I'm happy to have them as characters in my own realm and I think they could definitely show up again. Pretty much everything I write in present day (and a lot of the past and future set ones) exists in the same shared multiverse setup. Oh, last thing. It was originally called "Isis and Kayyali" but I was asked to change that by its eventual publisher due to current events at the time. Only took a tweak to the scene where Kayyali has to motivate Isis/Iris. Ha
PM: Interesting publishing history behind the Iris and Kayyali story. I'm very familiar with the Midian Unmade anthology I believe you're referring to, being a huge Clive Barker fan. You never know where these things may end up eventually. If at first you don't succeed, as they say. Glad to hear there's another batch of short stories brewing in your cauldron, too, which calls to mind the next story in TOO MANY EYES: "Not Cavities." This one features our first nod to your collection’s title, I believe—“too many piercing, glinting eyes.” Great little Halloween story, too. It really has teeth (heh, heh). It would be easy to spoil the plot, though, so let me just ask if there’s anything you’d like to add about this chilling tale of bullying and its repercussions?
PL: Sure. I guess I'd say that I love Halloween. I haven't been able to make a really cool costume in a while but I always throw something fun together. And it's even cooler to see it through the eyes of my young daughter, especially the last few years where she's really gotten into trick or treating. But the idea for this one came to me a while back. About a year before she was born, actually. I have this habit in my writing of creating a short or a scene in a longer work that is almost a direct response to something I've seen or read before that disappointed me. I was really excited to see Don't Be Afraid of the Dark when it came out back in 2010 because Guillermo del Toro said it was super scary and great. The trailer was fantastic, with a glimpse of a scary little humanoid creature under the covers of the little girl main character. I went to see it in the theater and ... it just didn't do much for me. The things I imagined after seeing the trailer were way more frightening than what I saw in the film. Not the creators' fault. But I guess those flashes of imagery I'd had wanting more from that film kicked around for a while. Then in 2016, Sirens Call Publications had a Halloween open call for their great ezine, so I quickly formulated a simple story that showcased the imagery that had come to me in that theater experience. And I feel like bullying like bag snatching and such on a night that, as it is in our modern, loose interpretation of it, is supposed to be a fun time for young children is especially worthy of a grisly (survivable but scarring) retribution.
PM: I suppose there's a certain logic in taking the next two stories together. In "Ley Lines" you introduce Special Agent Blakely Tran, and she appears again in the story immediately following, "Whoever Fights Monsters ..." You can tell we're getting closer to the title novella now: "The creatures’ heads kept the flashing human eyes, but as the chunks and flaps of human flesh came free, more eyes were visible …" and a bit farther on, "Dozens of eyes and jagged-toothed mouths opened all over the spreading amorphous mass of animated glop." Both stories are fast paced and fairly brutal. Do you ever disgust yourself? I can always introduce a little alternating current into the situation we have going here, so don't bother lying.
PL: No, p-please. I'll be truthful. I feel like...if I think of something that makes me cringe, it will probably do the same for a lot of other people. This is yet another example of something being created for something else but being warmly welcomed into my own multiverse. "Ley Lines" was written for an anthology of stories in the style of the (fantastic) show True Detective. Honestly, I have no idea what happened there. Didn't even get a response that it was received. Didn't get a rejection. Had to find out it wasn't accepted when they posted the TOC. It was weird. Second place I submitted it to was a great crime periodical based in Australia called Crime Factory, and they loved it. "Ley Lines" had a level of grounded realism that could keep it acceptable to a crime genre setting.
"Whoever Fights Monsters ..." continues Blakely Tran's FBI investigations. Where "Ley Lines" is a serial murder story that can be understood, even as awful as it is, "Whoever Fights Monsters..." is the next step for her. What I mean by that is ... I have played pen and paper role-playing games for a long time, my favorites being Call of Cthulhu and Unknown Armies. The way I thought of the progression of actual weirdness between "Ley Lines" and "Whoever Fights Monsters ..." was like the transition of suspicion of otherworldly things ... and actual witnessing of otherworldly things. In the terms I vaguely remember from UA, it would be like the transition from informed "Street" level to "Global"—with implications of "Cosmic" woven in.
