Interview with Scott Gable of Broken Eye Books

Cover art for Welcome to Miskatonic UniversityBroken Eye Books is currently running a Kickstarter for Welcome to Miskatonic University, which we mentioned last week as part of our alumni news post, and today we’re talking with Scott Gable about the anthology and more!

Dawn Vogel: Tell us a little about Broken Eye Books and what you do.

Scott Gable: I run the indie press Broken Eye Books out of Seattle. We’ve been going for eight wonderful years, publishing the odd, strange, and offbeat side of speculative fiction. We love to blend genres and blur the boundaries of science fiction, fantasy, and the weird.

Our goal is simply to publish the stories we want to read, and they’re often a little different and not easily categorized.

DV: There are a lot of books and anthologies set in the Miskatonic Valley. What made you decide to use Miskatonic University as the setting for this anthology?

SG: Miskatonic University just has so much potential for diverse storytelling. Having the university as the focal point forces a certain human component. Tales of the weird are often focused on the individual journey, on a more internal, personal struggle of dread. But with a permanent and recurring urban locale, such as MU, you get to see more of the interpersonal drama—in addition to having to clash with the unknown. You get more of the everyday worries and struggles, the friendships and celebrations, all in contrast with the cosmic weirdness always probing at the edges of reality. You have to deal with the ramifications of life in this active, changing, and cosmopolitan community that is constantly searching for the unknown and trying to uncover the secrets of the world. It’s wide open for both tales of magic and tales of weird science—and even both at the same time—of supernatural monsters, of aliens, of unsolved murder investigations, of ancient mysteries, of coming of age moments, of a giant, overstuffed library filled with only the oddest of tomes. What happens when you mix lots of people from different backgrounds together in the same place with the occult and weird science in the modern world? We wanted to find out.

DV: The Kickstarter’s funding goal is for one anthology, Welcome to Miskatonic University, but there’s a stretch goal for a second anthology, It Came from Miskatonic University. What’s the dividing line between the stories in each of the anthologies?

SG: When we started, we had asked authors to write their interpretation of this modern, strange university, and as we were devouring the slush, we noticed that there was a certain range of weird fiction: at the one end lies the “normal world” in setting and mood, upon which strange things happen, while at the other end we see that weird fiction start to blend with fantasy and science fiction (not so unlike the works of Clark Ashton Smith). This was fascinating to us and presented a great opportunity to more deeply explore weird fiction’s relationship with other genres, so we split the project into two anthologies—the first consisting of the fantastically weird and the latter of the weirdly fantastic.

The first, Welcome to Miskatonic University, represents the first half of that spectrum. These tales present our world at their core—relatively normal people in a relatively normal world—and confront it with the unknown, and we get to see what happens. They are tightly anchored to our reality, to what we now. In the second, It Came from Miskatonic University, the setting and mood shift slightly as some of the barriers to that unknown are stripped away. So either the main character (or the whole setting) already knows some of the secrets to the unknown or the protagonist is themself part of the “unknown,” being a part of that secret world—whether a Deep One trying to save her human girlfriend or a powerful sorcerer on a mission—and thereby becoming a direct window to that unknown for the reader. These are the narratives where weird fiction blends with fantasy and science fiction. When the unknown has been revealed, accepted, and possibly even incorporated into the setting, we are flitting across weird fiction’s borders with other speculative fiction. It’s almost as if you’ve been learning a thing or two during your stay at MU.

DV: The My Miskatonic stretch goal is also interesting. Tell us more about that book!

SG: We wanted to flesh out this shared setting a bit, giving the university and the town of Arkham some structure and personality separate from the stories, and also to breathe some humanity into it. So backers have the option of contributing their likeness to My Miskatonic, to be illustrated by artist Yves Tourigny, as a kind of Who’s Who of this strange valley. We’ll turn those backers into characters of the setting with their own portrait and fictionalized bio! And if we hit the stretch goals, we’ll be able to start detailing the town and university itself, creating a guidebook for of this region where the strange and mundane so freely mingle.

DV: Do you have ideas for future anthologies in the works? Will you do more Lovecraftian anthologies, or do you plan to go in a different direction?

SG: Always! So many ideas. But I think this will be our last anthology of the Cthulhu Mythos—at least for a while. This is our third in a row of the Mythos (starting with Tomorrow’s Cthulhu and then Ride the Star Wind). We’ve been able to explore this shared setting in a modern context and hopefully expand its borders a bit. We’ve got several original novellas and novels on the way. But you can be sure we’ll be back with another anthology (and accompanying open call). They have a special place in our hearts. And you can stay up to date by subscribing to our newsletter.

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