Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Lovecraft Fusion: An Interview with Nick Mamatas

Jeffro: Okay, first off… where are you from?

Nick Mamatas: I am from the United States. I was born in New York of Greek immigrant parents.

Jeffro: Your parents… how did they get the notion to come over this way…? Is there some kind of story to it? You know, family lore that you can share?

Nick Mamatas: My mother was in the US, visited Greece, fell in love with my father, who left his home to be with her. Another element was the US-backed junta of the colonels in Greece at the time which made life difficult for sailors who would not find accommodation with brutal cryptofascism. The joke is this: “Hmm, is there a country whose government the CIA would not overthrow? I can think of only one…”

Jeffro: Okay, that’s funny. Can I ask how you got into Lovecraft? Were you initiated into forbidden lore by an acquaintance or did you discover him on your own?

Nick Mamatas: TV! I saw the episode of the Ghostbusters cartoon about the Necronomicon and one of the characters mentioned “Lovecraft” and I found myself thinking “Hmm, that seems real. Not like the rest of this cartoon. Like that is a real man.” Later, “The Rats in the Walls” was in a school book, and then I started playing RPGs and found Call of Cthulhu, which I enjoyed, and then I started reading Lovecraft in depth.

Jeffro: How did your Call of Cthulhu sessions tend to go? Were the scenarios all about archaeologists and socialites and private investigators battling cultists and blowing up interdimensional portals with dynamite and such… or did you branch out into other ways of framing “Lovecraftian” scenarios. [Note: I have not read the modules for that game, so I am not trying to characterize them with as being any particular way.]

Nick Mamatas: They went like most CoC games go—new character creation every two weeks or so! The main scenario I liked took place in the 1920s. I played a bomb-throwing anarchist!

Jeffro: Bomb throwing. Always with the bomb throwing! Did you ever get to the point where you became more of a Lovecraft purist and maybe looked askance at what the role players have done with Lovecraft’s work…? Or are you able to compartmentalize well enough that you can just revel in blowing things up in the game as you slowly lose your sanity?

Nick Mamatas: I am happy with all sorts of détournements to Lovecraft. My own first novel combined Kerouac and Lovecraft. I’ve written a story about a post-Singularity setting called “Inky, Blinky, Pinky, Nyarlathotep.” It’s not even a matter of compartmentalization; Lovecraft’s fiction is deep enough to support a wide variety of people using it.

Jeffro: So you’re pretty open minded then. I’ve heard of people make tongue-in-cheek references to a “Derlethian Heresy”. You’re just not that sort of person…? At all…?

Nick Mamatas: Nope! I always tell people I like the top 3% of everything, and dislike the rest. So I don’t grab a science fiction novel because “Hey, it’s science fiction!” and any SF will do if I want to read something, I try to find the best out there and read that. Same with crime fiction, literary fiction, romance, music, RPGs, whatever.

Jeffro: Quite a few authors picked up Lovecraft’s oeuvre and ran with it in the years following his death. Can you recommend any of these earlier works as being in that top 3% that you’re talking about…?

Nick Mamatas: Bloch’s stories in THE OPENER OF THE WAY (of course they aren’t all Lovecraftian, but I still love “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”) Ramsey Campbell’s early Lovecraftian stories (and of course everything since then Lovecraftian or not) and occasionally Frank Belknap Long, though he is hit or miss.

Jeffro: Now what about you? How did you get the notion to write your own Lovecraft type stories…? Do you have some kind of origin story that sums up your transition from fan to creator?

Nick Mamatas: Oh, it was a mercenary decision! Lovecraftian fiction has a built-in market. So too does tertiary material about the Beats. It occurred to me when I was in a bookstore and saw collections of both Lovecraft’s and Kerouac’s letters that the authors had a few things in common—New England roots, a circle of close writer friends, cult followings among readers, anxieties over sex and the size of the universe—that they could be combined. I also thought, “Wow, if people will buy books of their letters, surely they’ll buy a novel with them in it. I can sell to all the Lovecraftians and all the Beat fans.”

As it turns out, I was wrong—such a book will also sell to the overlap in the Venn diagram: people who like Lovecraft and also like the Beats, at least initially. Since then, the book, MOVE UNDER GROUND, has remained a pretty good moneymaker for me, with a German, Greek, and forthcoming Spanish edition, two film options come (and then sadly expired), and a pretty neat life as a Kindle ebook.

Then I realized I had a knack for combination and have done Lovecraft and Raymond Carver, Lovecraft and David Foster Wallace, Lovecraft and Hunter S. Thompson (my book THE DAMNED HIGHWAY, with Brian Keene) and many other stories. Most of my Lovecraftian fiction is collected in THE NICKRONOMICON, which really explains my view of Lovecraft more than this conversation would.

Jeffro: Can you tell us if there a particular website or format that we should patronize that would put the maximum amount of money into your pocket?

Nick Mamatas: For small press material I always recommend the publisher’s own website. Even if it doesn’t help me out anymore, it helps the publisher out more, and small presses need all the help they can get.

Jeffro: Hey, thanks for dropping by and taking the time to do this. This has been really informative.

Nick Mamatas: You’re welcome!

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5 responses to “Lovecraft Fusion: An Interview with Nick Mamatas

  1. nickmamatas June 10, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    Gee Jeffro, you forgot to put in the bit where you asked if you could ask me a single question, and then just one more, before asking me this whole lot of questions (which is not an interview, btw). But thank you for linking to Innsmouth Free Press, which is full of great Lovecraftian fiction offerings. I suspect you and your regular readers would also enjoy the anthology Sword and Mythos from the same publisher. (Note: I don’t have a story in Sword and Mythos.)

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