Blakely and "The Ganesh Killer" are a part of the greater APOPHENIA universe, as I've come to think of it, and will appear again.
PM: Yeah, between those two stories, things go from dark and weird to really dark and super fucking weird. Thanks for putting that in perspective and providing the cool insider knowledge. It kind of reinforces what I was saying about the weird trajectory stories can take before
they find the right home. And that lands us pretty squarely on the doorstep of TOO MANY EYES. First off, I just about fell out of my chair when a certain character was referenced at the end of your centerpiece novella. Can we talk about that straightaway?
PL: Okay, sure. Without explaining all of the connections, I'll say that TOO MANY EYES functions as something like A Tear in the Veil—1.5. It's something that happens between the first and second novels in the trilogy as a lateral story associated with Siobhan's long history as what amounts to a monster hunter. She's been alive a long time—as a result of the events revealed in that novel—and had a lot of her many lives ruined or at least interfered with by various awful creatures that exist in my mentioned shared universe. So, other than whatever else she's doing, she always finds herself going back to eradicating monstrous beings that enter our realm to wreak havoc, feed, or whatever else. I was subtle enough, from what I've heard from people who've read this, that it might not even be obvious that Charlotte/Shiv from "Ekwiiyemak" and TOO MANY EYES in this book is Siobhán from A Tear in the Veil. So this is some of what she gets up to between the first and second book. Once that's made obvious, I think a few other connections can be made pretty quickly. Her friend "Mumbles" for example, seems to have very similar attributes to a character first featured in A Tear in the Veil.
PM: I had not picked up on the Shiv/Siobhán connection, though I do recall noticing that weapons are modified in similar ways in several of your stories. (I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes.) But Warheit being referenced at the end of TOO MANY EYES definitely got my attention. Incidentally, I was having fun trying to come up with a genre label for the novella. The closest I got was "mind-bending cosmic witchcraft fantasy." it's really one of the strangest stories I’ve read in a good long while, and it absolutely screams to be made into a movie (and not just because cult cinema figures so heavily into the plot). Have you toyed with a screenplay version?
PL: I love that genre label! Agh—okay, I'm sorry. You don't have to tighten the straps, Jesus ... I don't think anyone who's read TME and A Tear has mentioned figuring out who Shiv really is. I was trying to be subtle but I guess the simple suggestion of using a different name was enough. I thought it would be more obvious because she calls herself Charlotte in A Tear in the Veil when she calls to tell them she won't be coming to her teaching job, and Shiv sounds a lot like the first part of how Siobhán is actually pronounced. All parts of her undisclosed full name. Plus, A Tear in the Veil is a long-ish book so I can see people's eyes glazed over by that point and missing a tucked in line that could've seemed throwaway. That's part of why I call the trilogy/multiverse Apophenia. It's a bit of a playful use of a term that roughly means applying order and connections to things that are objectively random. In my multiversal mythos, you never know entirely what's important and what's not and genuinely random from how it's presented. But that becomes more clear as the series continues. Which leads to Wahrheit. In a vague enough way I'll say that Wahrheit being mentioned was intended to tie it to the ongoing plot of the trilogy. Also, it's probably been a while since you read A Tear in the Veil, but Mumbles and Shasta are also characters in it. Mumbles just has a different name Felix gave him. Siobhán gives him her own nickname.
As for writing it as a script, I've thought about it ... but I'm a little gun shy about having weird scripts read by Hweird people. The one time I got a bona fide Hollywood director and producer to read one of my scripts, he basically said it was too weird and he couldn't get into it. He didn't have a history of making stranger things, sci-fi, or horror ... but it was the connection I had, y'know? That happened to be a screenplay version of a proto-A Tear in the Veil (originally a screenplay called 5150) that I had to cut a huge amount of it—probably about 50-60 pages—just to get it down to 131 pages, a more acceptable but still overlong page count. And he still said to cut 20 more pages. That was part of what lead me to writing prose fiction. I had cut out a third of the script, and felt like none of that was "darling" classifiable. So after writing another, ridiculously long—and unrelated to the Apophenia universe—screenplay (that I'm still novelizing and only a few people have ever read), I went back and novelized 5150 (working title 51/50 for the book) and went down that road. So, while I'd love to write a screenplay of it, I'd have to find more weird-friendly creatives to pitch it to.
PM: I'm afraid you misunderstand me. I would like to see TOO MANY EYES made into a movie. You will make this happen, yes? [Holds jumper-cable clamps in both hands, squeezing them open in a slow, alternating rhythm, smiling all the while.] Oh, all right. I tried. Moving on, then. "The Bulb." Just when I thought there can be no more eyes, you hit me with an over-sized jellyfish that hovers above the United States, sucking us dry of our most precious resources. I’m guessing this one was based on a true story? Okay, actually I remember it from the Stomping Grounds anthology from April Moon Books [to which I also contributed a story, ahem]. Great fun, "The Bulb." Will it be a movie? Er, I mean, what do people need to know about its origins?
PL: Don't scare me like that. I have a weak constitution ... Now that I think about it, I remember your story. Murderous whaler, fever dream/nightmare visions of a Leviathan from the deep? Eaten to death in the dark, a fitting end to a crazed man who'd killed his crew? Loved it. You have a knack for lyrical prose that I have never really attempted. I feel whisked away reading your stories (in a good way). Maybe because I come from screenwriting, I've always focused on dialogue and plotting to get what I want across, with a metaphor or the like thrown in when one strikes me. Actively trying to have the language gently but firmly pull you along from event to event without being distracting. But when someone writes in a more flowing and lush way and actually does it well, like you, I do enjoy it.
I know I've been talking about the Siobhán character a lot, but one thing I love about the setup for Audrey and her is they can show up anywhere for a good chunk of recorded human history—and other realms I've concocted. I have a novella planned that continues Siobhán's times in the old weird west after Ekwiiyemak, a novella that has Absalom tracking her down. It would be my extra weird take on the ghost train idea. Spooky, dimension-tripping fun. But remembering your short jogged another of my ideas loose—a seafaring pirate horror period in Siobhán's long life. That will be a fun researchtainment period if I ever get to that one, let alone the writing of it.
Another seafaring horror piece I read within the last few years is The Derelict by Neil Williams. If you haven't checked it out already, I think you might really enjoy it.
Luckily after all that, I don't have much to say about The Bulb. It holds the distinction of being my very first published short, and has a special place in my heart. I am happy with it, don't get me wrong. I had written several shorts before this one and I think this got published first because I trimmed any scrap of fat from it. It had an intro to set the stage and convey how desperate the mission was ... then the mission just kicked in and didn't slow down until the deed was done. I felt like it did help me to lock in my action writing style, which was tighter going forward.
PM: Well thank you kindly for the praise. ("Eaten to Death in the Dark" would be a good title for something, by the way.) I don’t believe I’ve read the Neil Williams story. Will seek it out. And the way I see it, we all have different styles, but we share the aim of painting the right picture for the story at hand. Your style is highly detailed visually and lends itself to fast-paced action, for instance. Anyway, I think I’ll loosen the straps a little, since you've been complimentary. And let’s go back to one light, shall we? There, that’s better. And speaking of painting pictures, "Ghosts of the Spires" is one of the most vivid stories in TOO MANY EYES, in terms of description. It also had an earlier existence in the Ill-Considered Expeditions anthology from April Moon Books (another table of contents that you and I shared). How does your artist self feed into your writer self? Not having any artistic ability, I'm curious how that works. Do you sometimes sketch things out first as art and then write them? Does it ever happen the other way around? In other words, do you ever start writing a scene and think, "Oh, that's cool. I'm going to try do draw that."? I suppose that could almost be distracting, unless you wait until you've finished the story, or at least the scene in question.
PL: That's a good question. No—don't re-tighten the straps, please. They've all been good questions. I guess that was something like rhetorical.
