A solar eclipse portends doom in a journey through frozen Antarctic seas in “The Man Who Would Sell Fear,” a historical science fiction tale by DeAnna Knippling.
Jamie Ferguson and I are in all the issues of Amazing Monster Tales and both edit, swapping tasks as time allows. Like many of the things we do together, it started out as me making a smartass comment about doing a project together, then Jamie’s eyes glazing over as she plotted how to actually carry it out, then me cackling madly as I realize that this just might work. We have another fun project in the works but it’s secret for now.
I wrote this story as a fictionalized tussle between H.P. Lovecraft and Rudyard Kipling. I studied both of them for their horror and dark fantasy work, and found that Kipling’s work resonated with me far more than Lovecraft’s did–even if Lovecraft did come up with better monsters.
You can find “The Man Who Would Sell Fear” in Amazing Monster Tales #4: Into the Briny Deep, out now!
How do you feel about the ocean? Any particular memories you’d like to share?
From the first moment I saw the ocean, I was romantically attached; it was love at first sight. I know it sounds weird but I can’t really explain the feeling otherwise. I used to go to writing workshops on the Oregon Coast and got in the habit of calling the ocean out there “my boyfriend.” Then I would say things like, “I’m going to go for a walk and visit my boyfriend,” then get embarrassed and have to explain what I meant. I live along the Gulf Coast now and it’s not the same; it’s like hanging out with my ocean boyfriend’s younger sister or something. I’m quite fond of her but it’s not the same.
What is your favorite media (stories, nonfiction, video, games, music) about the ocean?
For me, one of the most seductive aspects of the ocean is the sound of it. I’ll sometimes turn on a noise generator with ocean waves to lull me to sleep.
As for my favorite media, I feel like with visual media, there’s an emphasis on how dark and scary the water is. I get it; I’m afraid of the water when it’s presented like that to me, too. My favorite scary ocean movie is The Lighthouse (2019), although that was more about being stuck on an island than it was about the ocean.
I think songs work better to describe what the ocean is like for me. I got into sea shanties a few years ago while I was working on a ghostwriting project. Some of my favorites are “Roll the Old Chariot,” “Sally Brown,” and of course “Barrett’s Privateers.” (Here’s my favorite YouTube collection of sea shanties to get you started.)
What monster did you bring to your AMAZING MONSTER TALES story in this issue? Why?
While there’s another creature that could be considered a monster in my story, “The Man Who Would Sell Fear,” the real monster is Man—specifically, H.P. Lovecraft. I read all of Lovecraft’s fiction as a reading project a few years ago. By the time I was done I was sick of the guy as a human being, even if I really liked some of his fiction. It made me rethink what I wanted to accomplish as a horror writer.
Bonus question! Anything you’d like to share with the readers, promotional or otherwise?
“The Man Who Would Sell Fear” is also in my short story collection A Shrewdness of Swindlers: Ten Tales of the Fantastic and Falsehood in the Fabulous Roaring Twenties. These are all stories set in the 1920s or in worlds with a 1920s vibe, and all contain con artists or other types of swindlers, both amateur and professional, from Baba Yaga to a time-traveling witch to the Mafia. The stories are all tied together at a story-telling competition held for the greatest prize of all—a wish.
DeAnna Knippling grew up in South Dakota, searching for ghosts in abandoned farm buildings, piloting alien spacecraft using rusting tractors, and going on quests over creeks, through barbed-wire fences, and along overgrown dirt roads. Now she writes inventive tales that range across all of space and time. Her most recent work includes the short story collection A Shrewdness of Swindlers: Ten Tales of the Fantastic and Falsehood in the Fabulous Roaring Twenties.
You can find DeAnna at: