I, like most horror-types, am a big fan of The Horror Fiction Review. So I was really glad over the last few years to get to know Christine Morgan, reviewer extraordinaire for the HFR, and an incredible author and editor. Christine was kind enough to take time out of her very busy schedule (seriously - follow her on Facebook to witness the craziness in real time) to talk with us today about the HWA, Vikings, unicorns, and all kinds of other stuff. Let's briefly get to know the author and then jump right in!
About Christine Morgan
Christine Morgan spent many years working the overnight shift in a psychiatric facility, which played havoc with her sleep schedule but allowed her a lot of writing time. A lifelong reader, she also reviews, beta-reads, occasionally edits and dabbles in self-publishing. Her other interests include gaming, history, superheroes, crafts, cheesy disaster movies and training to be a crazy cat lady. She can be found online on Facebook and her blog.
SK: Thanks for being with us today, Christine! You've been involved in gaming for some time. Can you give us a rundown, maybe a nostalgia-themed list and a current list, of your favorite games and why?
CM: My pleasure, and thanks for having me! My experience with gaming started in 1981, when my mom came home and announced that some of her friends had this new game we should try. It was an odd way for anybody to be introduced to "Dungeons and Dragons" back then, especially a teenage girl, but it was great. I was soon running my own games for school friends. My first convention was OrcCon ‘83. And never mind Molly Ringwald movies; I got miniatures and paints for my sixteenth birthday.
In college, I discovered the campus gaming club and experimented with various other systems (what, it WAS college!) such as "Champions," "Villains & Vigilantes," and "Traveller." I once ran an all-female "ElfQuest" game at one of the Friday night meetings, which was quite a shocker to the guys in the club. Then "GURPS" came along, and that proved to be the system that suited me best. I still dabbled in a few others now and then – "Vampire: The Masquerade," and "TOON," for instance – but have pretty much been a "GURPS" gal ever since.
I’ve had a couple of long-running campaigns over the years, but the last of them kind of crashed and burned in a spectacular relationship-ending fashion, which left me gun-shy. Fortunately, right around then, I’d also fallen in love with the MMORPG "City of Heroes," and that helped feed my roleplaying craving. Its untimely closure was a devastating moment, and none others have yet even come close.
SK: Your bio mentions that you're a former member of the Horror Writers Association. Personally I'm interested, and I suspect a lot of my readers would be interested as well, what are the pros and cons of HWA membership? What finally made you choose to leave?
CM: I joined the HWA after my first couple of qualifying pro-rate story sales, but at the time, there just didn’t seem to be much going on with the organization that I felt I could really get involved with or benefit from. Or maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention. I don’t know. There was the message board, and that was really about all I followed. My decision to leave wasn’t even a decisive decision, more a matter of neglecting to re-up my membership and sort of drifting away. I probably should look into it again one of these days.
SK: So, as an expert on all things Vikings, how do you feel about the History Channel's "Vikings?"
CM: First off, much as I’d love to call myself an expert, I’m really more an aficionado. I love history, mythology, folklore, and culture, but it took me a lot longer than it should have to discover the Viking era was a true passion. There I was, into fantasy, into Tolkien, into pirates, but then finally I stumbled across Bernard Cornwell’s SAXON series, and a series of recorded lectures by Professor Michael D.C. Drout, and my inner Viking suddenly woke right up.
We even chose a Norwegian cruise for our family vacation a few years back and it was phenomenal … seeing the fjords, touring the ship museum in Oslo, visiting an Iron Age farm … BEING there, being able to stand there and take it all in, absorb with my mind and senses and imagination. Well, within reason. I am a total wuss and comfort-holic in real life, so being able to return to the ship for luxuries and buffets was just the best of all worlds.
That said, as far as the television show goes … enh, sadly, not much of a fan. I was excited when it first came out, but it just didn’t FEEL right to me, it seemed like it was missing something, the particular spirit of the Viking age that spoke most to me. I watched a few episodes of the first season, then a few more with the sound off just for scenery and ship porn, then stopped. I expect I’ll go back and binge-watch them all one of these days. And I am glad to see the show stirring up interest, making Vikings popular again. I’m also shameless enough to ride their coattails if that’s what it takes.
SK: How did you get involved with The Horror Fiction Review? Aside from the Warren Buffett-level compensation, what's it like working over there?
CM: Now, that, I think, is one legacy from my time in the HWA that I really can point to. I found out about The Horror Fiction Review back when it was ye olde school photocopied and stapled 8 and ½ x 11 ‘zine (I still have the back issues!). I’d been doing my own sort of rambling book reviews on my all-but-unread blog, so I kind of offered to send some their way, never really expecting anything to come of it. I seem to get into a lot of sweet gigs that way, half-joking or never really expecting anything to come of it, but I must be doing something right somewhere along the line.
So, I started sending in my reviews, and … they became kind of a hit … and then Nick Cato was asking if I had the time and inclination for some free books … I mean, HECK YES; I’ve always been a faster reader than my budget and local library could really keep up with, so this was a dream come true.
