Saturday, September 6, 2014

Spine-Tingling Saturday and Interview #7: The Weirdness

Title: The weirdness that's happening...
Author: polarbearsfortea / David Sharrock
Posted on: January - February 2014
Location: Reddit

This story... holy crap. I wish I had something to compare it to, but I really don't. Maybe Prometheus... but not? In this story, the main character, Bára works in a remote settlement but then strange things start happening. People are missing, and who are the strange looking children(?) who have suddenly appeared from nowhere?

While it may not have as many upvotes as some, I would not hesitate in calling this one of the best series on r/nosleep and I highly recommend you read it immediately!


>How did you come to write The Weirdness? What was your inspiration?

I've always been interested in mixing reality with fiction and I was looking for a way to do this, including reader participation and exposure of certain events. I have a few hundred million ideas churning around in my head most of the time and The Weirdness drew on quite a few of those. There are obvious overtones of The Thing (which more than a few commenters picked up on) but also Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and even Blair Witch. In fact I'd say shaky-cam horror inspired me more than anything else to write The Weirdness. Hopefully the reader gets a sense almost of voyeurism; of watching over the shoulder of the protagonist as chaos ensues, feeling somewhat disconnected up to a certain point before finding themselves drawn into the heart of the story. This is what interests me at the moment, a mish-mash of true vs fake, aiming to leave the reader wondering whether they just read a work of fiction, a documentary of actual events or a mixture of the two. It may sound somewhat trite, but I also take a great deal of inspiration from one of my favourite comedians, Andy Kaufman, a guy who knew perhaps better than any other artist I know how to drag the audience into the show, kicking and screaming in some cases. Andy went so far as to offend his audience, which I try not to do, but I think there's a place for that kind of artistry: forcing commentary from your audience not only engages them but also prompts thought and speculation and it might be argued that any reaction is a positive reaction if it fires the 'little grey cells'. I've always been hugely intrigued by any piece of writing, film or comedy (of any genre) that manages to get the audience thinking.

>How long did the series take you start to finish? 

The original series took about one month. I don't tend to write drafts so the story just comes out of my head and onto paper (or screen) as is, with non-fictional details enmeshed where I can insert them. The story is ongoing and now has its own fan-run subreddit (/r/theweirdness) in which 'polarbearsfortea' posts from time to time. I intend to further expand on the details there and eventually tie in with a conclusion back on nosleep. Ultimately the end of the story relies heavily (if not entirely) upon the unfolding international situation.

>Is there any kind of message in your series that you want readers to grasp?

The Wierdness is pretty open to interpretation, which was my intention. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the comments posted to the story and, in many ways, they pushed the story in new directions. There are underlying themes, but nothing overtly political. There's more, I think, a sense that the story belongs in its own time - a time when few of us really trust our government and there's a real element of endemic paranoia. Not so much a message as a play on the current global situation, encouraging thought. I think most people recognize the roots of a conspiracy even if they publicly purport not to believe in such things. It's the essence of our time.

>If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about The Weirdness? 

No. I like the way it panned out. There's a nice mixture of real and fake. It all dovetails together perfectly in my eyes, and continues to do so!

>Why did you choose Reddit as your outlet?

I'm a long time fan of No Sleep and there's nothing like a ready and waiting readership to get a writer's juices flowing. I knew a mystery like The Weirdness would give the No Sleep audience something to get their teeth into, so it was really a no-brainer. I've written elsewhere but nowhere do you get the same kind of positive feedback as you do on No Sleep, and the same level of acceptance. The absence of cynicism in No Sleep is a real boon to the community and keeps the writing fresh and experimental.

>What’s your real-life, non-Reddit job? 

I write and I create, for want of a better term, works of art. I'm not keen on labelling myself an artist. I prefer to think of myself as entrepreneurial since my creativity methods vary and the way I earn a living is often different from one year to the next.

>Have you always loved horror? 

Goodness me, yes! I was always an avid fan of the Hammer House studio classics; Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing etc. Loved the black and white monster flicks like Night of the Demon then progressed onto American Werewolf in London, Dawn of the Dead, like that. In terms of written horror I'm more of the Clive Barker school than the Stephen King. Lovecraft is probably my biggest influence, though, and my usual fare draws heavily from the mythos. I'm not a fan of what I call 'butchered horror', which is how I feel the horror genre is currently treated, particularly by film makers. The less blood and gore and the more psychological trickery involved the better. I thought Blair Witch was enormously under-rated, a potential genre-turning moment which I feel was overlooked as nothing more than a gimmick. Seems we're currently back to the Hills Have Eyes style, which does nothing for me. True horror; horror that gets your heart pounding and your eyes bulging in your head for fear of what might happen next is the stuff that happens in the mind of the audience and not whatever visceral chaos can be splurged all over a screen or page. Fear of the unknown, I think, is still the greatest fear a horror writer can exploit. That and horror as a method for social commentary. Rare, but when it's done right it packs a punch.

