“Selby never knew why, but he suddenly began to buy flowers.”
--Robert W. Chambers, The King in Yellow
“Arkham Private Investigator Arthur Lester wakes up with no memory of who he is or what has happened, only a nameless, eerie voice guiding him through the darkness.
Blind, terrified, and confused, his journey will lead him towards a series of mysteries in the hopes of understanding the truth of what has transpired.
As cosmic horrors seep into the world around, Arthur must ask himself whether this entity truly seeks to help him, or are its intentions more…
Harlan Guthrie is the multi-talented producer and voice actor at the helm of the ever-growing MALEVOLENT audio drama, the idea of interviewing him at first felt unreal. MALEVOLENT is a cosmic horror podcast in the most true and traditional sense. It is based squarely in that gritty, terrifying aesthetic that makes Lovecraft’s mythos so popular in modern media, but at the same time it brings an exciting and fresh take to the genre. The protagonists are atypical, the story evolves in unusual, genre bending ways, and the tone maintains the damp aesthetic typical to eldritch horror but without sacrificing modern sensibilities.
What follows in this interview, though, is not a discussion of the depths of depravity shown in the world of MALEVOLENT, or the intricacies of its characters, or where the story is headed next. Instead, it's a discussion of Guthrie’s origins, his creative process, and his outlook on the broader world of audio dramas. MALEVOLENT is a story best experienced blind, with no expectations for its themes, tone, or twists. So instead, THE SINISTER SCOOP is happy to present an in-depth look at Harlan Guthrie the the producer, the artist, and the creative.
Introducing: Harlan Guthrie
-To start with, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where you're from and how you got started on audio drama projects.
Yeah totally. My name is Harlan Guthrie, I live just outside of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. I got started into audio drama in a much similar way as a lot of audio drama people did. When COVID hit, I lost my job and I thought, well you know…Call of Cthuhlu was one of my favorite role playing games, and I would love to tell a story in a meaningful way and from that I spoke to my now wife and my brother and we made an “actual play podcast” which is a podcast where people play [role playing games], and that’s called “DICE SHAME.” And it was fun and it was popular and it was exciting and from there we started a patreon page, and I thought I should offer something to the patrons.
So I created a weekly horror show called MALEVOLENT, which allowed patrons to vote on ten minute episodes, and every five episodes I would edit those short patreon-only episodes into one large part and I would release that publically. But I really sort of fell into the actual editing of all of these by chance, really. I went to school for film and television production, and when that didn’t really lead to anything overwhelmingly positive I swapped to hotel management but I learned all the skills of storytelling and editing and using the software that I use now. Really I just fell into it, I feel like I got the talent from my years of role playing games, but I had the opportunity because I lost my job.
-Focusing in a little more on MALEVOLENT, you said you were a fan of the Call of Cthulhu RPG, so where did the inspiration for the story of MALEVOLENT come from?
I have a Youtube channel that we stream pretty much every Wednesday…and I had run a campaign of Call of Cthulhu five or six years ago, and I really loved the world and the setting. I just sort of admired aspects, not all obviously, but aspects, of that world. So, when I was looking to tell a story I thought, you know that would be a space that I would really enjoy playing in. It’s a world that I really enjoy…the inability to google things or the way you have to travel pretty far to get to the next city. Everything is still very much apart, and I think I was just really excited to play up in some of the investigative spaces. Like the old Sam Spade movies and stuff like that. It just got really exciting to be a detective in that world, and it felt like a really natural setting for that kind of story. I definitely wanted something investigative that felt like people could be turning over clues as they were listening, and that’s sort of where that mystery vibe comes from. A lot of the 40s movies, which I’ve always loved.
-So, in MALEVOLENT, you do a lot of the voices, and you have this really wide, dynamic range. How’d you get started with voice acting? You said you went to school for film and television production, did you do any voice or acting lessons?