Until the last year or two, my artistic side was largely dormant. I only really used it to make sketches for my writing to help me visualize better or plot/block out a scene—or to make a silly picture on a birthday card or random doodle here and there. Some of my first memories are of drawing, so it's been a lifelong thing. But after some drawing classes in middle school and AP studio art in high school, my only continuing art education has been self-taught or by more painterly friends. Oh, and one painting class I took at the art school I studied film-making at, but the other more experienced painting students told me it was a terrible one, and several of them actually succeeded in getting their tuition back for it.
So, I focused all my creative energy into writing and the odd concept drawing for myself, to aid my writing. Then two or three years ago, I think it was, my brother came to me after seeing a few of these post-it drawings I'd been posting on Instagram (mostly because I liked the square format of IG and what I was drawing on. He asked me for a drawing for a song he'd made that he was going to post on YouTube and share. I did one for him and he dug it. Then he kept making songs and asking for like cover art, and I kept doing them and I think maybe that got me into the drawing habit again. Enough to take chances and put more effort in again, after many years.
And I just kept going with it and I've been pretty happy with my progress. Did some illustration work for interiors for other writers, then my cover and interior illustrations for this book we're discussing, and the movie poster you asked about. Finally got a digital drawing tablet and a "phablet" phone with a stylus that I've already been able to also get back into hand-drawn animation, a passion I've toyed with getting back into for years. I mostly messed with stop-motion in school, but I had a good friend doing actual cel animation and between him and the animation class we were in, I learned the basic concepts. I have a light table with registration bar too. I got back into it with as a part of this reawakening or whatever, but being basically alone and not having a lot of room to store hundreds or thousands of drawings, any serious animation I try will probably be in digital programs designed for it. I do have a big, old scanner that I might be able to program for recognizing acme registration holes, though, so we'll see.
Also, I've been dipping my toes back into perspective and drawing establishing setting pieces ... so I might even try to put together another comic book or maybe a Webtoon, after years of not being able to work through blocks that have kept me from continuing that pursuit. That's another dream of mine, to write and illustrate a graphic novel of some kind.
So yeah, to be honest, it's a little confusing having my artistic urge blossom strongly again ... while I still have so much I have to write, sans pretty pictures. But, I suppose my concepts for writing just look that much better, if nothing else. Ha
PM: Wow, I would love to see a Patrick Loveland graphic novel. It’s been really fun watching you post some of your work—including the Post-it notes you refer to—on Instagram. There’s a lot of variety there. Some of it’s wickedly creepy. Some of it’s whimsical. You have a very distinctive style. I’m green with envy! As for “PIE,” the next story in your collection ... I could almost see the reaper from this one hook up with the witch from “Not Cavities,” but I guess that wasn’t meant to be, for a few different reasons. He is a little bit like her, though, minus the moral code. And his minions are even nastier than hers. Did you think of the two stories as being companions across time, or is it just me?
PL: Interesting. Honestly, no, I never connected the two. But I can see how you'd get to that.
"PIE" is an interesting story for me. Once again, it was written for a different call than for where it ended up. And it was written as a prequel to a story I'd been planning off and on since film school in the late '90s. At the time I conceived of it, it would've been pretty original, and it was always a way of using cyberpunk tropes and settings to tell a weird horror story. Naoko was brought in because her oyabun's daughter was a VR gamer, and she was tricked into joining a private server by the reaper hacker, who is also in "PIE" prior to these events, and she's trapped in a virtual horror game. Naoko, the main character of "PIE" and this, and a small team have to jack into the system the daughter is trapped in and try to get her out—but when they die in the game, they start dying in real life in the jack-in room. Then it gets even weirder, but to say more would spoil it. I shelved this one a few times, because of The Matrix, then The Cell, then way later, Inception. The Cell was the closest, but the other two tapped into enough of the VR cyberpunk stories I was pulling from that they took the wind out of my sails too, all years apart. Inception the most laterally, but still. The game the daughter is trapped in goes from something vaguely Silent Hill inspired to a world more and more taken over by Beksinski- and Giger-esque dark surrealism.
So, after so many back-burner demotions (for what I originally called Flowback, then INSTANCE//OVERLAY) ... there was an open call for "Techno-Horror" stories for a book. I decided to use the cyberpunk inspired world I'd created for I//O to tell a story that set up what Naoko was capable of. That was actually the first time I had to find out my story wasn't accepted from a public TOC announcement and I ... wasn't thrilled, let's say.
