This week on The Scariest Part, we welcome back Jasper Bark, whose new novel The Final Cut and novella Run to Ground, both of which form part of an ongoing story cycle, were released this summer. Here are the publisher’s descriptions:
The Final Cut
The Final Cut is a genre busting mash up of crime, horror and urban fantasy. An imaginative and thought provoking tale that explores our need to watch and make horror fiction, examining not just the medium, but the purpose of storytelling itself. Taking in everything from ancient myth, to modern atrocity, this novel will entrance, mystify and appall you in equal measures, haunting you long after you’ve reached the very last line.
In an East London lock up, two filmmakers, Jimmy and Sam, are duct taped to chairs and forced to watch a snuff film by Ashkan, a loan shark to whom they owe a lot of money. If they don’t pay up, they’ll be starring in the next one. Before the film reaches its end, Ashkan and all his men are slaughtered by unknown assailants. Only Jimmy and Sam survive the massacre, leaving them with the sole copy of the snuff film.
The filmmakers decide to build their next movie around the brutal film. While auditioning actors, they stumble upon Melissa, an enigmatic actress who seems perfect for the leading role, not least because she’s the spitting image of the snuff film’s main victim. Neither the film, nor Melissa, are entirely what they seem however. Jimmy and Sam find themselves pulled into a paranormal mystery that leads them through the shadowy streets of the city beneath the city and sees them re-enacting an ancient Mesopotamian myth cycle. As they play out the roles of long forgotten gods and goddesses, they’re drawn into the subtle web of a deadly heresy that stretches from the beginnings of civilization to the end of the world as we know it.
Run to Ground
Jim Mcleod is on the run. He’s running from his responsibilities as a father, hiding out from his pregnant girlfriend and working as a groundskeeper in a rural graveyard. He’s running from a lifetime of guilt and bad decisions, but principally he’s running from the murderous entities that have possessed the very ground at his feet.
Jim has no idea what these entities are, but they’ve done unspeakable things to everyone in the graveyard and now they’re hunting him down. There is nowhere Jim can hide, nowhere he can walk and nowhere he can run that isn’t under the lethal power of the things in the ground. If he stands any chance of survival he must uncover the link between his murderous tormentors, three mysterious graves and an ancient heresy that stretches back to the beginning of time.
Run To Ground is a tale of extreme folk horror. It opens the reader’s eyes to a terrifying new breed of gods and monsters, but be warned, within these pages you’ll find blasphemy, brutality and unbelievably depravity the likes of which you’ve never read before. Think that’s too grandiose a claim? Why not put us to the test. Go on, click the ‘Buy now’ button, we double dare you …
And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Jasper Bark:
In an advance review of my novella Run To Ground, in Mass Movement Magazine, noted music and book reviewer Jim Dodge wrote: “I’m not sure if it should be categorized as ego or genius but Jasper Bark is in the process of creating his own mythos.” In that single comment Jim summed up one of the scariest parts of my latest project. I’ve started a story cycle, beginning with the novel The Final Cut and the novella Run To Ground, which were released last month by Crystal Lake Publishing, and continuing in the novella Quiet Places, which appears next month in the anthology Great British Horror. Each tale is linked by a dark mythology that details a whole new pantheon of goddesses, gods and monsters.
As Jim rightly points out this could be considered as monumentally egotistical. Particularly when you consider that I’m following in the footsteps of genre giants like Lovecraft, Barker and Lord Dunsany. Comparisons to these writers are inevitable, and given their immense contributions to the field, it’s scary to think how my own work might stand up. It’s also worth noting that neither Lovecraft nor Dunsany was intentionally creating a mythos. The term mythos was only applied to a group of their stories years later, by other writers like August Derleth. So my efforts might be seen as doubly pretentious. As scary as this prospect was however, it wasn’t the scariest part of writing these books.
My mythos revolves around a historic blasphemy I learned of called the ‘Qu’rm Saddic Heresy’. This is an archaic set of beliefs that were considered old when the earliest records were written down. No writings by the heretics are known to exist, but we know they were persecuted as long ago as Ancient Mesopotamian times. Their beliefs and practices must have been unbelievably taboo to have been suppressed for over 5,000 years, and there’s something both scary and alluring to me, as a writer, about the heresy.
One of the things I like most about horror fiction is that is that it often touches on the theme of ‘forbidden knowledge’. Even as a small kid, the idea of learning something man was ‘never supposed to know’ fascinated me. Whether it’s Doctor Faustus summoning Mephistopheles, or Doctor Pretorius firing up the resonator in From Beyond, my favourite parts of horror fiction are those giddy moments of ecstatic revelation, when the veil of reality is torn asunder and the unknowable truths of reality are presented to the protagonist. Of course it invariable goes horribly wrong, and they pay a high price for that knowledge, but I still get an illicit thrill at the thought of it.
This may be one of the things Lovecraft was alluding to when he said: “the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”. What is more ‘unknown’ than things we haven’t learned yet, or were never supposed to know? Some of the most important discoveries, and the most essential knowledge, can only be attained by taking a flying leap across the gaping chasm of all that’s unknown and unknowable. What could be more scary than that?
Even still, that wasn’t the scariest part of writing these stories. The scariest part was allowing myself to write something I’d wanted to create since I was a child.
A while ago I cleaned a load of old notebooks out of my parent’s attic. Stolen school books I’d filled with stories, my first steps towards becoming an author. The earliest one dates back to when I was around eleven or twelve years old. It was filled with notes and story ideas for building my own mythology. From the youngest age I’ve been fascinated with mythology, from Greek and Norse tales to old Anglo-Saxon and African mythology. Most of my life, it seems, I’ve been gearing up to create my own mythology. It’s probably my longest held writing ambition.
You might be asking yourself what’s so scary about realising a life long ambition? Well, everything I guess. There’s nothing scarier than the realisation that the one thing you always hoped to do one day, is the one thing you have to do today, because you’re running out of time and you’ve run out of excuses.
For one thing, there’s the fear that what you produce, as a writer, will be so far removed from what you originally conceived, you might as well not have bothered. Nothing you write is ever as great as it appears in that white hot moment of inspiration and the longer you put it off, the more you worry you’re going to mess it up. There’s also the fear that you’re just not up to the job. That you’re never going to have the skill or the talent to make it happen. That was the scariest part of writing these stories, but it wasn’t scary enough to stop me altogether.
Because eventually I realised that unless I faced those fears, I was never going to be the writer I always wanted to be. If I didn’t try to realise my lifelong ambition then what was the point of being a writer in the first place? Yeah it scared me, but being a horror writer I should have realised that the best things I’ve ever done with my life (getting married, having kids, starting my dream project) were always the most scary. That’s why, as I’ve said before, the scariest part of writing anything is always the most important.
Jasper Bark is infectious — and there’s no known cure. If you’re reading this then you’re already at risk of contamination. The symptoms will begin to manifest any moment now. There’s nothing you can do about it. There’s no itching or unfortunate rashes, but you’ll become obsessed with his books, from the award winning collections Dead Air and Stuck on You and Other Prime Cuts, to cult novels like The Final Cut and acclaimed graphic novels such as Bloodfellas and Beyond Lovecraft. Soon you’ll want to tweet, post and blog about his work until thousands of others fall under its viral spell. We’re afraid there’s no way to avoid this, these words contain a power you are hopeless to resist. You’re already in their thrall and have been from the moment you clicked onto this page. Even now you find yourself itching to read the rest of his work. Don’t fight it, embrace the urge and wear your obsession with pride!