I’m very pleased to introduce you to Chris Kelso. This young Scottish writer and editor is blessed with a creative talent and an enormous productivity. I gasp at how much he has done at such a young age. He’s out now with a new short story collection.
I first became familiar with Chris when I reviewed an anthology he edited with Hal Duncan (Caledonia Dreamin’, Strange Fiction of Scottish Descent), a very lovely collection of weird stories. Now he’s just out with a collection of own stories, Terence, Mephisto & Viscera Eyes and he was so kind to answer a few questions from me:
What is Terence, Mephisto & Viscera Eyes about?
Terence, Mephisto & Viscera Eyes is a short story collection about love, about death, about the inner servitude of man, but ultimately it’s about transition. Usually the overarching themes in my stories involve oppression and suffering – I don’t believe human beings progress without a healthy acquaintance with those things – but there’s a new element in play with Terence, Mephisto & Viscera Eyes. In a sense my writing has matured, I’m less concerned with what’s going on in the darkness and more interested in the light at the end of the tunnel. The majority of my protagonists are young, hopelessly naive, intrinsically bound by the Slave State; they must overcome various horrors to become real people. Some of them actually make it in this book…
What inspired you to write the book?
The book is really just an accumulation of stories I’d written last year. Unlike my first collection Schadenfreude, they all came quite naturally – once I’d written the title story about a malevolent amorphous blob doubling as publishing company that absorbs its quarry (unpublished writers) – no prizes for guessing the intentions of that metaphor!
Could you tell us a little about the cover of it?
The cover is by an amazing artist called Jim Agpalza. He’s done a lot of Bizarro Pulp Press covers, I hope he continues to do them. The cover shows ‘Terence’, a man who thinks he’s a dog. Behind Terence is the nebulous entity called ‘Mephisto’. Hovering ominously above both are the bleeding viscera eyes that pop up as a recurring image throughout the book. You can check out Jim’s artwork here: http://jimagpalza.com
What is your relationship to the speculative genres?
I’ve grown up ingurgitating science fiction and fantasy, it seemed the only place worth escaping to. I remember when it all started too – my dad took me to see The Empire Strikes Back when the remastered version came out in 1997. It was the greatest thing I’d ever seen up to that point. From then on I wouldn’t watch anything that didn’t have spaceships or a futuristic setting. Eventually this led to great writers like Philip. K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Samuel Delaney and Octavia Butler. Since I was very young I’ve had a certain fascination with the eldritch and the obscure. I was never comfortable with any type of literature that didn’t provide me complete detachment, although I have since procured an appreciation for literary works of fiction.
Could you tell a little about your writing and other books?
My books, so far, have all been set in the Slave State – a place in the 4rth dimension where human’s are forced to work in enclaves mining inessential minerals at the behest of an oppressive alien society. I have quite a few books out that span this mythos: A Message from the Slave State, Moosejaw Frontier, Transmatic and The Black Dog Eats the City. Outside of the Slave State I have one rather juvenile collection of science fiction stories called Schadenfreude, which I have a kind of love/detest relationship with these days. I also have a book out that I edited with Hal Duncan (Caledonia Dreamin’, Strange Fiction of Scottish Descent) and I co-created an anti establishment magazine called Imperial Youth Review. Most recently I edited an surrealist anthology of European and US writers that included people like Brion Gyson, William Burroughs, Charles Plymell and Seb Doubinsky. I’m a busy fella.
Tell a little about yourself
I’m 26 and work as an assistant librarian in Ayrshire, Scotland. When not writing or trying to write I’ll occupy my time with various pleasures and past-times. I like drawing, playing guitar, reading and watching movies with my girlfriend. I’m also, perhaps uncharacteristically, really into football. It’s a nice departure for me, a respite from all the self-reflection and existential panic.
Thank you, Chris! Best wishes on all the projects and writing.