Then I subbed it to a cyberpunk anthology without expecting anything—and they loved it. I was thrilled. Then the reviews came out after the book was published and I started to see what preconceived notions of what a subgenre means to different people can do to their ability to judge stories on their own merits. Instead of the cyberpunk stories I'd been raised on, that used their settings and implications to convey social analysis with a decent amount of subtlety, these reviewers seemed to only be able to enjoy stories that had ridiculously heavy-handed, on-the-nose political themes and situations. I mean, Neuromancer, one of the most important cyberpunk works, and my personal favorite, is basically a heist story with some futuristic twists layered in. The more interesting sci-fi elements are implied through setting and situations caused by what their world has become and where it's going. The characters live in that world, each with their own scars and motivations ... but the world itself does the heavy lifting, along with basically a living McGuffin. I'd read each review of the book "PIE" was in with hopes of at least a quick mention of 'that one cyberpunk horror short that wasn't awful'. Nothing. Just got lumped in with stories that weren't interesting to the reviewer, which happened more than once. So, maybe it just wasn't interesting. I know some would say that, but I think within subgenres there should be some flexibility. And in my defense, it was written for a techno horror book as a horror short in a cyberpunk setting, only to end up in a general cyberpunk book. Ha
So, "PIE" is probably the only time I dip my toes into the realm of cyberpunk. INSTANCE//OVERLAY is indefinitely back-burnered. That premise that would've been 'interesting' in the late '90s is pretty much overdone now, other than the twist that I'll still keep close to my chest. I stumbled onto a game series from the last few years that even seems to have the same basic premise, and gameplay similar to the early parts of the evolving horror game I'd planned. Best to move on, I guess.
PM: Sometimes it's the best course, I think. Speaking of inception, what can you tell us about the origins of the Delamarre trilogy that comes next in the book?
PL: That is yet another tale of me absorbing something very specific into my own mythology after it was created for something else, and building from that temporary failure. Extra fun one, for me.
To preface this ... I am a corny white guy. Basically middle class divorced parents background, if I leave out some very important but currently unneeded complicating details. I've been through my fair share of hard, real shit for a few reasons, but that doesn't change my upbringing. No matter what else, I have a really broad range of musical loves. Goth, Industrial, Punk, Metal, Prog, Noise, Folk-punk, Funk, Soul, Taiko, Crooners (Darin, Sinatra, Martin, Piaf, Holiday, Gainsbourg), Trip Hop, Drum and Bass, UK Dubstep, Roots Reggae, First Wave Ska, Rocksteady, etc. And a lifelong love of Hip-Hop culture like graffiti and b-boy/girl radness—and Rap Music. My first tape singles were Young MC's "Bust a Move", DJ Quik's "Jus Lyke Compton", "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega, and Jane's Addiction's "Been Caught Stealing/Had a Dad"—which was pretty telling for how my future would go, musically. My aunt bought me the Top Gun soundtrack too, but the singles, I bought myself. My older brother was more of a rock, punk, metal, goth/industrial guy and he got me right educated on all that, and I went my own ways with it too. But at the end of the day, I love hip-hop and rap, and I try to keep up on new stuff, classics I've missed, and the influences to the sounds of what I've loved, like funk songs that were sampled by the G-Funk style and such.
So ... all that said, there was a call for a tribute anthology for the Wu-Tang Clan.
I don't want to diminish what Mother Necessity helped me to produce after the original short was rejected. I'm very happy with the Delamarre arc and what I want to do with it going forward, if I can get to it. But none of that would've happened without this Wu-Tang short I wrote and I think that's pretty cool.
