While Eric Williams' Toadstones is a love letter to Weird Tale, a unique genre honed in early 20th pulp magazines, the author's style is distinctively his own. The strange collection of short stories features monsters, gods, cursed relics, and... rocks! This book is bizarre, and we love it.
To learn more about the story behind the story, read A Good Book To End The Day’s interview with the author below.
Tell us a little about Toadstones.
Toadstones is my love letter to the classic weird fiction published in the pulps in the early 20th century, a time of unparalleled literary production/experimentation that resulted in this strange, amorphous genre that uses horror and fantasy to really pry apart the “natural” world and expose the uncanny weirdness lurking just beneath its surface. In the sixteen short stories in my collection, I try to capture that sense of being unmoored from reality, the disorienting sensation that you find in truly great weird stories. Sometimes the stories are scary, sometimes they’re simply but starkly odd, but each one orbits a slippery core of strangeness that you can’t quite fully grasp.
Do you have a personal favorite story from Toadstones?
I’ll always have a real soft spot for the geologically centered stories like “Seachange” and “Mudlogging,” but I guess if I had to pick one, it’d be “Doomtown,” which is the only time I’ve ever creeped myself out while writing.
What were the challenges in bringing this book to life?
Beyond having to finally confront some of my serious spelling/grammar tics, I kinda feel like I’ve been spoiled by the publisher of Toadstones, Malarkey Books. I had complete freedom to pick the stories that I wanted and put them in whatever order I wanted. They even let me name the collection Toadstones, which is not a title of a story in the collection and is, mostly, a personal in-joke for myself. On top of that, the care that went into the editing/proofreading, the typesetting, the cover design…really can’t emphasize enough how much work Alan Good at Malarkey put into this book, all while putting just as much energy into the OTHER books that Malarkey was publishing simultaneously.
What attracted you to the genre(s) you write in?
Like Poe, I think the short story is the ideal format for prose – being able to read a complete piece in a single sitting lets the writer communicate their ideas with maximum effect. And that’s doubly important in weird fiction, where the mood of the story is as important as the plot and characters, and even more fragile. Being able to explore the world by juxtaposing it with the strange and the uncanny is the idea, and there’s no better way to do it than with the weird short story. I also have a deep love of early 20th c. pulp fiction; it was a true golden age of the short story, when you could make a living (or at least pocket some walkin’ around money) by writing fiction, and therefore there were lots and lots (and lots!) or people producing huge numbers of stories, often competing with one another to push the boundaries and explore the narrative form in hopes of standing out in the crowd. Just a wild, inventive time, and one unprecedented in the history of the written word.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned about yourself while writing your book?
I started out just writing these stories to entertain myself, just weird monster stories that I found enjoyable, but as I went on, I learned that I actually have a definite and fairly obdurate idea about the aesthetics of Weirdness, both in terms of the mechanics of language as well as in an artistic and literary sense.
What does literary success look like to you?
Having a stranger contact me out of the blue just to say they really liked something I wrote. Nothin’ better in the world, honestly.
Do you have any other projects in the works at this time?
I’ve been working with Matthew Spencer, a writer and translator whose interest in weird fiction and the outré align nicely with my own, on putting together an edited volume of translated weird fiction. I’m also writing some new stories for a second collection; this one will still be pretty pulpy but centered more on crime fiction than strictly weird tales.
How can readers keep in touch with you?