The fact that Shawn Proctor’s short story, “The Courier,” featured in last year’s World Unknown Review, is set in a college makes me wonder if the fates created a delay in my interviews just so that the timing would work out that it would be September’s Featured Story. Whether it was destiny or not, you should definitely settle in and read this chilling tale if you haven’t already, and then hop back over here to read this little interview digging into the author’s inspirations and very clear love for the art of writing.
So, we’ll start off with the deceptively simple: Who is Shawn Proctor?
I grew up reading science fiction, horror and fantasy, anything from Poe and Lovecraft to Asimov and Phillip K. Dick. In college, I cut my teeth on literary fiction, and now I write speculative fiction that cuts between genre and literary aesthetics.
How did you discover the World Unknown Review, and what inspired you to submit your story, “The Courier”?
I am active on Reddit and came across your call for submissions. I loved that you specifically said that it was an inclusive publication that focused on quality rather than genre.
I had this story–the second of a Lovecraftian series–close to finished and loved the idea that World Unknown Review would be a perfect home for it.
Which it definitely was! Just as last month’s story, “The Melancholy of Devotion” was inspired by the works of Mary Shelley, “The Courier” jumps right out of the lore of H.P. Lovecraft. What’s your own personal connection with Lovecraft’s work, and what inspired you to delve into that world?
I have been playing the Call of the Cthulhu roleplaying game since high school, so I have been making stories in Lovecraft’s mythology in one form or another for twenty years. In the 1990s, I interned at Weird Tales where the editor George Scithers and the slushpile taught me the perils of trying your hand at Lovecraft–and a bit of how to overcome them.
His story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” is a personal obsession of mine. The geography. The slow build from innocence to horrible knowing. I wanted to figure out what happened next while mirroring the original story’s arc.
I’ve noticed lately a lot of Lovecraft in the horror world and beyond. Why do you think it’s gained a lot of popularity these days?
He has a strong cult following, but there are very few popularly known adaptations of his work, even though he has passed into the public domain. The completeness of his vision and intensity of its horror makes it very tempting for writers.
Another thing I loved about “The Courier” was its ability to take me back so vividly to my college days. Miskatonic and Arkham are clearly fictional, but I could swear I was right back at my own alma mater. What was your own university experience like, and how much of it did you channel into this story?
In my high school and college experience, “workshop” is both a noun and a verb. And I have seen how that personal and vulnerable environment pushes artists and writers in healthy and unhealthy ways. You get a thick ski and a detachment from your work. You learn that the part of the story you love the most is the part you’ll need to cut. It’s intense! Survive years of workshops and rejection won’t hurt anymore.
But I’ve also seen writers who use workshop as a way to tear down peers in order to elevate themselves. Worse, they sabotage promising writers they perceive as threats. Hopefully not through supernatural means!
Who would play your main characters in a film version of your story?
If I could go completely alternate reality, I’d have a young David Bowie as Burton and a young Alan Rickman as Neil. Two greats that died this year and I’m sure they would chew the scenery until it was begging for mercy.
Tell us about the last book you read.
I just reread The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. There has not been a worthy successor to Douglas Adams yet. I don’t know that there ever will be.
He wrote quotable and memorable books that crush your worldview and skew it forever. And only now that I’m older do I really have an appreciation of his genius and incredible craft.
Who are your biggest writing influences and inspirations?
I love to write about superheroes, so there’s Ben Percy and Tom King who’ve picked up where George R. R. Martin‘s Wildcards books left off. Then there’s Neil Gaiman and Stephen King, of course. Phillip K. Dick, Samuel Delany, and Asimov, as well. And lastly the monumental talents of Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. LeGuin. They made original, breathtaking stories, and the unvoiced challenge is to find a way to even be mentioned in the same breath.
Just as much though, I belong to two online writing groups with up-and-coming speculative fiction writers, and they push one another to find a new level.
What’s next for Shawn Proctor?
Besides world dominance, I am working on a urban fantasy novel called “The Boundless Bronze Warrior” and a bunch of short stories. But I am very proud that my short story “Sugar” will be featured in a forthcoming Crab Orchard Review.
Where might we be able find more of your work?
My website shawnproctor.com always is updated with my newest fiction. You can also check out my twitter @shawnproctor, which is a fiction of a different sort, or Instagram shawnproctorwriterartist, which has awesome visual art, too.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you to World Unknown Review for featuring my fiction. Without wonderful publications, we writers would have a lot of stories sitting in drawers!
And a big thank you to Shawn Proctor, too, for taking those stories out of his drawers and sharing it with us, too! Please dig into “The Courier” if you haven’t already and check out the other great stories accompanying it in the World Unknown Review Volume II. And thank to Shawn for being a part of the slowly expanding WUR family!