I do all the voices in MALEVOLENT. Every voice you hear is, every speaking line, is me, across the board. The only exceptions are a few crying sound effects and I think there’s one voice, a canned audio that says “run,” or something like that, but other than that everyone is me. I just sort of fell into it. When you are envisioning a project and you’re the solo creator, and I really am the solo creator [laughs] across the board, I don’t need to run anything by anybody. When I’m writing a character’s voice it felt really easy to step into that role specifically, so I don’t think it was a big leap to inhabit that, as a character. It felt pretty natural to act that out, and I suppose the rest just came with time in terms of fine tuning it.
You know, I was a ham as a kid, I acted all the time, I loved making movies. I wouldn’t have ever said that I was a particularly great actor, although people now say that I’m fine which is very complimentary, and I appreciate that. I still wouldn’t professionally call myself a voice actor just yet, but it feels good to have that validation. I would say just luck, just dumb luck and practice got me to where I am.
-So, and we’ll circle back around a little bit to how you got started and how that worked out, but what I’d like to talk about first is that MALEVOLENT has an interactive side related to Patreon that a lot of Spotify or Google Podcasts listeners might not even realize is there. Talk a little bit more about that.
Basically I use two terminologies for MALEVOLENT episodes. There are “chapters,” and there are “parts.” Now, parts are what most listeners are familiar with. They’re the public releases, but they are comprised of five chapters. Chapters are released every week on our patreon feed, and they are shorter episodes, I’d say they’re about ten minutes on average, and they typically start and end with a framing device, which the patrons have called “Booth John,” [but] I have only referred to it as The Entity…basically it is a voice that sort of sets the scene and presents a choice. Arthur will be walking along the street and a coin will roll out from under the door, the patrons will have the choice to pick it up or ignore it. Sometimes the choices are mundane, sometimes they are very very important, relatively, and they vote on it. I don’t know how many patrons we have now, 200 I think are at the tier where they can vote, and they get to [laughs] debate with each other to choose what Aruthur does, and from that I write a whole new episode every week to figure out how that choice has consequences, if it has consequences, what the path forward is… Anyone who supports us for 10 dollars or more on our patreon gets to be a part of the story, and I think, with MALEVOLENT’S popularity, which is slowly growing and I’m really thankful for, a lot of people are getting excited at the prospect of being a part of some of these decisions. As much as it directly benefits me I also think it's a fun thing to be a part of.
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-Let’s talk a little bit about some of your other projects coming up. You have something coming up called INVICTUS, right?
So right now I have about five or six things that I’ve been working on, and the INVICTUS stream is the first thing that I ever did. We stream Wednesdays at eight o’ clock. Typically RPGS, [but] as of late it’s only been video games just because my wife, she’s been a little bit under the weather. So INVICTUS started it all, that’s kind of the breeding ground for our ideas. That’s where we thought, “ah we’ll make a dnd podcast, I’ll make a Call of Cthulhu sort-of adventure,” and that’s been going on for eight or nine years now. Also through INVICTUS we do all of our big events. We do a convention on Discord, we have Invictus-Con coming up actually…where our amazing moderator Ash has created all these games for people to play, that’s a really cool space. We do Extra-Life every year through INVICTUS, which is a video game charity for sick kids hospitals, it's a 24 hour gaming stream. Every year we’ve raised over a thousand dollars. I think this year we totalled at this point over $25,000 dollars cumulatively. Any big events and stuff like that we always put through INVICTUS. That’s kind of like our parent channel, as it were. I mean, it’s just me and my wife, but that’s kind of the thing that has the life blood for everything else.
