Discussing Graphic Literature and Nightmares with Jim and Janice Leach
Posted February 26, 2015on:
What do you get when you mix nightmares with prose poetry and then set it all to the sound of unique and unexpected typography? You get something like The Quick Shivers anthologies from The Daily Nightmare. and when they say “quick” shivers, they aren’t kidding. Every entry in the anthology is only and exactly 100 words long and based on a Nightmare that was submitted to their website. And the typography? Certainly I remember typography from my college graphic design classes, but I never knew it could be used like this. This is quite literally, graphic literature. Jim and Janice Leach of The Daily Nightmare were kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the anthology series, the genius and challenge of unique typesetting, snob horror, and more!
LRR: I absolutely adore your Quick Shivers anthologies. the writing is smart, snarky, fun and punchy, and the graphic design is just beautiful. It’s one thing to do an anthology of 100 word prose-poems, and a completely different thing to type set each entry differently and creatively. Can you tell us a little about the artistic process of putting these anthologies together?
Jim: Thank you for the kind words. The Quick Shivers anthologies are rather non-traditional, and not everyone appreciates the big concept. For instance, we’ve submitted both anthologies for consideration for the Bram Stoker Awards, but they don’t know what to do with them — they’re not poetry, not fiction, not graphic literature so there’s no category where they fit. And that’s kind of the point. We’re making something that’s intentionally interstitial.
And our other goal is to slow down the reader. I’ve had a long love affair with weird typography partially because it’s “difficult” to read. In our quickly paced society, we all rush through too much of our lives. We present the works in a way that is both expressive and helps a reader work through a piece with a bit more leisure.
Janice: But you’re not answering her question, dear. As far as artistic process, our books are a team sport, perhaps even a relay race. The writers pick the nightmare, give it their own interpretation, then we pass along our selections to the designer who works hard to make every piece unique. It’s fascinating to read the different takes on the same nightmare, to see how individualized and open-ended stories can be.
LRR: Were there any unexpected challenges involved with all the graphic design and digital typography?
(grins all around)
Jim: Yes! It’s relatively easy nowadays to publish a normal book — but where’s the fun in normal. Or easy! For instance, we publish the electronic versions in .PDF because it’s the only digital format we’ve found that can present our weird typography. And let’s just say that .PDF is not first choice for most e-readers.
Janice: For our second volume, we worked with Glenn Mielke, a graphic designer from the start, and that changed the whole process tremendously. Glenn liked our first book but we wanted him to push the design even further. We preferred his edgier drafts best, and our initial feedback was “Do more of that!” And he delivered. From what we hear from the writers involved, it was also a super cool process to see their stories presented with such creativity.
LRR: Do you have plans to do more Quick Shivers anthologies?
Jim: YES, in fact we’ve just opened up a call for submissions for TWO more volumes. One will focus on nightmares about bugs (from creepy crawlies to all kinds of diseases) The second volume will feature authors from the Midwest– because we are Midwest-proud. http://dailynightmare.com/anthology/
Janice: We’re already thinking ahead for the following year too. Our ultimate goal is to make Quick Shivers into a quarterly publication. We also have plans for a letter-press best of edition at some point.
LRR: You also run The Daily Nightmare (which is intimately involved with the Quick Shivers anthologies). What is the website all about? Can anyone submit their nightmare experience?
Jim: I have been blessed with a “rich dream life,” so to speak. I started the website originally just to record my own bad dreams. But then it became an ice-breaker at parties, “Had any good nightmares?” I heard so many fascinating stories I felt compelled to share them, too.
Janice: Nightmares are really common– almost everyone has them. What’s great fun for me is to read my “old” nightmares on the site and remember them again. It’s amazing the complicated emotions that get tied up with our dreams.
And we love to get new submissions of nightmares! Send them our way! Email your nightmares to grimgnome (at) dailynightmare.com, and we’ll send you a .pdf of our first Quick Shivers book.
The Daily Nightmare also comments on horror culture, so we review movies and books, as well as relevant Conventions, cool products, art works, performances. We even write about our “Weird Date Nights,” like making plaster casts of our faces or going on a ghost hunt in an historic theater or our bacchanal at Detroit’s Theatre Bizarre.
LRR: The Daily Nightmare also awards The Impy, a cinematic award for achievement in short horror films produced in the Midwest. How did the Impy get started? since most of these short films don’t play at the local movie theater, how do you discover the possible award winners? (youtube? film festivals? colleges?)
Jim: Short films are a great opportunity for fresh ideas and wild experiments. Many film-makers get their start making short pieces too, and that’s what we wanted to encourage, the spark of innovation whether it’s your first film or your thirtieth. So much horror is weighed down with predictability and convention. The Impy celebrates innovation and risk-taking. Really, it takes just a little effort and attention to spread encouragement, and we see that as part of our mission.
Janice: And you are so right! It’s hard to track down short independent horror films because they don’t get wide distribution. That being said, a good number of these films are available through Youtube and other online sites. A festival is the perfect venue to view independent films with an appreciative audience. Our first two Impy’s were presented in conjunction with a local horror film festival, but we’re negotiating to bring the Impy to a larger regional festival. I’m sure we’ll issue a press release when things get finalized.
Jim: And you’ve seen the Impy Award on the cover of the Quick Shivers series. It’s a gorgeous statue that we commissioned from a local artist Jeremy Haney based on Fuseli’s painting, The Nightmare.
LRR: Daily Nightmare’s tagline is “Midwest Snob Horror”. What exactly is snob horror?
Janice: Snob horror is the stuff that makes you think, not just scream. Snob horror gets under your skin and sticks with you. It has roots in Hawthorne, Poe, Hitchcock, and Shirley Jackson, so it’s also weird, or suspenseful, or gothic, or uncanny. It asks questions about why we fear, what we fear, and how we humans use fear against each other.
Jim: Janice is totally right. But for me, “snob” horror also means serious works. So much horror is silly, campy nonsense which is fun but it’s also pretty safe. It’s easy to snicker in the dark. It takes some courage to present things you truly find frightening.
LRR: For you personally, what’s the draw to reading and writing horror?
Janice: What do I like? The element of surprise, seeing the imagination at play, freedom to explore the dark side. Horror writing can explode conventions– in character and in plot. It’s a dangerous, inviting playground.
Jim: I could go all Aristotle and say “catharsis” and that wouldn’t be too far off. So many forces in today’s society use fear to manipulate us. Horror allows us to examine our reactions to fear, and perhaps make us better citizens and more authentically responsive humans.
LRR: Thanks so much! And I’ve just submitted a recent nightmare to your site. Who knows, maybe it’ll show up in a future Quick Shivers!