Sebastian Strange lives in Ohio but hopes to someday return to New England, where there may or may not be some Elder Gods waiting impatiently to be introduced to reality. He likes dark, beautiful fiction with a touch of light, and horror with an escape hatch. His stories have appeared in Mythic Delirium and Glittership, and you can find him on Twitter as @monstrousseb.
He wrote "Handbook For The Newly Undead" in issue 2 of Vulture Bones. Below is an interview about his oddly comforting poem.
I love that on its surface, this is a guidebook for the newly undead, and that it is predicated on the idea that there would be a commonality in experiences within that. How did that idea develop for you?
In fiction, those raised from the dead, whether ghosts or zombies or something else entirely, are almost never under their own control. They’re almost always enemies, and they conveniently dissipate or crumble away after a little while. I’ve always been interested in the dead, and all their cannon-fodder cousins (monsters, clones, AIs, etc) that are not convenient. This poem first tried to exist as something called ‘when the necromancer died’, describing a more overtly fantastical situation where a bunch of zombies hung around and had to be re-introduced into society after their Dark Master perished, but they didn’t die with him. That was scrapped, although parts of it went into another poem, ‘the only difference between a nightmare and a daydream is press coverage’, and a short story still in progress.
Then, a few weeks after, the phrase ‘in your recovery’ popped into my head, and the whole poem spilled out after it. The scenario was no longer clear, but I liked the tone. What’s helped, more than anything, through my life, is simply hearing ‘This is to be expected. It’s happened to people other than you, it’s normal, here’s some things to try.’ I figured the undead and confused would like to hear it too.
This is a really hopeful piece. Can you talk a little bit about where this piece comes from?
At the time I wrote it, I’d just exited an abusive situation I’d lived in all my life, and was feeling rather like a freshly exhumed corpse that was suddenly being expected to, y’know, function and feed myself and somehow deal with my emotional issues enough not to freak out other people.
But I was also experiencing hope for one of the first times in years. I’d been repeatedly told that I’d never make it on my own, that my friendships didn’t matter, that nobody would ever want to put up with me; but I’d gotten out because friends and strangers alike had gotten together to help me pay for bus fares, had offered rooms. I was alive, and that meant I could try to move forward. I wrote a lot of poems dealing with digging yourself out of graves, with trying to figure out how to live when you’ve always thought of yourself as dead. This was one of them.
Where can people find more of your work? What’s coming next?
Most of my poetry is posted on a Tumblr blog at the moment, https://www.tumblr.com/blog/mangledmouth. Currently I’m dividing my time between my novel-in-progress, one or two short stories, and a handful of developing ideas; we’ll have to see what gets finished first! I also have a short story forthcoming with Glittership, publication date not yet determined.