Beneath that we have DICE SHAME, and DICE SHAME is our actual play podcast, which I also edit. I do sound effects on it, I play as a player, my wife is the GM and host, and I play with my brother, Alex, one of my best friends Rob Deobald, and my other best friend Alex Nursall. She is actually one of the creators of another podcast called PARKDALE HAUNT, which is a very successful podcast on Frequency, and she plays in our show as well. And then from there, was MALEVOLENT, obviously, and then I have two upcoming projects--well then I also have a show that is kind of done called, SEANCE, HIGH FALLS, which is available on a site called soundbooththeater.com. It is a eight party miniseries that I directed, I did all the sound effects for and I worked with the actors and the cast and stuff like that. I didn’t write it, but I did, kind of everything else on that, and worked with my friend Mark Harris on that, who wrote it and produced it. And then, I have an upcoming show called DEVISER, as well as an upcoming project that I’m working on with some of the people who worked on the BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. So, there’s another project that’s coming up probably this year that we’re really excited to announce, but nothing about that yet. I’m working on that with my friend and partner Alex Nursall as well, from DICE SHAME and PARKDALE HAUNT.
But yeah! DEVISER is sort of the next thing that’s coming up that is all me, it’s going to be released to the Rusty Quill Network as well. DEVISER is going to be a seven part series that’s going to release all at once on May 1st. It is a sci-fi horror that I’ve also done entirely myself, I’ve voiced all the characters, I’ve written everything. It’s definitely a companion piece to MALEVOLENT. [It’s] a completely separate world, but it fits very well into the world. It's much darker than MALEVOLENT, I will say. Much more horrific. It dabbles in the very topical subject of A.I. It sort of dabbles into all of this Mid Journey stuff, which’s been really exciting for me, and I’m really fascinated by that, so people will be able to check that out May 1st all of the episodes will be available.
-I'm not sure if you consider it a separate project or connected to MALEVOLENT, but talk a little about NINE TO MIDNIGHT.
Oh yeah! And then NINE TO MIDNIGHT, yeah, for real. That’s [laughs], that came up in a private chat that I have on Twitter with a bunch of other creators. I guess two years ago, there was sort of a joking conversation between a few of them, I know Jamie from the CELLAR LETTERS specifically and Dylon from WOE.BEGONE were kind of like “oh we should do something!” But no one was really picking up the reigns, and I’m definitely the kind of person, if my backlog is anything to show for it, where I’m like “Alright, fuck it, let’s do it,” and I organized everybody. I said, “Here’s what we’re gonna do, everyone will make seven-ten minute, short, completely written, produced, I just want them done, send them to me I’m going to write and record a framing device, I’m gonna do my own. I’ll edit them all together, create some ambience, I’ll get a setting together, and we’ll release it and just have some fun.” And this was before MALEVOLENT was part of Rusty Quill, it was before a lot of these shows that are now on Rusty Quill were on Rusty Quill, and it was kind of a way to give a bit of the limelight to some of the smaller shows, because THE TOWN WHISPERS and STORAGE PAPERS, were a part of the first one, and at that time they were much bigger shows than everyone else.
And yeah! It was…uh, fun? It was a bit of a headache chasing down these nine creators, and it was fun. And then Dylan from WOE.BEGONE reached out pretty much right after like, “Oh, are we gonna do it again?” And I was kind of like, nah…Anyone who profited off of it, that’s great, but none of that came to me, and that’s totally fine because it wasn’t really about that, but you know it’s time out of other projects. So I said maybe, and I really had to think of how to do it, because more people wanted to join as well. So then I came up with the concept, I can’t remember how, where I was like, “Well if I split it into two stories, then I could fit in a few more,” because I wanted to fit in my friends from PARKLAND HAUNT, I wanted to get in Vincent from OUT OF THE ASHES, I wanted to get in a few other people who we had missed the first time. So, I thought well shit, okay fine. If we split it into two stories then I’ll do it, and it was the same thing, I messaged everybody I said you just have to come up with a seven to ten minute story, I’ll figure out, and again I wrote the framing device, I wrote a speech for Alex Newall, who’s part of the MAGNUS ARCHIVES, because he wanted to be involved, and he kind of had this framing device of we were at this carnival and I split the story so you could listen to either in whatever order you want to, you know why not, that kind of works for the parallels of it.
