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An interview with Kim Newman

An interview with Kim Newman

by A.J. Bakkevold

What is the first genre piece you can remember watching or reading?

Kim: Watching film (The First Men in the Moon, 1964), television (‘World’s End’, the first episode of ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’, Doctor Who, 1964). Books are harder to track back – if we count comics, it was probably a Tintin album (The Shooting Star) … as for books, I knew the CS Lewis Narnia novels and Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen from very early on. The latter might have been the first book I bought for myself – though I know I’d read or had it read to me before I owned a copy (which I still have).

What was a book that truly scared as a young reader?

Kim: I was more frightened by TV shows as a child – obviously scary things with monsters (like Doctor Who) but also randomly creepy stuff (The Cat and the Canary) or moments in otherwise non-terrifying movies. I remember being so terrified by the second episode of a 1960s BBC radio serial adaptation of The War of the Worlds (not the famous Orson Welles version) that I couldn’t listen to any more … I only recently got hold of this and listened to the whole thing, and was reminded that it was the sound effects (the cylinder unscrewing, the screams of folks being heat-rayed) that got to me. There were books in the house whose covers were so scary I put off reading them for years – one was a collection of ghost stories with an illustration representing Pushkin’s The Queen of Spades on the cover.

Did the popularity of the Anno Dracula series surprise you?

Kim: A little – though I was more surprised that the series, after a hiatus, became popular again than when it was liked the first time round. I always knew that a vampire novel would have a certain appeal – but I thought when writing the first book that it was fairly arcane and obscure, and I was likely to be the only person in the world who was interested in all the subjects the series touches on. Of course, that still might be the case.

You enjoy ”playing” with different genres, and often mixing them. A good example being “Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’urbervilles.” What attracts you to these projects?

Kim: I’m interested in genre as a critic and in the boundaries of various forms – but when I set out to write something, I like to defy easy categorisation. In the case of the Moriarty book, it only became obvious to me while I was getting near to the end of it that I was exploring the relationship of two impossible, sociopathic people even more than I was inventing their wild adventures. Similarly, I often like to do books to play with a given form/genre … choose-your-own-adventure novels in Life’s Lottery, the deal-with-the-devil in The Quorum, WWI flying aces in The Bloody Red Baron. I’ve got a ghost story and a school story coming up.

What do you think of Mark Gatiss and Stephen Moffats version of Sherlock?

Kim: About a third of the episodes are brilliant, and even the ones where the mix isn’t quite right are entertaining.

What is the movie that started your passion for horror and exploitation?

Kim: Dracula (1931), the Tod Browning-Bela Lugosi film.

What do you think of that wave of horror, both in film and literature that has come from Scandinavia in the last few years?

Kim: Too early to sum up, but I liked the book and film of Let the Right One In a lot. I’ve enjoyed Men Who Hate Women, the Cold Prey films, Troll Hunter, The Killing, The Kingdom, Thale, Frostbite, Babycall, Next Door, Rare Exports and others.

Stephen Jones and you edited Horror: 100 Hundred Best Books and its sequel. How did this idea originate?

Kim: There was a series of books on this format (Science Fiction 100 Best Books, etc) and Steve and I originally planned to just write one. Then, we both separately came up with the idea (getting 100 different contributors) that made it unusual – I know that several books have copped our idea since.

And as a follow-up to that question, was it hard to get authors to do the projects?

Kim: Surprisingly not – it was tricky to come in dead on 100, which is why there are some contributions from dead authors.

You recently updated your classic “Nightmare movies Horror on Screen since the 1960s”, what has been the trajectory of horror over the last couple of decades?

Kim: A big question – and I think horror stays relevant/popular by constantly changing. My relationship with horror does the same thing.

Followup: Is horror more accepted and acceptable today?

Kim: No – if anything, it’s losing what acceptance it had. This might even be a good thing.

How do you feel about the recent controversies surrounding A Serbian film and The human centipede?

Kim: Neither were among my favourites (though I liked Human Centipede 2) and the controversies were all too familiar – a lot of fuss from folk who went by the description of the films rather than seeing them.

You have been a film reviewer since the eighties, and have stated that you have never walked out on a movie. If you could: Which movie would you have walked out on?

Kim: Moulin Rouge.

And finally, since this is a Norwegian con. Best Norwegian movie and book that have you have seen and read?

Kim: The Act of Killing – though I suspect that’s only technically a Norwegian movie. I’m ashamed to say I’ve not read enough Norwegian books to pick a best.

About Anette Lauen Borg

Anette er en ivrig kongressbesøker og generelt positivt innstilt til alt av fanniske og fantastiske aktiviteter. Medlem av diverse foreninger i samme sjanger siden slutten av 90-tallet, og stort sett kjent som Noen, som i "Noen må..."! Oppgaver i komitéen: Holde orden på det populærvitenskapelige programmet, møteplager og skribent.