At the time the WTC antho was announced, I'd coincidentally been listening to a lot of WT solo albums. Mostly revisiting ODB's first album I'd loved since the '90s, his second and sadly last officially released one, then Tecal by Method Man, GZA's glorious Liquid Swords, and I was working my way through Ghostface Killah's classics. That brought me to his newest albums at the time, the fantastic Twelve Reasons to Die (originally produced by Adrian Younge, then in a different version by Apollo Brown, which is equally great in its own way) and well done 36 Seasons. The story in Twelve Reasons to Die was especially cool to me. An Italian mafioso enforcer falls in love with the don's daughter and that goes poorly for him—so they kill him and and press his remains into 12 vinyl records. When you play one of the records, Ghostface Killah is summoned in an ethereal, Jason Voorhees-like form, bent on taking revenge on the DeLuca crime family that doomed him.
So, having read that short ... picture everything else pretty much exactly the same—but the horrific, Lovecraftian creature summoned once the record is played is a large, ghostly Jason V.-like figure that is GFK in temporarily and dangerously corporeal form. Like, exactly that. The story was even titled "The 13th Reason". Once it was rejected, I sat on it, then at some point, rewrote it with the elegant yet monstrous Thri'sst'uhl in GFK's place. Made it a story in my own multiverse, once again, but in the far future.
Then, as I remember it, an old friend and fellow filmmaker—who has become far more professionally educated and experienced in that realm than I was able to—asked me if I had a short story he could make into a short film. I was flattered and thrilled, but I told him that I had learned from an old mutual friend's advice to write fiction like budget was no object. She'd told me that to fight my natural tendency to think of stories in terms of what I could throw together and put in front of a camera with no real money. So, I told him I'd write him an original short with budget in mind, like I'd always thought of things in film school, but moved away from as an aspiring writer.
He loved it. We were planning to make it a short film, then once he read it, he loved the Applewhite and Zorn banter and setup enough that he wanted the 30 minute script I'd written fresh to be the pilot for a web series. Like ... solarpunk weird/cosmic X-Files in space.
That project didn't end up going through.
Then I adapted my short screenplay into a prose short. I was happy enough with it, but it still feels like a film script in possibly detrimental ways, I've been told.
Then the idea of making a short continuation/sequel to the original Mr. D as Mrs. D's revenge for the first short clawed its way into my head one day and I just busted that out. I was really happy with R-Day For Mrs. D. Possibly even most proud of that one, out of the three. But don't get me wrong—after my friend got me thinking, there's a lot I'd love to do with Applewhite and Zorn, as well as the younger Delamarres.
PM: I can see that there could be a lot more to explore with those characters. I’d also agree that there’s something especially effective about the Mrs. D. story. It’s a great anchor for the arc. I suppose you think that entitles you to your freedom. Well, not quite. Unlike the prisoners in “R-Day for Mrs. D.,” you will remain fettered. But here, I’ll turn the light out. Now it’s dark, as Dennis Hopper once said. Is that better … or is it worse? Regardless, it’s the perfect atmosphere for my next question. “Halcyon-noyclaH” is a tale of Alien-style suspense, but you always manage to give a theme your own twist. I love that this is both a physically and a mentally frightening story. There’s the threat of real harm at the hands of the creatures, and then there’s the terror of having the rug pulled out from under your sense of reality. Plus it’s set in the cold and dark of space. Did you set out to ratchet the fear factor especially high in that way, or did you just pull the trigger and follow the bullet?
PL: I like it dark. Thank you. Ah, one of the few stories that wasn't previously unpublished and got into the book it was written for. At this point, this whole thing is probably a case study of perseverance in the face of constant rejection. I guess that is a very real part of writing, though. Ha
So, this short—stylized Halcyon-noyclaH by me as a kind of playful nod to the specifics of the story—really started, as many of mine do, from a single image that popped into my head. The theme of the book was something like more "optimistic" throwback classic Sci-Fi, but something goes horribly and horrifically wrong. SF that becomes SF/H, you could say. At least, that was what I did and it got in, so yeah. While getting myself in the old school SF mode of thinking, it struck me that the spaceships were frequently very simple shapes. Suddenly (yeah, I typed that)—an image of a diamond-shaped vessel hanging at an angle, partially obscured by the dense rocks of a planet's rings, formed in my head. Silent as it revolved around that looming planet along with the ancient rocky satellites that had adopted it as one of their own. Alien-esque, I suppose, yes. So I went to work hashing out what would be in that ship that would be strange and frightening ... and what wouldn't—not in this realm, anyway. I knew early on that the ship should have two versions, kind of coexisting at once. I used my earlier mentioned art abilities to make diagrams of the ship, one in this realm, and the other version. The rest fell into place as I decided on how the characters and those before them would go from one version to the other. I also wanted to ratchet up tension by making it a very space-centric tale, along with exploration of alien flora and fauna on the spooky planet. Most of it was planned, but some of it came from the actual writing of it, yes. Or I guess the answer would be, both.
