I’m psyched to interview Jeff Burk. He’s the author of SHATNERQUAKE, SUPER GIANT MONSTER TIME, and CRIPPLE WOLF, Head Editor of Eraserhead Press’s horror imprint Deadite Press, and enthusiastic collector of DINOSAURS ATTACK trading cards. I first met him at World Horror Con in Portland where I watched a clown staple a copy of one of his novels to his back during the annual Gross-Out Contest. Don’t let the kill-rock star antics fool you though. In conversation, he’s one of the genre’s most articulate voices and as a publisher provides a venue for those who prefer their horror fiction rare, bloody, and crawling with maggots.
Read on for the interview.
LM: Deadite Press has already done a lot during the five years since its launch, what can readers expect from you as a publisher in 2015?
JB: Other than lots of new books from Deadite authors you know and love like Brian Keene and Edward Lee, there will also be a few brand new authors having books released through Deadite. Bryan Killian will be the first new author you see in March with an awesome, intense, and violent zombie novel titled WELCOME TO NECROPOLIS.
Later in the year will be the first Deadite Press anthology – HARDCORE FUCKING HORROR. I promise the contents earn that title.
LM: In your essay, “You Sick Fuck, Or Why I Love Extreme Horror,” you talk about how hardcore horror, with its often realistic elements, scares you—which is, of course, what horror should do. Was there ever a piece of quiet horror that really got under your skin?
JB: Not really. Quiet horror just doesn’t do anything for me. I’m not sure I can even name a quiet horror story that I really enjoyed. I can get into a few quiet horror movies – the remake of THE WOMAN IN BLACK and the original THE HAUNTING stand out in my mind – but I greatly prefer horror that goes straight to the throat and doesn’t let up.
To compare it to punk music (what I mostly listen to), the type of horror I like would be equivalent to the Dead Kennedys or Leftover Crack. Most quiet horror comes across to me as Blink-182 – an attempt to water down and pander a chaotic form of art/expression to a more mainstream sensibilities.
LM: I recently read a post by Rose O’Keefe that said you thought ghosts were going to be the next big trend in horror. Did anything specific lead you to that conclusion?
JB: I believe quiet horror (which ghosts stories dominate) is going to be the main trend in the genre for the next few years. Horror is a pendulum that swings back and forth in how it expresses itself. On one side you have the more splattery, visceral stories and on the other you have the more subdued, psychological side.
For most of the past decade, torture porn and extreme horror dominated the genre. This started right after 9/11 in America with the release of HOSTEL and SAW. But now the pendulum has swung back. The SAW series was replaced by PARANORMAL ACTIVITY as the annual horror franchise and Eli Roth can’t even find a distributor for his new cannibal flick THE GREEN INFERNO. The most celebrated and praised horror film of 2014 was easily THE BABADOOK – which I found to be a rather generic and forgettable family drama with some supernatural elements.
This is far from the first time we’ve seen this change. In the eighties splatterpunk and slashers defined the genre and then in the nineties were got endless meta-teen comedies and things-that-go-bump-in-the-night ghost stories (we have SCREAM and THE SIXTH SENSE to thank for that terrible decade in the genre).
LM: In the same post, she said you were interested in seeing horror manuscripts featuring mummies. What would you like to see done with mummies that hasn’t been done before?
JB: Hahaha. That was more of an off-the-cuff remark I made to Rose while we were on a cigarette break at the Eraserhead Press office about what “topic” I would like to see someone address in a Deadite book.
The horror genre can be so varied but we get book after book and movie after movie focusing on the same topics – zombies, serial killers, rednecks, and vampires seem to completely dominate the genre. And I know that I’m guilty of assisting with that as Deadite has put out multiple books focusing on all those things.
But there are so many other cool topics and tropes that creators rarely touch. Mummies was just an off the top of my head example. But we could do with a lot more variety. Where are the mummy stories? Where are the stories about kaiju or dinosaurs or killer robots? I know there are some out there but they make up the fringe elements of the genre.
Horror has always had the problem of taking the same concepts and just doing them over and over again – just look at the found footage craze as a perfect example of this in current horror films. But horror can come from anywhere and anything. I just would like to see more creativity, imagination, and variety in the genre.
LM: I think what sets Deadite apart is that although the books are extreme, most of the titles didn’t strike me as “gore for gore’s sake.” For example, the work of Wrath James White is loaded with deeper social and philosophical messages and Edward Lee’s stuff is pretty damn funny, as well as grotesque. Am I right in this assessment or am I reading into the works too much?
JB: Thank you. That is what I try to do with Deadite. I like my horror to be filled with sex and violence but just sex and violence without a grander agenda becomes boring.
One aspect of Deadite Press that I think most readers – both fans and haters – miss is that there is an overarching political agenda with the titles. You will never find a Deadite book that promotes sexism, racism, homophobia, religion, materialistic greed, or blind patriotism. While many Deadite titles explore these themes, at the end of the book it is clear that these are the evils of the world and far worse than any fictional monster.
LM: I’m going to shift to bizarro for a bit, since you also do some work for Eraserhead Press. What’s on their publishing agenda for 2015?
JB: I know there’s a bunch of things in the works but I’m not quite sure what all I can talk about. One of the upcoming titles that I’m looking forward to is a new collection from David Agranoff titled AMAZING PUNK STORIES. It’s made up of stories from various pulp subgenres (post-apocalyptic, horror, fantasy, western, etc…) but presented with all the mohawks, steel-toed boots, and Ronald Reagan bashing that is normally missing from those types of stories.
And some guy named Carlton Mellick III has some books coming out.
LM: Why do you think the horror and bizarro communities seem to work so well together?
JB: Bizarro got its start in the horror scene because of one simple reason – horror fans are actually some of the most open minded people in the world. They fully embrace creators like John Waters, David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and others who aren’t explicitly horror but work in genre-related material. Horror fans are welcoming to anything that truly tests their senses in ways other genre fans aren’t – of course, this is all just my opinion.
LM: Anything new on the writing front for you?
I am currently trying to finish my long-awaited (by someone I’m sure) new novel, HOMOBOMB. It’s about a bomb who is attracted to other bombs instead of people and buildings. Hopefully, you’ll be seeing that sometime this year.
After that will be LORD OF THE LARPERS – a sort of rewrite of LORD OF THE FLIES but with warring groups of LARPers (live action role-players) instead of kids. A group of civil war reenactors led by Robert E. Lee will be the main villains.
I’ve also started working on my first horror novel. Its current working title is A SNUFF FILM IN A HAUNTED HOUSE. It’s about, well, you can probably figure it out from the title.
And I have a new novella in progress called MY CAT IS A CAM WHORE.
I just gotta sit down and finish writing these fuckers.
LM: Tell us a fun fact about yourself that you would like readers to know.
JB: I’ll give you three:
1: I’m banned from the Monroeville Mall (where DAWN OF THE DEAD was filmed) for shoplifting a DAWN OF THE DEAD DVD. It was the only time I ever stole anything and I got caught. I’m a terrible criminal.
2: I love playing Magic: the Gathering and chess.
3: I probably own more DINOSAURS ATTACK trading cards than any other living human being. I buy them by the case.
Thanks for stopping by, Jeff!