Peeking through the Gaps: an Interview with Victoria Dalpe

Author Victoria Dalpe (Parasite Life) will be teaching The Beautiful Grotesque: Exploring the Beauty and Monstrousness of Horror for Frequency this fall. We spoke a bit about why she chose horror, her thoughts about the genre, and her hopes for the class. (Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for space.)
 

What drew you to horror as a writer? Is it something particular to the type of stories you want to tell, to the way you want to tell stories, or something else entirely?

Pretty much as far back as I can remember, I’d been attracted to the darker things in life. My personality always had me covering my eyes then peeking through gaps in my fingers. That place is where horror lovers live.I think horror is a genre that allows you to play in the what-if scenarios: what if I were in danger, what if I had to fight my way out, what if the worst thing that I could imagine happened… how would you react? Who would you be afterward? There is a catharsis that comes after the movie ends, or the book closes when you remember you are safe. Like roller coasters or haunted houses, it’s almost like we crave being frightened in controlled environments. It helps us stay grounded I think. It’s healthy. 

This class will look specifically at the female experience of horror. Many of us are familiar with the image of the final girl in slasher films. Are there other roles, relationships, and contexts connecting women and horror that we’re less familiar with?

The final girl is super important to a certain type of horror, specifically slasher horror, and there is some wonderful film theory on her, and why she exists, like Men, Women, and Chainsaws by Carol J. Clover which came out way back in 1992. But the discussions about her are often about male viewers. The final girl is less about women’s empowerment and more about men being able to comfortably sympathize and identify with a woman character.

What my class aims to focus on is totally different. Essentially, I want to look at horror stories written by women about women. The stories I’ve chosen are themselves more domestic, more surreal, more psychological. Is the danger coming from the outside or inside the main characters themselves? The stories I’ve chosen deal with the role of the husband or male character as part of the threat. They also deal with women and their relationships to their homes and the perceived safety or threat therein. 

As an author in New England working within the weird fiction genre, how do you grapple with H. P. Lovecraft’s complicated legacy in your work and personally?

Lovecraft had some heinous views. There is no denying that. His work is oft-cited as extremely influential for its blending of genres (sci-fi, horror, fantasy, etc.) but refusal to be any one of them. He was a lover of science and did not feel his audience was owed easy resolutions at the end of his tales. He was also a racist in his personal life, which we know from his exhaustive letters.

I love the genre of weird fiction and its ability to blend with other genres and to be its own thing, I love the huge and mysterious worlds and monsters Lovecraft created in his fiction. In my own work, just by being a woman, I am bringing something different to his work. My mythos stories are about giving birth, about outsider characters encountering the fantastical, about dealing with grief and loss. Lovecraft’s work was dry, there were few women characters, his male characters had little depth, and most stories were told from a distance. So, when I write mythos, I like to bring women and emotion in. In life, he was an eccentric, frail man who held in him a lot of fear. I can appreciate the work he put out and also frame him as a flawed figure, for his time and for ours. 

Could you recommend a story, essay or poem for people who are interested in taking your class that relates to its content in some way? 

There are so many amazing women writing horror/weird fiction these days. There have also ALWAYS been women writing horror, in fact, if you consider Mary Shelley essentially invented the genre with Frankenstein. Women have always been writing and reading the scary stuff, and ghost stories especially have often been the territory of women. 

An awesome story that is disturbing and surreal, would be “The Specialist’s Hat” by Kelly Link, available to read free. Some further reading: Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House; Tananarive Due’s books are incredible and terrifying, including The Good HouseMy Soul to Keep and The Between; Joyce Carol Oates’ collection; Helen Oyeyemi’s White is For Witching; Gemma Files’ Experimental FilmAnd Her Smile Will Untether the Universe by Gwendolyn Kiste. My novel, Parasite Life, fits in as well.    

There are still seats available for The Beautiful Grotesque. Register here!

Advertisements

Fall Classes Are Here

The days get a little shorter, the air a little crisper. The quality of sunlight changes from white hot to golden everything. Come September, Autumn saunters back to New England like an unrepentant house cat returned from raising hell and settles around your ankles, cozy and crackling, all mild-mannered again. But just as the season settles in, I start to get an itch: to go back to school, to learn something new, and to gather with other people who want to do the same, to read and talk about reading, and to write. Do you ever grow out of that feeling?

