Spotlight on Jason Sizemore’s
See below for a book synopsis, author bio, and interview between L. Andrew Cooper and Jason Sizemore. For Cooper’s review of Irredeemable, see the archived post.
Irredeemable: Flowing like mists and shadows through the Appalachian Mountains come 18 tales from the mind of Jason Sizemore. Weaving together elements of Southern Gothic, science fiction, fantasy, horror, the supernatural, and much more, this diverse collection of short stories brings you an array of characters who must face accountability, responsibility, and, more ominously, retribution.
Jack Taylor readying for a macabre, terrifying night in “The Sleeping Quartet;” the Wayne brothers facing mischief gone badly awry in “Pranks;” the title character in “The Dead and Metty Crawford’ or the church congregation and their welcoming of a special visitor in “Yellow Warblers:” Irredeemable introduces you to a range of ordinary people facing extraordinary situations.
The undead, aliens, ghosts, yakuza killers, and dangers of all kinds lurk within the darkness for those who dare travel upon Irredeemable ground. Hop aboard, and this book will take you on an unforgettable ride.
About the Author:Jason Sizemore is a writer and editor who lives in Lexington, KY. He owns Apex Publications, an SF, fantasy, and horror small press, and has twice been nominated for the Hugo Award for his editing work on Apex Magazine. Stay current with his latest news and ramblings via his Twitter feed handle @apexjason, and visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jason.sizemore1.
An Interview with Jason Sizemore
June 20, 2014
L. Andrew Cooper [LAC]: Reading this collection was a different experience for me because it takes me from more familiar horror territory—although still inventive, like the delightful flash piece “Little Digits” and the nigh-hardcore body trauma of “The Dead and Metty Crawford”—into dark, breasts-and-biceps sci-fi/action territory that I know only a little from various media. How would you guide readers through the genre-blended experience you’ve crafted?
Jason Sizemore [JS]: I hope it opens readers’ eyes to the pleasures of the various sub-genres explored in the collection. One of the reasons that the stories straddle so many genre lines is that I like to read any and all genres, as long as the book is interesting and entertaining.
While the stories rest on a foundation of science fiction, fantasy, or horror (or a mix of the three), the plots for the most part are attempting to address issues we face today. Like intolerance in “Faithless.” Xenophobia in “Yellow Warblers.” The destructive nature of humanity and the legacy it leaves in “Mr. Templar.”
LAC: Being Southerners who write scary stuff inevitably associates us with Southern Gothic, a tie the intro to your book explores at length. And like Faulkner and O’Connor, we both fixate on religion quite a bit. Why do you think religion in the South is such a common topic in Gothic horror, and why does it appeal to you in particular?
JS: The South had a diverse population in the early years of our country’s history (sadly much of this diversity came through the slave trade). African and Caribbean slaves brought their myths and religions. France had a strong presence in Louisiana. Latin Americans in Texas and Florida. Appalachian folklore in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina. That’s a large pool of potential for finding frightening imagery and religious-based horror to apply to your fiction! As a kid, I attended a Southern Baptist church. [Me too! – LAC] While they weren’t snake handlers, the church believed in the ‘scare them to heaven’ doctrine. This left an indelible mark on me in my youth. I’m still purging the emotional scars from all those sermons of Gabriel and his trumpet, the lake of fire, and eternal thirst and damnation!
LAC: Speaking of that intro, author Geoffrey Girard writes, “The monstrous creations of Jason’s fiction serve a definite purpose: retribution.” Is that true? If so, what’s the relationship between retribution and justice?
JS: In the opening story, “Caspar,” one of God’s avenging angels comes to serve retribution to a very bad man on Christmas Eve. Many people in this country would argue that the protagonist didn’t deserve justice, that he received his just desert via God’s vengeance. I put this story first in the collection so that I could clonk readers over the head with the over-arching point I wanted to make regarding the nature of retribution versus justice. Who decides which one is the right action? Who decides when someone is irredeemable? What happens when an innocent person simply makes a wrong decision?
LAC: This is the hostile witness question, but I suspect you have great answers. As I mentioned before, breasts-and-biceps are a tradition, but attention lavished on women’s bodies as objects in particular might not sit well with some women readers. Similarly, readers who live outside conservative heterosexual norms might have problems with how “Faithless”—trying to avoid spoilers—takes up losing “faith in a world where God and your mother hated you for who you loved.” How would you respond to readers made uncomfortable by your approaches to these topics?
I must admit, I take slight issue with the term “breasts-and-biceps” to describe any of my work. If I use the tool of ‘objectification’ in a story, there is a compelling reason (okay, at least to me) that I’ve done so.
In the story “Hope,” we have a protagonist in the last minutes of the existence of Earth seeking someone important to her. Because of her appearance, she is harassed and attacked. Yet, she is in total command and nobody is touching her without her permission. I love the concept of strong women, and this was an attempt to explore the subject (among other things).
The sexiest story is “For the Sake of Pleasing.” It is filled with unpleasant people who try to do unpleasant things to women. I made the female protagonist empathetic and attractive because one of her motivating factors is to find these assholes and remove them from society. I consider this one my female superhero story. She staves off assholes. Saves the world from aliens.
I can tell you right now that there are scenes and plot points I would change in those two stories to lessen the objectification. The stories would probably be better for the changes. But when they were written several years ago, I wasn’t as strong a story teller. Nor did I understand gender issues as well. I’ve tried to evolve and be smarter about such matters because it is such an important issue, one I take seriously. We learn and make behavioral corrections. Life is a series of steps that way.
Regarding “Faithless,” I hope the story makes everyone uncomfortable, ESPECIALLY conservative Christians living heterosexual norms. This story was my first pro-sale, and I’ve been told by many readers it is their favorite of mine. I tried to be as unflinching as possible confronting the hypocrisy I see in those who claim to harbor ‘Christian’ values and how they treat people not meeting their definitions of normal. If you worship a God who condones the vilification and marginalization of anyone for their personal choices, then you seriously need to do some self-examination.
LAC: The collection points in many different directions, suggesting your imagination does, too. Horror, comedy, science fiction, adventure—what do you see developing most in the future, and why?
JS: As the indie film industry grows, I think you’ll see horror become more prevalent by leaps and bounds. I’m sure this will bleed over a bit to publishing. If I had to guess which will see the biggest growth, I would go with adventure…especially the grimdark fantasy adventure variety. Three words: Game of Thrones.
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