Robert Hood is the perfect example of my theory about horror writers, plumbers and butchers. They deal with blood, guts, shit and all kinds of nasty things in their jobs, yet they are the nicest people you’ll find. I’ve never known a bad tempered plumber or butcher, and horror writers are usually very easy to get along with as well. Rob Hood is a delight to hang out with.
Rob Hood writes frightening, disturbing stories that give me nightmares. And he knows more about monsters, zombies and giant things than anyone else I know.
“What was the spark that inspired the story “Rotting Eggplant on the Bottom Shelf of a Fridge” (originally published in Eidolon #14, vol. 4, no. 2, April 1994 and reprinted in the collection Creeping in Reptile Flesh (Altair Australia 2008 and Morrigan Books 2011).
“Rotting Eggplant on the Bottom Shelf of a Fridge” is a story that turned out to be a lot weirder and more layered than I’d anticipated when I started it – and as a result I’ve always been extraordinarily fond of it. It actually took several “sparks” to get it going, but the initial inspiration was probably my misreading of a sign. While driving along the freeway west of Sydney I noticed an official RTA notice at the exit to Penrith that read (at first glance) “Museum on Fire”. Odd, I thought, and looked again. Of course, the sign actually read “Museum of Fire” – referring to a historical and educational museum celebrating the work of firefighters. But the odd idea that a burning museum might be permanently signposted and the sense of a moment where reality had been distorted by an act of perception created not so much the narrative of the story but the ambiance of it. The plot itself arose from the title of a song by the 70s space-rock band Hawkwind. The song is “The Aubergine That Ate Rangoon” from their album Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music. When I put the sense of dislocation I’d felt and the more literal idea of a city-eating eggplant together the germ of the story was born – a tale in which the Western Suburbs of Sydney becomes even more surreal than it normally is when an ordinary couple come to believe that an eggplant left to rot in the back of their fridge is beginning to affect the environment beyond their kitchen, right into the heart of Sydney, as the buildings there (symbolically its social structure and their own sense of security) begin to decay. The third element that played into the story was that of synchronicity. Odd coincidences have always fascinated me (as they did the writer Charles Fort, who spent much of his life collecting reports of weird shit worldwide and believed that Reality was much stranger than we can possibly imagine). Coincidences and the idea of synchronicity existing between apparently unrelated objects separated in time and space also lie at the heart of “sympathetic magic”, where a conduit is established between, say, a doll and a human being. What is done to one affects the other. Another interesting idea. At any rate all these things came together to form the “spark” of the story – one that treats symbolic connotations as literal narrative elements in a way that all fantastic fiction does to a degree, but here is taken to some sort of extreme. The story has a narrative through-line but one that only makes sense if the reader sees the meaning that lies on a level beyond plot and is willing to grant an intuitive “sense” to its essential absurdity. And that to me is what we do as artists and as human beings: strive to create temporary sense out of the world’s basic senselessness.
Note that the collection Creeping in Reptile Flesh has just appeared in its second revised edition from Morrigan Books and is available for download in an e-version from Smashwords. A printed format version is to follow.”
I love Robert’s description of the mis-read sign. I have my own collection of mis-heard (“Next year, when I’m sick), and mis-read things.
Do others collect these as well?