And yeah it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of work. I mean it was double the work of the first time, even though I said the first time was a lot of work. And you know, would we do it again? Yeah, probably. I’ll put it this way: I love enough of those creators to want to do it again. I love enough of the smaller shows to want to promote them again…Because frankly the biggest profiter right now is probably Rusty Quill because these are all Rusty Quill shows I think I would probably have them take a bigger role in doing some stuff on it, just because it’s me spending time out of what I’m working on to work on this that helps everyone is really nice, but it also, at this point in my career it’s a bit of this or that. “Oh do I lose out on paying work to do something complimentary,” and I’m definitely nowhere near willing to sacrifice dinner with my family to do another at this point, because it becomes really difficult. But I love it, and I love the people who do it and I think it was a lot of fun. And I’ve seen other shows kind of take heed. There was a new thing called KILL.FM, which is doing a similar thing. I’ve seen it compared multiple times to NINE TO MIDNIGHT, and that’s awesome, because at the end of the day, if smaller shows are getting more recognition, I think that’s really exciting. And they deserve it, so yeah, I loved doing it, would do it again if I had the time.
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-One thing I’d like to get your opinion on is where audio dramas intersect with more traditional prose fiction, like short stories, novels, that sort of thing. Do you see works like MALEVOLENT as part of that space, or more part of the scripted fiction space of plays and tv shows and things like that?
Yeah, that’s a good question. I have a very personal opinion on this. I love and respect a lot of the shows out there, and I think they’re fantastic. But I do think the word audio drama has been a little bit co-opted, if that’s the right word. Because there’s a lot of narrative fiction podcasts that I think are fantastic, but I do think that there’s a side-step to a show that is actually an audio drama, and a show where you have someone on the mic telling you what’s going on. To me that leans more towards an audiobook, and I do love those for their own reason, but I do kind of wish we had clearer distinctions between a narrated fiction podcast and an audio drama. But to me, an audio drama is more or less without a narrator. I mean you could have voice over in an audio drama, but if it's used throughout then you’re really just describing what’s happening. And if you’re just describing what’s happening, it’s almost more of just an enhanced audiobook, which becomes a fiction podcast. And none of this is to say disparagingly whatsoever, I think it’s just more along the lines of clarification.
When it comes to MALEVOLENT, I would strongly put it into audio drama, because there’s not long passages of description. Now, I think MALEVOLENT is kind of a clever use of it. I kind of get away with narrating it, but I’m still using a character. So I’m guilty of walking that line, absolutely. Even with DEVISER, my next project, that is straight up an audio drama. There’s no narrator role hidden in there. I mean there’s a little bit of hiding in there, but no different than any other audio drama. SEANCE HIGH FALLS, straight audio drama, you know, there’s no narrator whatsoever. It’s told through sound effects, and, frankly, I really appreciate a clarification of those distinctions, and I hope, sort of as podcasts get more popular, I hope it becomes clearer.
Because I think it can turn some people off. Not because anything is bad, but just because the expectation is there…They turn on what they believe is an audio drama, they hear someone talking to them and describing what’s going on, and they're like, “Oh, well I’m not into audio dramas.” But it's like, no, that's not actually an audio drama…Like, SANDMAN [SANDMAN AUDIBLE ORIGINAL] is a graphic novel, it requires narration, it is enhanced, that’s amazing. I think those are really, really cool, but I do think, and maybe I’m wrong with the terms if someone came down and said, “no these are the actual terms,” I’m sure those would be them, but I view the projects I enjoy to work on and the projects I personally enjoy are definitely strongly in the script-writing, audio drama field. I just find them so much more rewarding, so much more immersive, and also I just think they’re more difficult to write. And I respect the hell out of creatives, if you can tell a story and not have a narrator whatsoever. You know, even in film school they would teach you that voice over can be a crutch if it’s not used correctly at times. And I really enjoy finding audio dramas that tell me how the character’s feeling without someone just saying, “The character was angry,” you know? It makes everything a little more difficult, and thus more rewarding.
-What drew you, and you kind of just answered this, but what drew you to audio dramas in the first place? Was it just this more challenging, kind of interactive system?
No, you know I think one doesn’t answer the other, but it definitely influences the other. Because I do think I heard what I would call fiction podcasts and thought, “Oh man you could push it so much further.” And I think what I really felt excited about was telling immersive stories, hearing the footsteps. There are audio dramas where someone will walk through a door and it's “step step step, door, step step step,” but that’s not how you walk through a door. You step step step, you open the door, take a step back, you maybe take a step forward, you shut the door, and then you step step step. And, I guess, when hearing that I was kind of like, “Oh, I don’t feel like I’m there,” and even though it’s such a minor issue I kind of enjoyed the challenge of moving into that space and trying to be more thoughtful about those things. And I think we’re kind of in a bit of a renaissance with audio dramas, because I know even my friends and myself we’re trying to push the boundaries of where a camera, which is where the lens of what we’re listening to, is coming from. I think people are being more creative with that, I think I’m being more creative with that, and you look at the golden age of cinema, and there was a time where: “here’s how a movie is shot.” Set up a camera, here are the actors, and that’s it. And then years and years went by, and we’re talking years and years, and people started to get creative with it, and were like, “Cool, you know, I’m going to make a movie that’s totally in color. Now I’m going to make a movie that’s totally at the back of someone’s head, now I’m going to make a movie that’s told backwards.”
And I think now that we’re establishing these things, now that pillars have been built from shows before us, we are allowed, as those that came after, to be more frivolous and to take more risks…You know, that first podcast needed to exist to press that button, and to say, “I’m recording right now on a tape,” but once that’s established future shows don’t need to do that anymore. I can start a found footage podcast tomorrow and just, not even have a click, just, “This is Harlan Guthrie and I’m sitting here--” and we know, we get it, he’s recording himself. Because those forefathers and foremothers or whoever, those who came before did those quote-unquote tropes so we don’t have to do them anymore, but what that leaves is the experience that the listener has gotten, the more understanding that the listener has gathered from listening to previous shows. There’s more trust. They're like, “cool, I don’t need to know that you’re pressing record every time. I don’t need that beep sound anymore.” Shows who do a beep sound with the recording anymore, I kind of laugh, because, not because they're wrong, but because I don’t think I realized yet that like, nah, you’re good now. You don’t need to.
In a film way, BLAIR WITCH PROJECT came out and it’s all justified. You know, here’s why we’re recording, but a lot of found footage nowadays that’s clever. They don’t worry much about that, because we’re in for the ride. I mean, DISTRICT 9 moves from a camera position 20 minutes in the movie and just switches to a third party camera. It doesn’t justify it, it doesn’t say, “here’s the reason,” it’s just like, that’s not the story we’re telling anymore, and most people didn’t care about…because I know why he used the found footage and I know why now he’s switching to third person.
--Yeah, I mean even ARCHIVE 81 started out very much as that press click-record, it had way abandoned that by the end of it. It seems like everything is going that way.
Well that’s it, and because these monumental shows are still in everyone’s lexicon, I think…Some creatives now might feel, erroneously, that they need to do that in episode one and then they can phase it out, but I don’t even think they need to do that. I think we can get away with so much more because of those kinds of things.
-So kind of broadening out, who do you see as your biggest creative influences? I mean, do you have a lot of writers that have inspired you?
[LONG PAUSE] Oh man I don’t know. I’m not a good writer or creative in that way…I get influenced by things, but I would say that’s more inspired. And that’s not meant to be complementary to me because I hate me, but what I mean to say is that I’ll read a book and be like, “Oh that’s cool, I want to do something like that.” I mean…I don’t think I’ve listened to someone and been like, “Oh man, I’m inspired by that,” and I don’t even think I’ve been inspired by someone’s audio experience, but what does inspire me is someone’s creativity and I think maybe even a finer point--someone’s drive and ethic. I think that’s what inspires me. There’s a creator, a filmmaker named Jim Cummings, and he made a movie called THUNDER ROAD and he made a film called THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW. Here’s a guy, and both the movies are great, are they my favorite movies? No, I definitely loved WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW. It was probably my favorite horror movie of 2020 whenever it came out, THUNDER ROAD was great. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite movie, but here’s a guy who wrote, directed, acted, and then at the end of THUNDER ROAD we’re watching the credits [and he] played the mandolin, made the music, played the piano, played the guitar in the music as well. And you know people like that definitely inspire me.
Those are the kind of people that make me go, “Oh fuck yeah, dude,” like yeah, get it, you can do all of it, and that’s what I do with MALEVOLENT. I write, I record, I edit, I do the sound effects, I do the music, well not all the music, the main three themes of music and few other secondary themes. In DICE SHAME I’ve done all the music for season two, and that, to me, it’s definitely an ego thing. It definitely feels good, getting to say that it’s all me, but in terms of subject matter I would never make a movie like THUNDER ROAD and I probably successfully be able to make anything similar to WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW, because it’s awesome. But I am inspired by him as a person, so yeah, I suppose that’s the answer to the question really. But in the ethics sense, you know what I mean? Not necessarily in a story sense, just in like “wow, that drive is admirable.”
-I think, the more you talk to creatives and writers the more you find that that’s typically the case. Most people who say they’re really inspired by Stephen King probably grew up on his stories and like his stories, but they feel inspired by his output a lot of times.
And I definitely think there’s different strokes, because…I do know that there are a lot of audio drama creators who are like, “I’m inspired by ARCHIVE 81 or I’m inspired by VIDEO PALACE.” I know some of my friends, PARKDALE HAUNT Alex directly was like “oh man, VIDEO PALACE made me want to make this.” I know Cole was like “Old Gods [OLD GODS OF APPALACHIA] made me want to make THE TOWN WHISPERS,” and you know MAGNUS ARCHIVES made him want to make TINY TERRORS, and…even Dylan wanted to make WOE.BEGONE from TANIS or RABBITS, one of those two…I probably wanted to make it after a role playing game, so I am definitely inspired the way that they were, but that was my own game so I don’t know what that says about me [laughs]. Just super egotistical [laughs]. But when it comes down to the person, regardless of what they’re working on, I really find that admirable and inspiring.
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-So this is going to be my last big question, answer it however you want to, but I would be remiss not to ask how you grapple with Lovecraft, the creator of the mythos that you’ve set your world in.
Yeah yeah no that’s an easy answer, and I’m happy to be asked this. Lovecraft’s a piece of shit. I don’t like the fucking guy at all. He can go to hell. He’s an absolute trash person. I have no love for Lovecraft whatsoever. I will openly, vehemently express this. I don’t support his works in any way shape or form, other than the fact that I think he was an interesting storyteller for the time. However, there are many like them. The great god Pan was a by Arthur Machen, you know he was an influence to Lovecraft. And really, when it comes to otherworldly horror, that’s where it is. For me, I was introduced to Lovecraft through the roleplaying game. I fell in love with the monsters, a lot of which he stole anyway…The King in Yellow, is a Robert Chambers character, it’s not a Lovecraft character anyway. And it felt easy and comfortable to be like, “Oh, here are familiar things,” and don’t get me wrong, I still love playing in that world, but I’ve made it very much my own.
