Matt Blairstone, Terrestrial Horror & his Green Inferno
Matt Blairstone, Terrestrial Horror & his Green Inferno
By Angelique Fawns
What happens when you find a horror writer/ indie comic creator with a passion for saving the planet? You get Tenebrous Press. Matt Blairstone is launching a new anthology this summer called Green Inferno: The World Celebrates Your Demise and it will be chock full of horror stories and unique comics. Blairstone explains, “Literary Horror and Underground Comix collide in a terrifying miasma that we call Terrestrial Horror: tales of terror bound only by the constraints of our angry world.”
Blairstone has created his own pulp comic series Mad Doctors, but this is his first foray into producing a full anthology featuring international writers. I thought it would be interesting to learn more about this green (yet potentially gory) project.
AF – How did Tenebrous Press get its beginnings?
MB – When the pandemic hit, I was struck with the same sense of shellshock that everyone else was; but at the same time I felt a rumbling of BIG IDEAS. Like there was suddenly a blank canvas of potential creativity before me. A lot of my peers–in comics and otherwise–were all kinda at a loss. The distribution network of comics ground to an immediate and complete halt; there was a “pencils down” mandate across the industry, not to even speak of the psychological weight we put ourselves on by trying to muscle through a trauma when we’re clearly not at our best. Humans are bad at giving themselves a break.
Now, I’m not even “in the industry”; I’m on the fringe. The fringe of the fringe. In the animal kingdom of the comics world I’m, like, algae. But hey, algae does a lot of important things, right? It’s fuel, it’s food. And I was on the cusp, I felt. Like so many of my peers, 2020 was supposed to be my year, maaaan! I had pitches lined up for publishers, convention plans, things were gonna break one way or the other.
Cue deflated balloon. Ah, well; I definitely wasn’t alone on that front.
When we weren’t spiraling in unproductive, existential crisis mode, there were varied attempts by folks to get some on-the-fly projects going: collaborations, anthologies, left-field stuff. Some of it actually came to pass, some of it seemed to dry up as quickly as it entered the conversation. For my part, I started taking mental notes about what my contributions to a publishing & comics industry could look like. What voices would I want to be speaking for? Am I capable of doing something like this without it just being a vanity thing, or self-serving? Can I be “impartial” and try to lift other people up while simultaneously trying to make a name for myself?
As it turns out, I think I can. Mostly I think I just get turned off by playing the social media game, tired of scratching at someone else’s door in the hopes I’ll get acknowledged. There’s very little money in fiction and comics for the average creator; I can be broke and hold control of the reins at the same time with Tenebrous.
This is a super long-winded, stream of consciousness answer; how did Tenebrous get its beginnings? Because I was goddamn sick of waiting around for someone to give me validation that what I create has merit. I know it does. And I know there are legions of creators in the world with that exact same feeling. I can at least give a tiny microphone to some of them. I’m shocked at how few of them have actually pondered the concept of self-publishing, when that’s really the only world I know.
And if it’s my umbrella–if Tenebrous becomes whatever I say it does–then it can house comics, fiction, artistic experiments…hell, I’ve got wild ideas for audio soundtracks to accompany the reading material. Tenebrous Press is for the orphans of Horror, Weird and Pulp.
AF – Sounds to me like you are a very special bit of algae! I LOVE the idea of audio soundtracks as accompaniment. Tell me about your project Green Inferno?
MB – GREEN INFERNO is simultaneously the trial balloon to see if I know what the hell I’m doing, and the announcement that Tenebrous Press has arrived.
It’s a nearly-200 page anthology of eco-Horror Fiction and Comics from creators around the world, currently on Kickstarter. With nine days left (as of this writing), we are currently three-quarters funded.
If this first volume funds successfully, I anticipate doing GREEN INFERNO twice yearly, as the centerpiece for Tenebrous. I’m curious if the crowdfunding model proves sustainable for me in the long run, as I hate the carnival barker aspect of self-aggrandizing that is required to fund successfully.
That said: no one’s gonna do it for me, which brings me back to the original quandary of forging my own path in the first place.
AF – Do you have a day job?
MB – Before COVID, I split time between office management/pre-accounting for a restaurant and working at a comics shop, and squeezed my writing and comics work into the nooks and crannies.
Since COVID, my job has been child care of our toddler, as my wife’s career functions out of our home (she’s a surface pattern/custom wallpaper designer).
AF – What do you create/write yourself?
MB – I’m currently at various stages of production on a half-dozen comics projects. Some of them are being queued up for the Kickstarter route; two of them are bouncing around the indie publishers for consideration, and one had actual contracts signed before COVID squished the industry. A couple of them seem ripe for the kinds of stuff I would put out through Tenebrous, so odds are I’ll just stick with self-publishing those.
I’ve written a handful of short stories during quarantine, one of which appears in GREEN INFERNO. I’m also about 150 pages into my first novel, The Crawl, which falls somewhere on the spectrum of “Modern Gothic/Haunted House/Weird Cosmic Horror”.
My fiction definitely falls comfortably under the Horror banner; my comics work is a bit more varied and genre-blending. Comics are fun that way.
Of the ones in production and pre-production, genre-wise I think we’re looking at:
1.Body Horror/Dark Comedy/Skewering of 90’s “extreme” tropes
2.Sword & Sorcery/Body Horror
3.Sci-Fi/Intergalactic Rock n’Roll comedy (!)
4.Uber-dark Western/Cosmic Horror
5.Occult Detective/Creepy Cult
6.Currently working on a thing that touches on Satanic Panic, Heavy Metal concept albums, classic TV Horror hosts and time travel…I’ll let you know how that mess works out!
I’m a proud Pulp and genre enthusiast–I cut my teeth on Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, 70s/80s Marvel Comics and the like. As a straight white male, I have the privilege of seeing the problematic nature of so much of what came before me and doing what I can to course-correct the narratives that I love.
AF – Satanic Panic. That sounds like the best thing ever, LOL. I definitely need an update on “how that mess works out.” Any advice for submitting writers?
MB – Well, I definitely don’t care about your resume or where or if you’ve been published before. But I’ve gained a healthy respect for readability, so please please please format and proofread that thing, please! My education comes from a life consumed by the form, so I like to think I’ve got an eye for quality.
For all future publications I’ll be sure to be as specific in the guidelines as possible. I haven’t successfully extricated “Tenebrous Press” from “Matt Blairstone”, so for now if you want to know what I/we are up to, best to just hit me up on either Twitter or Instagram @MattBlairstone.
AF – What’s in the future for Tenebrous Press?
MB – Trying to strike the right balance between featuring my own projects and amplifying other folks’. I have an idea for a quarterly prose release that features four serialized stories of varying length. I’d like to publish some more novellas, particularly focusing on women Horror writers.
GREEN INFERNO twice yearly, with rotating themes that still fall under the banner of “Terrestrial Horror”.
Comics had a format called Prestige Format that was popular in the 80s and 90s but has fallen by the wayside in recent years; 48 to 64 page self-contained stories with heavier paper, richer color, and bound covers. I’d love to bring that format back, big time.
Even though I’m a book-in-hand traditionalist myself, I’m not naive to the fact that so many people read their stories on a device; in the near future I want to partner with someone who knows the tech more than I do to be able to capitalize on that marketplace. God knows I’m the closest thing to a Luddite.
I haven’t figured it out yet–it’s early still–but I want Tenebrous’ offerings to have a look, a thematic link, a mark of quality. I’m being overly ambitious, I know; let’s just get this first f*&%ing book published, right?!
If you want to learn more about The Green Inferno, go to http://www.mattblairstone.com
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