We talk to Mack W Mani (whose poems appeared in issue forty-two) about weird fiction, loneliness and the future.
I loved the ideas behind your poems “Going Under”, “Heir” and “Belasis And Hastur”. From where did you get the inspiration for these pieces?
“Going Under” came to me late one night; I had woken up for some reason and just as I was drifting back to sleep, I wondered what it would be like if I didn’t know what I was going to wake up to. Another time? Another place? Surrounded by strangers? Immediately the question came to mind, “What if one month of cryogenic sleep were to cost less than one month’s rent?” I hastily wrote the question down on my phone and went back to sleep.
“Heir” was entirely different; I started instead with a premise. I wanted to do a poem from the perspective of a deathless entity. Something that has watched and hunted us for all of recorded history. The tone was inspired by the work of Mark Z Danielewski, at once impersonal and intelligent, as well as strangely relatable. I wanted this creature to feel both alien and human – it isn’t especially malicious or demonic, it simply does what it does, almost like a force of nature.
“Belasis And Hastur” owes its origin to Robert W Chambers’s The King In Yellow. Even the name “Hastur” is taken directly from its pages. I’m a huge fan of cosmic horror and weird fiction, especially when those genres are carried out with a sense of realism. I started with the question of how people would truly react to a new constellation appearing in the sky and this piece wrote itself from there.
Given the opportunity, would you freeze yourself so that you could see the future? Is the ability to extend our lives in this way a positive thing, or cause for alarm?
In “Going Under” the process of cryogenic freezing is used more as an analogy for stasis – staying in one place, and giving up on dreams and ambitions. The population has largely given up on the present. In reality however, I think that those who would chose to “go under” would be pioneers of a sort, blazing a trail into the future. I don’t think that many people would leave their lives behind for the unknown – I know that I have too many attachments – but I think the technology would draw the same kinds of people who sell all their belongings and backpack across the globe.
Do you notice any particular themes that seem to crop up often in your work?
Perhaps loneliness, though longing might be a better word. A desire to be seen and understood. I try to pull a thread of true human emotion through everything I write. Many of the perspectives I create look at events and people from the outside, understanding but not quite belonging.
Could you tell us a little about the other projects you’re working on? Your website mentions a stage play and also features a collection of poetry titled A Year In The Deepwood.
I’m currently working on a stage play about the effects that a series of serial murders would have on a modern city. The focus is on a group of students and teachers at a small university and how the growing fear and paranoia influences their daily lives and relationships.
A Year In The Deepwood is an ongoing poetry series that is exclusive to the website. It’s centered on an inexplicably endless forest, full of strange creatures and lost civilizations. Half of the poems are centered on an unnamed man who, as the title suggests, spends a year trapped in the forest, travelling ever deeper into the strange and frightening depths of The Deepwood. The other half focuses on legends and animals found in the forest – these pieces often intertwine and inform The Man’s journey.
I’m also putting together poems for my first chapbook, which I hope to have out by the end of the year.
Mack W Mani was born in rural Washington State. He currently lives in Portland. His work has appeared in The Pedestal Magazine and The Non-Binary Review.