He’s long since dead, and to my knowledge is no longer directly profiting off any of this [laughs]...Because unfortunately he has definitely, not absconded but, has a pretty big grasp in certain communities that I don’t appreciate delving in, but again there are some great creations. LOVECRAFT COUNTY is a pretty cool, racially charged take on that as well, too. And I think I’m happy that people don’t shy away from it because of who he was as a person, because I feel like, at least in this case, the best way to redefine it is not by ignoring it but by sort of grabbing it and redefining it yourself, you know what I mean? I’ve injected so much anti-toxic masculinity into MALEVOLENT about two dudes who are so happy to say they love each other, and are really tender with each other. It’s not directly because I want to be like “fuck Lovecraft,” it’s because it’s a personal, moral, and value of mine. But it’s absolutely something that I get joy out of hearing people giving one star when they realize these men are telling each other things you wouldn’t tell your buddy at the bar.
-Well, and It’s fascinating. I’m trying to remember what interview it was, but I’m almost positive it was Daniel Greene’s interview with Brandon Sanderson, where this question came up. Because Sanderson, he does Cosmic Fantasy, so there’s a lot of overlap there and Lovecraft came up. And Sanderson made the point that at this point so many more people have used Lovecraft’s stuff in ways Lovecraft would hate that is three times as much as he ever originally wrote. It’s really interesting that a lot of the mythos is still “his” but most of it is stuff he never touched.
No I totally agree, you’re so right, and it’s funny, yeah, it vastly outweighs what he’s put into it. I think it would be unfair to say he wasn’t influential, but there’s a lot of shitty influential people. No one can deny he was influential for a lot of things, also no one should deny that he's an absolute piece of shit…I think it’s important to be creating things that redefine influential things, because you can’t ignore influential things because doors swing on small hinges, and even if one racist guy wrote something that was influential, it changed a lot of things going forward, including films and things like that. To shy away from that gives it power. To be able to take it, change it, and make it something positive is the only way to truly try to, you know, move forward.
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-So, what advice do you have for creatives who are not in the audio drama production space, who are wanting to step into audio dramas as a creative outlet? So maybe like fiction writers who are wanting to start an audio drama podcast.
Yeah, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, because it’s something that I strongly believe: I think there’s a lot of people that may want to make an audio drama and all power to them. However, at least for me, it’s very difficult to make an audio drama when all you want to do is make an audio drama. You need to have a story to tell, and then the medium will follow. If you have this thing that you need to make, and it works best as a film, then make that film. And I think it would generally be a success, but I think what happens is, especially in today’s world, which I’m not knocking I love today's world. I love the ability to talk to people on the other side of the country. But I think it’s really made us feel like anybody can really be successful, and I think the big thing we’re forgetting is that a lot of these people who are successful have a really great idea or a really great story to tell or a really really clever way to tell it.
I think I learned that in film school, you know? I went to film school because I want to make movies. I love movies. I really was passionate about them, and I got there and I realized, at least at the time, that I didn’t really have a story to tell. And there are a lot of people that wanna make movies or wanna write books or want to have audio dramas or want to paint pictures, but if you don’t have a thing that you’re trying to tell? You know, you can write a song about heartbreak, but if you don’t actually want to tell a story about heartbreak, you’re not going to tell a really authentic or interesting story. And I think that’s honestly one of the biggest problems that I see with new people coming up. They might see something, they might emulate something, and they’re good, but it’s not a story they really want to tell. They just want to be in that world! You know? They just want to do it! I mean you see it today with Hollywood movies. There’s a lot of movies where a lot of people say, “Oh that has no soul,” or something like that, and that might be what they’re trying to articulate. To me, before you get into anything like this, have a story you really want to tell, and then let the medium follow. And if it's an audio drama, amazing. Like that’s great, it’s a wonderful world to work in.