> What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological) in bringing this series to life?

Without meaning to sound ignoble, hardly any. I write a lot and research routinely. The only tricky part was making the military side of the story seem realistic. I had some help from a friend who serves in special forces, but his expertise was mainly British forces and for the purpose of the story I needed to use largely American call signs and radio-chatter. I was happy to see most of the comments were positive on my use of language.

> If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Superheroes are not my forte. In fact it's one genre about which I know practically zero. I suppose I'd quite like to be invisible. Imagine the possibilities!

> If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of this series, who would play your characters?

I'd want a virgin cast of unknowns. Norwegian, preferably. I'd probably prefer the film was made by a Nordic studio then given subtitles than interpreted by the Hollywood grinding mill. Having said that, I'd love to see Anthony Hopkins play a role. Not sure which would suit him, but the man's a powerhouse.

>How have you enjoyed the reader response?

Immensely. I digested the comments on each post and, in most cases, let the readers who were most vociferous in their comments drive the story forward. In this respect The Weirdness was a successful experiment. The subreddit is also a huge compliment and I'm enjoying toying with the sanity of subscribers there. I just hope they can forgive me long enough for me to conclude the story to some kind of satisfactory ending. Their patience will be rewarded!

>Is this your first series? What other stories have you written prior (if any)?

Yes, my first on No Sleep, but by no means my first story, and I've read vast numbers of No Sleep stories. I'm 40 and I've been writing since I was 10. I used to pen sci-fi shorts and sell them to my classmates. I was tempted to submit to No Sleep and finally gave in after reading The Spire. A tremendous piece of work that sets the bar. I felt I should have a crack at that bar, though I personally feel The Spire is an unattainable precedent.

>If so, how can readers discover more about your work? 

My published book is on Amazon if anyone wants to give it a shot - just the one book so far. Transitor: It's a peculiar mixture of horror and science fiction, erring on the crunchy side of sci-fi. I've gotten very favourable reviews, but I don't put in the marketing leg work I probably should, so the readership is fairly small at present. I've been meaning to get around to securing an agent for about 15 years now. It's on the to-do list! I'll include the Amazon link below.

>What secret talents do you have?

I don't have any secrets to divulge. I have a double-jointed thumb, that's probably as interesting as it gets!

>Are you working on anything new at the moment?

Indeed and have been for two years now. I read how Tolkien invented the Middle Earth realm by developing a fantasy language first and then crafting the history of the realm around this preposition, approaching the actual story only as a concluding point in the process. So I've been doing the same, drawing on ancient Cornish and Celtic culture which is my current obsession. I'll be marketing the setting to the indy roleplaying crowd then, hopefully, writing a few novels within the setting. It's a very long term and time intensive project. I've barely had time for anything else.

>Think you’ll ever write a book? 

Already answered that one.

>As an author of horror, what is your biggest fear?

That people take their lives for granted. Sounds borderline libertarian, I know. I do see freedom as a luxury rather than a given, but one of those luxuries you can't live without. Too many of us assume it was always this way and always will be, but of course nothing could be further from the truth. Freedom is something you guard with your life, for the sake of your descendants if not yourself. My biggest fear is that I lose my freedom, in terms of my ability to express myself freely through art and written prose, my ability to live my life the way I see fit, within the boundaries of law and ethical responsibility, and my ability to protect my children from harm. Ultimately, when you become a parent, fear for the self takes a back seat and all your worries revolve around your kids. My kids are very happy, but I do fret terribly about the world they'll inherit.

>Do you read much and if so what is your favorite book?

I read all the time. I have what might politely be called an eclectic taste. I just finished the 40th anniversary edition of The Exorcist which I highly recommend. I'm halfway through Clive Barker's Abarat and before that enjoyed a bit of a Terry Pratchett marathon. Comedy is a love of mine, though you probably wouldn't know it to read my work, and Pratchett is one of the modern greats. In the absence of Douglas Adams he more than fills the void. I also have a guilty pleasure in Shakespeare.

>Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included? 

Just to mention that the fan subreddit for the Weirdness is /r/thewierdness and to give thanks for the interview. It's always a compliment to receive interest of a positive nature and very much appreciated.

You can pick up David Sharrock's book on Amazon by clicking here!