I hope not.

If you’re feeling that itch, too, then you need to check out our upcoming multi-week classes and one-day workshops where you can stretch your imagination, sharpen those skills, and engage your creativity with others in our community.

A Statement Regarding NecronomiCon

To our community members:

Frequency will no longer be co-hosting NecronomiCon 2019’s opening night reading. We did not exercise due diligence before involving ourselves with this event and, having heard objections from members of our community, we agree that our participation isn’t compatible with maintaining Frequency as an accessible, welcoming, and safe writing community. We are sorry.

Sincerely,

Frequency’s Board of Directors and Staff

Frequency Receives RISCA Support

Frequency is thrilled and grateful to announce that we are a 2019 recipient of a RISCA Investment in Arts & Culture grant (IAC). Frequency Writers is proud to serve our community by advocating for adult creative writers and offering creative writing courses for writers at any point in their journey. RISCA’s continued generosity allows Frequency to continue to grow and thrive.

RISCA_ID_full.jpgFrom the bottom of our hearts and with sincere gratitude, we thank the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts for their support as well as the work they do to help keep our local arts community one of the richest and most dynamic around. 

The Rhode Island State Arts Council provides funding, technical assistance, and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations, and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders.  For more information about the work done by RISCA, or to learn more about the other recipients, visit https://risca.online/category/grants/recipients/

 

 

Walker Mettling on the Art of Everyday Life

Upcoming Intro to Comics instructor, Walker Mettling took some time out to chat with Frequency about his approach to making.
Frequency:  I see this course as a chance for students to unlock their own creativity or even their own blocks and fears and be adventurous or experimental. When you begin a class do you have an intention or a desire for your students? 
Walker Mettling:  Well, I think there are a couple of distinct parts of the class. The first half is about drawing games, getting loose, and mind-melding as a group, so folks need to be ready to be relatively open and game. And I think that sets the vibe for the rest of the class which is a more focused on the solitary brain labor of laying out pages and a story… And I kinda tailor the second half to the needs of the group. 
FW:  Can you tell us a little bit about Providence Comics Consortium?
WM:  I co-created the PCC in 2010 for a series of free comics-making workshops at the Providence Community Libraries, and the first 6 libraries produced a 200 page book called “A Guy Fighting a Monster Out of Nowhere.” It’s long out of print but you can find it at most of the libraries. Since then we’ve made tons of books, zines, trading cards and have dipped our legs into spectacle with parades, advice booths and all sorts of other kinds of stuff. A bunch of the PCC kids have grown up to be artists and own weird art businesses in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and other places. But since comics started as a printed medium, publishing has always been a big component of the project. Lately along with perpetual workshops at the libraries for kids, I’ve been hosting a sunday morning drawing project called, perhaps ill-advisedly, “Sketchbook Church.”

FW:  I really love your egalitarian approach to drawing—it really meshes with Frequency’s own ethos. Do you remember if you always advocated for this playful, inclusive approach or if it was something you had to learn as you grew as an artist and an educator?
img_1915.jpg
WM:  Thanks! Yeah, that vibe preceded art or teaching for me.
The d.i.y. “art of everyday life” philosophy is probably the main reason I’m interested in improvisation, group drawing games, and weird publishing projects and the stuff that grows out of those.

FW:  You casually dropped into one of our conversations reading comics for the blind—I am dying to hear about that and how /if it influenced your own reading or drawing of work?
WM:  WRBH 88.3 FM is a radio station in New Orleans, colloquially called “Radio for the Blind” and they read the entire Times Picayune newspaper aloud everyday, along with the television listings, serialized readings of kids books and old time radio shows at night. When I lived down there, I would tune in because I love the radio and it was so unique. For a while, I did a stint reading a few of the “Dr. Dolittle” novels that got chopped up for the afternoon kids book slot and the guy who had read the Sunday Comics Section (for years and years) got sick so I covered for him for a few weeks. And reading comic strips on the radio is maybe the only stranger experience than listening to them. You are taking comics a super-visual medium and translating it verbally into aural radio form, which is also a strangely visual medium. But most comics are sight gags and it’s like taking a standup comedian routine and explaining the jokes. I was instructed by the engineer to laugh or approximate laughter at the end of each strip to signal to the audience that the strip ended. It probably influenced me philosophically… it’s such a strange assignment.

FW:  Comics you’d recommend to our audience?
WM:  Some might not know the alt-weekly cartoonist titan turned Professor of Interdisciplinary Creativity at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Lynda Barry.
She wrote a killer memoir/writing prompt book called What It Is that was a brilliant meditation on what images are and how our brains access, store and use them.
Also, I love the book Conditions on the Ground by Kevin Hooyman. It’s a collection of monthly comics he did for a few years, of the same name, that is heavy with philosophical questions, creatures, fatherhood, and taxonomies of various things from types of whales to space vehicles.

A Big Thank You to What Cheer Writers Club

Thank you to What Cheer Writers Club for their generous gift of $1000. Frequency’s relationship with What Cheer started a year ago, when we began holding classes in their gorgeous space. Many Frequenters have been What Cheer regulars–checking out readings, networking at events, and some are podcasting (shout out to, Artclectic!) in their ridiculously cool studio.

what cheer logo

As the oldest creative writing non-profit in Providence, Frequency has been providing the affordable and inventive writing workshops for almost a decade. Currently, we are developing a new class for the common good, and What Cheer’s gift will help make that possible.

Thanks so, so much to Ann, Jodie, and Jillian for supporting Frequency and the Rhode Island /southern New England community of dedicated readers and writers!
Much love,
Rekha Rosha, Board Chair
Frequency Writers

 

Attention, Film, & A Woman Alone with Frequency teacher Victor Wildman

Long-time Frequency instructor, Victor Wildman, answered a few of our questions about  his upcoming course and using cinema to become a more attentive writer.

Victor, you’ve taught numerous classes at this point where you incorporate the study of cinema in order to stimulate student writing. This one is focused on the figure of the Solitary Woman. Do you see this course as a meditation on character, setting or both those things?Victor Wildman

“Meditation” might be the right word here in so far as it necessitates a certain openness, a withholding of judgement, a holding back, and ultimately a capacity to stand before a character, not with the mindset of an all-powerful creator, but as a witness.  It’s about learning to pay attention, to wait for things to happen, or not happen. Observing a single character in a specific cinematic setting focuses your attention in a way that allows you not only to look, but to see.

How have you noticed your courses that braid cinema with literature affect student writing?

In a number of ways. Normally, it’s been about developing certain techniques for handling material. I often have students mimic in their writing something that a film is accomplishing on a formal level. For example, for Image into Text, one of the assignments was to generate, as Bergman does in Persona, a whole piece from a selected number of individual images, and just as Bergman brings the movie projector itself into the film, to make the physical process of writing the piece an element of the text. It was also about thinking about the kinds of things that, seemingly, only film could do, and to try to do them, in a formally approximating way, in the writing. I often use film to make students more viscerally aware of form, and this often leads to writing, that while initially restricted in its means, is surprising to the reader and the writer alike. In this way students often succeed in writing something that is awake, i.e. that feelsboth necessary and real.

Is there a particular text (novel or short story) you return to again and again for its cinematic quality or cinematic attention to detail?

The novel students will be reading during the six weeks of the course, along with watching and discussing the movies and doing the writing, Carpenter’s Gothic by William Gaddis. I see this book as the perfect literary analogue to the films we will be watching in that at the center of it is a solitary female character, Elizabeth Booth, who we come to know very well, not through any dominating authorial expositional intrusions but, much more cinematically, through observation. One of the most beautiful things about the book is how intimate we become with Elizabeth Booth by paying her the respect of our attention. And Gaddis makes our comprehension of even the minutest plot points dependent on precisely this attention. Moment to moment we are forced to give it to her, for otherwise we lose the sense of the entire book.

REGISTER HERE