Even myself, you know, DEVISER was not something that I was really motivated to just make another show, especially at this time when I’m pretty busy. I literally was looking at these A.I. pictures, it was one that made its rounds on twitter. It was a group of women at a party. It was completely A.I. generated, and they’re all smiling. It looks so unsettling, and I said, “Why hasn’t someone done a horror story about this?” And from that my wheels started spinning…I do trivia at a local bar on mondays, and…by the time I got home I sat my wife down and I outlined the first episode… I wrote it like the next day and I recorded it like that day after that. It just came to me all so quickly, and it was absolutely the proof of what I feel. Which is that, when a story feels right, when it hits you the rest will take care of itself. So, if you are a creative, and you want to create, don’t start at the finish line, sit down and think of what kind of story you want to tell. Let inspiration come to you, or lock yourself in a room until you feel inspired.
-I think the idea of “let the medium follow” is really important. I’m primarily a prose fiction writer, and something that comes up at least once a week in writing group is somebody will ask, “how long should this be?” The answer is always, “however long it needs to be.” You don’t know if it’s a short story or a multi-book epic fantasy until you’ve outlined it and know what you have. You have to kind of let it follow naturally.
Well, and it’s funny, because…I get questions a lot about certain choices in MALEVOLENT, or you know even DICE SHAME, you know? Like, my character in DICE SHAME is an asexual tabaxi, and I got a question the other day on Tumblr that was like, “why did you choose to make Red asexual,” and I was like, “I didn’t choose to make Red asexual, it’s just how he is.” That’s the way he just works. And that to me is kind of the best example of having a story, you know? When you’re telling a story, like don’t get me wrong there could be ups and downs and things like that and this is a very granular example of that, but when you have a story that you want to tell, it's just going to come out. Like that’s the story, you know? Why does Arthur have brown hair? Well, because his hair is brown. That’s the way he exists in my brain, and I think people that are asking that, you know it’s not to say that they don’t have stories to tell, everyone does, but I think when they think about it that way, when they start drawing a picture and it comes out because it’s so clear in their mind, they get it. And I think it happens differently for so many people that sometimes it’s tough to connect the synapses to be like, “oh the way I feel about knowing that I want this for dinner is the same way it feels about knowing the story that you’re going to tell.” It’s just kind of innate, and I think everyone has that capacity. I think some people are just really excited to get to certain environments, you know? Certain people really want to be like, “Oh I really really really wanna be a filmmaker.” And it’s sad, because I’ve seen a lot of people who I went to school with fail because they want to be filmmakers but didn’t have a story to tell.
Fanart provided by bethfuller on Tumblr
Leaving Arkham: The End of the Interview
At the end of the interview, I asked Guthrie if he had any final words of wisdom for our readers, and he laughed. In character with the caddy, self-deprecating tone he carried throughout the rest of the interview, he answered, still laughing, “I wish success to anybody that wants to do anything, and I hope they all have a good time. I got nothing.” Guthrie laughed again, and we casually ended the interview, but I think that Guthrie, throughout the interview, sells himself short, despite his tendency to point out what he calls egotism. Guthrie doesn’t see the significance of the one-man-act aspect of MALEVOLENT, but that very fact is what got my friends and myself into the show in the first place. We’ve discussed Guthrie’s vocal talents as often as we have the intricacies of the story’s mystery. So maybe, through it all, Guthrie left me and the rest of us with some final words of wisdom even though he didn’t realize it. That staying humble and focusing on the story is all that matters if you’re trying to create great art. “Let inspiration come to you, or lock yourself in a room until you feel inspired.”
For any creative, I think those are words to live by.
I want to thank Harlan again for taking the time to sit down with me and talk about being creative, being inspired, and being terrified. I also want to thank the readers of SINISTER SCOOP for checking out this interview, and I hope you’ll stay posted for the other great interviews, reviews, and articles we have coming down the line.
The King in Yellow Watches.
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LIST OF NINE TO MIDNIGHT CONTRIBUTORS:
THE CELLAR LETTERS
WAKE OF CORROSION
THE DEAD LETTER OFFICE OF SOMEWHERE, OHIO
THE TOWN WHISPERS
OUT OF THE ASHES
THE NIGHT POST
NOWHERE, ON AIR
HELL GATE CITY
THE STORAGE PAPERS