By L.S. Johnson (https://traversingz.com/)
Ross E. Lockhart is a veteran of small-press publishing, having edited scores of well-regarded novels of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, and anthologies including The Book of Cthulhu, Tales of Jack the Ripper, The Children of Old Leech, Giallo Fantastique, Eternal Frankenstein, Tales from a Talking Board, and Cthulhu Fhtagn! He is the author of Chick Bassist. Lockhart lives in Petaluma, California, with his wife Jennifer, hundreds of books, and Elinor Phantom, a Shih Tzu working as his editorial assistant.
Tell us a little about your story, “Folie à Deux.”
“Folie à Deux” grew out of the desire to tell a fractured story, built from a series of found documents, by unreliable narrators. I wanted to write something that built on Lovecraft and Machen and their cosmicism and supernaturalism, but also felt like there was something rational, yet ultimately ungraspable, at its heart. And a good bit of the mythic heart of storytelling. The term folie à deux comes out of 19th century psychology and refers to a shared delusion, literally meaning the madness of two. On the one hand, the title is about Cass and Hel, the twins at the core of the story. But it also expresses a dichotomous split, the Lovecraftian notion of the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.
You know, I had a couple things for this question, but I really just want to know: what led to the decision to bring together Lovecraftian mythos and Siamese twins?
I view Lovecraft as a sort of difficult uncle. I find myself fascinated by his imagination, particularly his Dunsanian Dreamlands, even as I am aghast at the racism that so permeates his work. Having edited multiple volumes of Lovecraft-inspired horror, I wrestle with this juxtaposition quite a bit, and in this story I try to deconstruct and decontextualize Lovecraft even as I try to understand him and his work.
But the twins? There’s a lot of Violet and Daisy Hilton in Cass and Hel. I’m a big fan of Tod Browning’s film Freaks, and while their role in the movie is small, it made a big impression on me, as did their semi-biographical film Chained for Life.
What is your relationship to California, and does California influence your work?
I’m a first-generation Californian. I grew up in San Diego as a bit of a surf rat, played in punk rock bands as a teen and into my twenties, ran record stores, and slowly worked my way north. These days I publish horror fiction. California is big and grand and golden, it is people from everywhere (and nowhere) mixing together and making it work in spite of earthquakes and fires and fascism and fear. It is perseverance and perversity and perception. And ultimately it is a place where you can sit and watch the sun sink into the ocean. California is a big part of my identity, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
As writers, we constantly use our imaginations, sometimes in terrifying ways. But can you imagine a hopeful future for California? What might that future look like?
I’m not particularly a futurist. I want to be hopeful, but I am often disappointed by people who think from a point of fear rather than compassion, or those that put prejudices ahead of people. There’s a saying that where California goes, so goes the nation. We need to embrace that, to lean in to that, to lead actively and by example. And maybe then, the future will be what we need it to be.
Where can readers find more of your work?
I’m primarily an anthologist and editor. Recent anthologies include Tales from a Talking Board and Eternal Frankenstein. I’ve also got a short novel about California and rock and roll called Chick Bassist.
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