When we were little, we listened to stories all the time. As adults, our fiction reading tends to be novel length, even though we enjoy other bite-sized texts, like blog posts or YouTube clips. There is beauty in traveling a narrative in the span of a short story, which Ken MacGregor discusses below as we learn about his new short story collection, An Aberrant Mind.
ABERRANT is defined as unusual, abnormal or different. The stories in this book not only differ from most of what you read, but also wildly from each other. A retired school teacher takes on an elder god and his minion; a werewolf picks fights with sea creatures; a neighbor’s lawn may be eating people. Twenty-two stories: scary, funny, weird and different.
In these pages, you will find darkness and fear, revulsion and terror. Mixed with it, however is quite a bit of humor. Sometimes both happen at the same time. So, open it up, join Jim as he fights off zombies with a potato cannon; witness the bloodbath reunion of the first man and his homicidal son; enjoy the monsters, the demons and the deranged.
A word of warning, though: you may never eat a bagel with lox again.
Describe the process of compiling this collection. Since the content differs wildly, how did you decide what stories you wanted to write and include?
Since my work is so diverse, I wanted my first collection to reflect that. I do write a lot of horror, mostly because I enjoy the genre, but I also write mystery, science fiction, mainstream and something that might be classified as Bizarro (though, as much as I read and enjoy weird fiction, I find it hard to define as a genre). I wanted to give my readers a good idea of what to expect when they see my name on a table of contents.
These stories are described as aberrant from each other. What holds them together? Why are they in the same book?
I think the common thread that binds the stories in this book is my particular sense of humor. Some of them are quite horrific and violent, but I think each story has something in it that will at least make readers smile if not laugh out loud.
Which story is your favorite and why?
I don’t know if I could pick a favorite. I have grown to love some of the characters and there are favorite scenes or lines within some of the pieces, but I can’t really narrow it down. I will say this: the story in An Aberrant Mind that I find the most personally disturbing is “A Lesson Learned from Archie.” That one gets me every time and I am uncomfortable with the fact that it came out of my head.
I think humor and horror are perfect companions. When I was doing sketch comedy, one of my favorite things was to build the tension in the audience as much as I could with drama and suspense and then hit ‘em with the punch line. The payoff laugh was huge and gratifying. When I’m writing something that gets my heart racing, I reflexively want to make a joke to ease off on the suspense. So, I do. I think it makes the horror more fun.
I love a good short story, but some people only stick to novels. What would you say to invite someone to try this form by reading your book?
I love novels. I enjoy going along for the ride as characters grow and meet adversity head-on. By the end of the book, I feel like we’re old friends. But, the short form is great. In a short story, the author drops the reader right into the action and ups the stakes right away. There’s a whirlwind of activity and suddenly it’s over. It’s exciting! Think of a novel as a movie and a short story as a YouTube video. Both can be wonderful sources of entertainment, but the video is something you can check out in a few minutes. So, if you’re standing in line, or waiting on hold on the phone, grab An Aberrant Mind. Read a quick story. It’s perfect for our short-attention-span world.
Let’s imagine for a second that each book is a star in the universe. What other books would be in a constellation with yours? What image might they form?
What a cool question! Ideally, my book would be surrounded by books by Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Terry Pratchett, and Gillian Flynn. But, there would also probably be some from Dr. Seuss, Piers Anthony, and Alan Moore. (I have some odd influences.) The image they would form is the Constellation Octopus. Because that’s an animal that’s weird, wildly diverse and kind of funny.
If you could, which paranormal creature would you be for a day and why?
Werewolf. Because, I’d still be alive, still be me but I’d be a badass.
Whose ghost would you summon if you had the chance and why?
Charles Dickens’s ghost. Mostly, because it would freak him out.
A couple years ago, I dressed as Ming the Merciless for a Halloween party. Oddly enough, Flash Gordon was there. You can see his hand on my shoulder, but I wasn’t going to send his picture without asking him.
What are you reading right now?
Three books: Of Devils and Deviants: An Anthology of Erotic Horror by Crowded Quarantine Press, Last Call by Tim Powers and Going Home Again by Harold Waldrop. I have a story in the first one, I am both proud and somewhat embarrassed to admit.
About the Author
Ken MacGregor’s work has appeared in over fifty anthologies, magazines and podcasts. Ken is a member of The Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers and an Affiliate member of HWA. Ken’s the kind of guy that, if he found himself stranded somewhere with you, would probably eat you to survive. Ken hopes you enjoyed the stories in this collection and that you sleep just a little less well because of them. Ken lives in Michigan with his family and two unstable cats.
Sirens Call Publications will be giving away digital copies of An Aberrant Mind by Ken MacGregor to five lucky winners! Follow the link to enter for your chance to win!