PM: Fair enough. And now we come to the end of the line with "Beluga." This is a strange bird, even by comparison to the rest of its strange flock. (These are compliments, by the way.) Again I noticed a couple of nods to the title of your collection here. Did you plant these references to "too many eyes" once you knew the title of the book, or were they there from the beginning, perhaps influencing the title? What else do we need to know about "Beluga" in particular?
PL: Okay, the funny thing about the title TOO MANY EYES is it started as an observation about my own writing and kind of a joke to rib myself. I noticed that I had developed a habit of using a trope of creatures having more eyes than normal as a kind of shorthand to convey they were capital-W Weird. It came from an honest place, as they would be disturbing to me and I noticed it working to disturb me more when watching movies or reading Weird or creature fiction by others. I was a little embarrassed when it occurred to me how often I've used it ... but then realized it made for a pretty fun, over-the-top name for a story—then it hit me I needed to call my book that. If it struck me as bold and kind of amusing in a pulpy way, others might like it too. I've received a lot of compliments on the name itself, so I feel like I made the right choice.
Oh, I think I might have also left out where the idea for TME, the novella, actually came from. It started as my idea for a short story for an anthology open call that was about cursed or strange films. The short was only going to go up to where Sylvie goes through the movie screen in the Rem, and just cut out. I was working on a few other things at the time and even before the deadline, realized I liked it as a short like that, but that idea had led to me thinking of a sequel novella that was about Siobhán (as "Shiv") having to go into a Weird-ifying multiplex and running into Sylvie who has been transported there. I even looked in my old files the other day and saw that I'd even given that continuation (the short for that book was going to be called "Build-up/Tear-down" after the process of getting old 35mm prints ready to show, then send back) a title: Multiplex of Madness
I thought that was fun and Past Patrick makes me laugh sometimes. I didn't feel like I had time to get the short done at the level it needed to be and let it sit without even submitting it. Then when the TME title and all that clicked in my mind, that older idea rushed back into my head and ... well, here we are.
As for "Beluga" ... it's definitely an odd one, yes. Strangely enough, that is easily the most personal story for me. Probably sounds like a joke but this time it's not. The funny thing is that this one could take up a page probably if I wanted to explain what I mean ... but my instinct is to say the least about this one. I will say that it was originally published with a bit of a pulled punch. I was very happy to have it in the Dark Designs charity anthology, all proceeds having gone (and I imagine still going) to Doctors Without Borders. When I wrote the story, I made one simple but major change before submitting it. The main character is named Darcy in the Shadow Work/Dark Designs version that was first published. When I decided it should be the last story in TOO MANY EYES, I changed it back to my original intention. I'll just say that my mother's name was Marcy.
PM: Patrick, I couldn't think of a more perfect note to end on. In fact, you are free to go. Thanks for sharing so much great background detail on all of these stories, and for providing the amazing poster image(s). I really appreciate that you took the time to color it in for this interview. Do you have any parting thoughts as you rub the discomfort out of your wrists, now that I've undone the straps and switched on the overheads?
PL: I'll laugh this whole thing off, just this once, because you asked interesting questions. But if you ever come near me again, Pete, I'm calling the police.
And that’s gratitude for you, folks. I welcome him into my chamber and give him the opportunity to explain himself, only to be threatened with charges. But you tell me, is this the face of a man who can be trusted:
Mr. Loveland must think so. It’s the author image he chose to use for his book. You might think it’s fitting or clever. I think it has too many eyes, myself.
Until next time, good people of the Web, keep to the dark. I’ll know if you don’t.