Then the dream-come-true got even better, because the next thing I knew, authors were contacting me with appreciative feedback. Edward LEE emailed me, thanking me for a review! I’d get requests! It boggled me. It still does. Boggles and humbles. Being able to go to conventions, be on panels, mention I’m a contributor to the HFR, and have authors approach me to see if I’d be interested in reviewing theirs – I met Michaelbrent Collings that way, and have absolutely loved everything I’ve read by him. Seeing blurbs from MY reviews in the “praise for” sections at the front of subsequent books is a thrill almost like an acceptance letter!
Of course, given some of the types of books I most like to read and review, it can be a little weird when a notification comes in that my review helped influence someone’s buying on Amazon … when I called Shane McKenzie’s PUS JUNKIES quite possibly the ickiest book of all time, for instance, and that convinced someone to buy it...Wrath James White’s books, Monica J. O’Rourke...I sometimes kind of feel like I should apologize for my part in any subsequent psychological damage...
SK: You've written horror, fantasy, superheroes, erotica [takes deep breath] historical and it seems like a few others. Do you have a particular favorite? And do you ever worry about spreading yourself too thin?
CM: I love it all, but yeah, the historical stuff … the Vikings for sure, and the other eras I’ve played with … ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt … the Maya and Aztec cultures … I’ve gone as far back as Mesopotamia, and further still to caveman days (I’ll try my hand at dinosaurs eventually; RAPTOR RED is one of my all-time favorite books) … Victorian, steampunk, Civil War, the Gilded Age, Old West, the World Wars … there’s so much to explore, and the challenge of story and language and character just delights me.
Speaking of challenges, another of my favorite things to do is mix and match, mash-up, cross over, and generally bring together things that might normally not ever seem a natural guess, and see if I can make it work. I ask myself, “can I” or some idea will hit out of nowhere. Lovecraftian elements are hugely fun to blend with others...I’ve done Lovecraft and Austen, various myth-meets-Mythos, Lovecraftian fairy tales, Lovecraftian smut. I’ve combined Poe and Ru Paul’s Drag Race. They gave me a special award at KillerCon one year for my Gross Out treatment of smutty Wodehouse. If it’s wrong, if it seems so, so wrong, so wrong it’s right, I want to try it.
I also love superhero universes, I think mostly because superheroes are our modern version of classical mythology. Also because, in a superhero universe, anything goes. Aliens, magic, psychic powers, high-tech … it all coexists and is simply accepted that way. Just, oh, okay, and everyone rolls with it.
I only worry about spreading myself too thin in terms of over-committing, or having too many projects going so that some fall through the cracks. There are some genres I think I’m unlikely to try my hand at (hard sci-fi, for instance), but even then, I don’t like to rule anything out. My muse, when she wants to do something, I cannot tell her no.
SK: In addition to eeeeeverything else, you've also edited numerous anthologies, including the upcoming FOSSIL LAKE: UNICORNADO. That being said, how many fonts do you own?
CM: My husband being the font-slut of the family, he got custody of most of those in the recent divorce (I got the cats). I’m a little anxious about UNICORNADO, actually, because while I have loads of experience on the editing end, I am not at all up to speed on all the layout and such. That’s going to be a scary learning curve these next few months.
The editing gigs, though, I also sort of meandered into in some roundabout ways. I put together our college gaming club’s newsletter, and the resident-written one at the first psych facility I worked at, and did one for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop for a while. I – now, this is top-secret confession time – used to write a lot of fanfiction, and became very involved in the "Gargoyles" fandom, to the point I took over a fanzine called "Avalon Mists" and did four fanfic anthologies for the conventions. We had the online "Sabledrake Magazine" for many years.
All that, and I still didn’t (and don’t!) really think of myself as an editor. Not a REAL one, not compared to the ones I’d worked with. Some of my editing gigs happened because another editor had to back out of a project, so I volunteered to help out (a couple of times, I’d already had a story accepted, which is why the upcoming GRIMM BLACK, for example, might look like double-dipping).
The FOSSIL LAKE phenomenon, though, was where I really found myself having fun. Except for sending out rejections. That part sucks no matter which end of it you’re on. I will never like that part. I mean, yes, rinky-dink small beans market and all, but people send me stories … a lot of stories, really GOOD stories, more than I can use, and I am constantly blown away by the amount of trust and talent and willingness to work even with the likes of me that these really awesome people continue to show.
SK: Well, thanks so much for being with us today, Christine. Before we part, do you have any closing words or anything you'd like to mention that we didn't cover today?
CM: More words? Like I haven’t done essays here already? Well but hey, give a mouse a cookie and all that; give me a chance to ramble and I will do it. So. Yes. Ahem.
First off – buy books. Mine, sure, yes please, ones I wrote, edited, contributed to, reviewed, whatever...I have a daughter in college and four cats to feed...but really, just, buy books. Buy books, read books, give them as gifts, tell your friends.
Secondly – enjoy, play and enjoy. Language is amazing. Writing is amazing. Creativity, imagination, characters, emotions, travels of the mind, it’s all there. It’s passion. It’s telepathy. Art and invention and language and storytelling, in all their various forms, are what we’re meant to do, what fuels and feeds the soul, what really does make us human.
And, finally – when you find your niche, your community, your place to belong and feel at home … cherish that. I’m finally getting there myself, and it is, simply, the best and warmest and most incredible sensation...to be where you’ve always been meant to be.