Occasionally in this crazy writing world, you stumble upon someone who is kind of a kindred spirit. That person might be younger or older, close to home or halfway around the world. Their writing styles might be similar to yours or a stark contrast. Or there might just be some kind of spark that you recognize in the person or his writing that says,
“Hey this person sees the world similarly and approaches his writing kind of like I do.”
Such a person is Erik T. Johnson. We connected about a year and a half ago because both of us had stories that had appeared in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it anthology called The Zombie Chronicles Vol. 1. Erik’s story was “The Purple Word,” about zombies and cats…but not what you think. I had one in this anthology called “Love in the Time of Zombies,” which also isn’t probably what you think it’s about. Anyway, I remember liking Erik’s story.
So a while after this antho appeared, Erik looked me up and sent me an email asking if I’d heard anything or received a contributor copy. We struck up a conversation, and we’ve been pen-palling it ever since. We recently exchanged signed copies of our books–five titles, variously engraved, from him; one book (Little Deaths) from me. I got the better deal.
Let me share some words about his work.
His story in this issue, “Labrusca Cognatus,” is a short one, but it’s filled with what I love about Erik’s work…namely his ability to turn a phrase that is so surreal and so lovely that it makes you want to go back and reread it. For example:
“My father spent his life trying to commit suicide in various unconventional ways in the belief that certain specific forms of death would lead to corresponding reincarnations. He was often unsuccessful.”
“Next he tried to be struck on the head by the last drop of rain in a thunderstorm, which he believed was the heaviest, but that last drop landed elsewhere, for he passed these events soggy but alive.”
It’s a short story with a nice jab to it.
WTF! An Anthology
Published by Pink Narcissus Press in 2011, WTF! features a cover with rat flipping you off. How can you go wrong with that? It’s a varied collection, with an emphasis on the surreal. Erik’s story, “The Red Jumpsuit Conspiracy,” is one of his stories featuring the detective Martin Box. It’s got dead professors, brownies with exactly three nuts, and yeah, red jumpsuits. He’s got several Martin Box stories and they’re, at turns, funny, weird, unsettling and filled with the most outrageous images.
This antho is more of a psychological horror collection, and Erik’s story here “The Inconsolable Key Co.,” doesn’t disappoint. (I love his titles, too. I’m very big on titles. They’re important.) This little gem lets you know that keys sometimes open the least desirable of places.
“The Ballad of the Bullet Holes” is another Martin Box story, and it’s about as surreal as a detective story can get, but again filled with Erik’s humor and his great lines. “His nails were long and dirty and his sparse hair unwashed. He reeked of bladder failure.” Or how about, “Quid lifted the body and placed it sitting upright on a chair to examine the sucker marks, which he repeatedly traced with long fingers as though playing the rims of crystal glasses.” Those kinds of lines make me smile.
This one is a Lovecraftian collection and Erik’s story, “Blumenkrank,” centers on a strange boarder in a bleak house and what goes on in his rented room. It’s very reminiscent of Jeff VanderMeer, and I mean that in an entirely great way. It’s creepy and atmospheric and extremely otherworldly.
Well, at any rate, I hope I’ve convinced you to take a look at Erik’s work. It’s fantastic, and I am a big fan. I know he’s working on some new stuff, and I can’t wait to read it!
Visit Erik here.