Ashley Dioses and K.A. Opperman are a young couple making waves in the contemporary Weird Fiction scene. I recently sat down with the two for a chat via Facebook Messenger to pick their brains. Gently, of course.
Alex S. Johnson: My first question is how you two first became involved with weird fiction–who were the authors that did it for you?
Ashley Dioses: Actually Kyle got me into weird fiction. I have always been a horror and fantasy fan but I didn’t know there was a weird genre and when he first introduced me to it, I knew that I was greatly missing out.
K.A. Opperman: H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith are my two foremost influences. Lovecraft came first, and solidified my desire to become a horror writer. I think he’s had a greater impact on me than any other writer. Smith, however, first fostered my love for poetry, specifically–but that’d be a long conversation!
ASJ: Right, the complete CAS poetry collection is what, 800 bucks and five volumes or something. Where would you recommend starting with Smith’s poetry?
KAO: Haha, not that bad. It’s $75, three volumes in paperback.
AD: Hippocampus has three volumes and the third is translations he did. The Last Oblivion is where I started with CAS poetry and I was mesmerized by it. I’m just now working through the first two volumes of the rest of his poetry volumes.
KAO: Those new to CAS will want to seek out Penguin’s breakthrough volume The Dark Eidolon and Other Phantasies. The Last Oblivion (Hippocampus Press) is an excellent intro for his poetry, specifically.
ASJ: Do you think there’s a resurgence in weird fiction fandom, and if so, to what or whom do you attribute it?
KAO: There is certainly a growing interest in Weird fiction, in part due to the Internet and increased networking. The flourishing of small press publishers like Hippocampus Press, which focuses on Lovecraft and all things related, has something to do with it.
AD: I think there’s a resurgence because I believe a lot more people, even younger people like ourselves are starting to discover CAS. Possibly HPL because of how you can find references to his work through other venues such as games, movies, and other written work. By learning about HPL, you would learn about CAS, which are two great weird fiction writers right there.
KAO: There is also the stalwart efforts of luminaries like S. T. Joshi, who continue to edit excellent Weird volumes, which subsequently reach a wider and wider audience.
ASJ: you were both involved with a new documentary on CAS. Wow did that come about, and when do we see it?
KAO: Darin Coelho Spring contacted me out of the blue. He ultimately chose Ashley and I due to our relatively young ages (I’m 28), as he wanted to touch on CAS’ ability to reach successive generations.
ASJ: Why did he choose you?
AD: He had heard about us from Spectral Realms and when he found out how young we are, and poets ourselves, he wanted to touch on that type of audience. He wanted to cover that every generation finds CAS and loves him even though he’s so obscure.
KAO: He has seen (correctly) that we are fast working our way into the Weird Circles, and are students and burgeoning scholars/writers/enthusiasts of the Weird. We’ve made some great connections, and are authors ourselves. He also wanted our poetic expertise–I am primarily a poet for the nonce.
ASJ: How does one work their way into Weird Circles?
KAO: You have to be really Weird…. One must be bold, and unafraid to meet such formidable persons as populate the field–gigantic minds, scholars of the first rate, connoisseurs of the outré, savants of the first rate. And then, once you’ve befriended the right people, you have to have the skills to hang! Haha.
AD: Just people to know, I suppose. Spectral Realms was something I only knew about through other people, same with Weird Fiction Review by Centipede Press. The more people you know involved with the Weird world, the more opportunities you get, whether it’s being invited to submit somewhere or being invited to check out local places of note that involved authors or places stories took place.
ASJ: Are there initiation rites one should know about?
KAO: Blood was drawn, sacrifices were made, Cthulhu was raised for a brief time–I can say no more….
ASJ: who are some other authors of the Weird that may be more obscure to fandom but merit another look?
AD: Wilum Pugmire for sure! Ann K. Schwader is another good one, for poetry as well.
KAO: Wilum Pugmire deserves FAR more recognition. He’s a Weird Lovecraftian writer of the first rate. I also want to mention poet D. L. Myers, whose verse is somehow redolent of Lovecraft, yet somehow even more twisted in it’s sheer ghoulish energy. Adam Bolivar, too, writes some darkly strange Fairytale Weird material, and is a first rate balladier of the macabre.
ASJ: What do you make of Bizarro fiction and its being hybridized with Weird?
KAO: I think Weird and bizarro are kissing cousins…who am I to stand in the way of such amor?
AD: I actually don’t know much about Bizarro to be able to compare the two.
ASJ: I think there was a panel at Necronomicon called the Future of Weird Fiction that addressed this question, is why I’m asking.
KAO: I think there’s plenty of overlap. Some of what you find in Smith is, I think, Bizarro worthy. “Empire of the Necromancers,” for instance, and so much more….
AD: I heard of that panel but have not been able to find video of it.
ASJ: Kanye West, Reanimator is one of the titles I was thinking of.
AD: That sounds a bit too silly for my tastes.
KAO: One of Smith’s chief attributes was his vast imagination. He thought up scenarios and images almost impossible for the average person to fathom. Such is the nebulous borderland verging on the shadowed land of Bizarro….
ASJ: I’ve heard several commentators say Smith is difficult. Maybe he uses some recondite vocabulary, but his prose is clear and even gripping. thoughts?
AD: Other than his vocabulary, I don’t think Smith is difficult to read at all. I found HPL far more difficult to read than Smith.
KAO: He IS difficult–that is beyond doubt. His vocabulary is a real test even for some of the academic elite. BUT–it was all for *effect*–the sounds of words, the sonorous rhythms, the bewitchment factor. Some enchantment is too high for average person to fully grasp. And so it is sought by savants, poets, and devotees of the strange and fantastic–though even they, at times, perish on the purple paths of lamia-haunted Averoigne….
ASJ: How long have you two been writing, and what have you had published?
KAO: I’ve been writing since my early 20’s, so–6-7 years, perhaps. My crowning achievement, to date, is The Crimson Tome (out now from Hippocampus Press). It is full of rhyming, metrical poetry heavily influenced by CAS and HPL, all covering the many shades of horror and dark fantasy. Weird poetry is the technical term–the same meaning as with Weird fiction. I’ve a scattering of other publications, fiction and poetry, but none equal the release of The Crimson Tome!
AD: I started writing since I was in middle school, but I didn’t get published until the end of 2010, I believe. I was first published in the Horror Zine with two poems. It wasn’t really, until last year that I got on a roll and started getting published in more places: Spectral Realms No. 1-3 from Hippocampus Press, Weird Fiction Review from Centipede Press, Weirdbook issues 32 and 33 from Wildside Press, Xnoybis 2 from Dunhams Manor Press, Gothic Blue Book Vol 5 from Burial Day Books, and Necronomicum Issue 4 from Martian Migraine Press, among others.
KAO: Look for Ashley and me in Spectral Realms, Necronomicum: The Magazine of Weird Erotica, Weirdbook 31, Ashley in Weird Fiction Review 5, me upcoming in Nameless Magazine and Weird Fiction Review 6, and the both of us in the upcoming Gothic Bluebook. I’ll also add that I wrote an article for this month’s HWA newsletter, on my poetry and it’s Gothic elements. Oh–and we have articles in Hippocampus’ new edition of the infamous Book of Jade–mine’s on necrophilic imagery and it’s symbolic importance! Lovecraft praised The Book of Jade as a Decadent/macabre volume of unusual morbidity and merit. Personally, it is one of my top favorite books of poetry–once I have lovingly read several times.