Mar 29 2010 6:21am

GGG#013: Horror! Academia! Our Deepest, Darkest Fears! (Guest: John Langan)

John Langan, author of House of Windows, joins us for our horrifying thirteenth episode! Dave and John discuss scary, scary stuff, including CNN and grammar.



0:00 Introduction by

0:38 Dave and John introduce the show

Interview: John Langan

02:10 Interview begins

02:25 Comics, Conan, and King: some of John Langan’s early influences, and how he became a writer

06:58 What scares a horror writer?

09:25 John’s return to academia and its influence on his short story “Tutorial”

14:05 Are professors allowed to read comics? For that matter, are students?

16:03 Regarding some comics that have made the cut as ‘literature’: Ghost World, Maus, The Watchmen, and more

18:19 John’s major milestones in short fiction, and how he turned to novels

21:48 About John’s new novel, House of Windows

22:49 The story-within-a-story form and why it appeals to John

25:12 How students receive a professor teaching speculative fiction

26:43 Regarding the professor’s love/hate relationship with Henry James

28:33 Feedback from readers

29:08 What’s coming up from John: “City of the Dog” appeared in the January/February issue of F&SF, and “The Shallows” is coming out in the Cthulu’s Reign anthology in April

30:49 John offers some reading recommendations

31:39 End of interview

Dave and John discuss terror, horror, and...grammar? (Okay, that’s scary too.)

31:41 Stereotypes of horror writers and comedians

35:52 What scares John and Dave? A question inspired by Temple Library Reviews

37:54 Chuck Palahniuk’s “Guts”, which apparently makes people pass out when he reads it (YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED, read at your peril!)

41:34 Terror, Horror, and the Gross-out

42:43 Upton Sinclaire’s The Jungle

43:11 Regarding Splatterpunk

44:39 John finds a horror movie that actually scares him

45:54 Urban legends that Dave found seriously creepy

47:27 In which we learn that some writers really need medication (and also, we’re glad that John is still alive)

48:52 News as horror, and how advertising uses fear to manipulate us

52:09 How news influences horror fiction

53:58 Color coding our fears, and lessons for horror writers

57:42 Dreamscape, Fallout, George R.R. Martin’s “Sandkings”, and more things that John and Dave find scary

01:02:08 Finding horror outside the usual horror context: Greg Egan’s “Learning to be Me”

01:03:35 The fine line between fiction and reality--kids, don’t do drugs!

01:08:20 From horror to grammar! Regarding Strunk and White: Geoffrey K. Pullum’s “50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice”, and when to ignore the rules

1:12:58 Show wrap-up

Next week: Holly Black, best-selling author of The Spiderwick Chronicles

Thanks for listening!

John Joseph Adams ( is an anthologist, a writer, and a geek. He is the editor of the anthologies By Blood We Live, Federations, The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Living Dead (a World Fantasy Award finalist), Seeds of Change, and Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse. He is currently assembling several other anthologies, including Brave New Worlds, The Living Dead 2, The Mad Scientistís Guide to World Domination, and The Way of the Wizard. He worked for more than eight years as an editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and is currently the fiction editor of Lightspeed Magazine, which launches in June 2010.

David Barr Kirtley ( is a writer living in New York who has been called “one of the newest and freshest voices in sf.” His short fiction appears in magazines such as Realms of Fantasy and Weird Tales, and in anthologies such as The Living Dead, New Voices in Science Fiction, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year, 2008 Edition.

Show notes compiled by podtern Christie Yant. Friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

1. KurtRoedeger
I would agree with David and John about horror writers getting their morose thoughts out on paper. I find that when I am more stressed and worn, my writing is much darker. It is also a sort of therapy to get those feelings out of me through ink on the page.
2. KurtRoedeger
Finished up the podcast and I hope to hear many more of these in the future.

Also wanted to note that I found it hilarious that the rejected writer's death threat was so poorly written that it failed to scare John. There's a touch of irony to the thought that makes me giggle.
John Joseph Adams
3. johnjosephadams
Hey Kurt,

That's funny, that never occurred to me that if perhaps the death threat was better written it would have been more effective. Too bad he didn't enclose an SASE for my response.
David Barr Kirtley
4. davidbarrkirtley
"Dear Psycho. Thanks for sending me 'Die Pig Die.' I liked the part about frying my eyeballs with a blowtorch. Unfortunately, I receive a great many death threats, and this one just didn't stand out for me, I'm afraid. The message was clear, but I never believed you were going to go through with it. Also, I guessed right away how it was going to end. (Watch your spelling -- "Eviscerate" only has one R.) That's just one opinion though -- another editor might well be more frightened. Best of luck to you with it, and I look forward to seeing your next one."
John Joseph Adams
5. johnjosephadams

That's pretty good; you really nailed the problems with that death threat. Have you considered making "Death Threats 101" part of your coursework when you teach at Alpha in the summer?
6. KurtRoedeger
P.S. for Dave's rejection letter:

"I also found your use of Strunk and White as a torture instrument unimaginative. There are many other, less out-dated books, that would have created a more visceral image."
Jordan Hamessley
7. Jordache
I once received a manuscript in slush that opened with a writer slitting her wrists in a bathtub because she had gotten a rejection letter... That was akward.
8. KurtRoedeger

Did you send a rejection letter, or a brochure for a suicide helpline? Or are you the more heartless type and just sent her a razor blade in lieu of a rejection letter? Hmm, I could see this as a CSI episode. Now I want to write the script up with the opening scene that has a writer slitting her wrists. Oh NO!! It's gone recursive!
9. J. Alberto
Careful with the Egg scam

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