Today in our UNWRAPPED countdown to Halloween, Daniel Braum sits down with author Marissa Lingen and talks to her story “In the Ancestor’s New Home”. They discuss the differences of Inca mummy culture from what we’re used to, how this story differs from Marissa’s usual work and what monsters intrigue Marissa most.
Daniel Braum: Your mummy story is set in South America. What were the challenges and payoffs in creating a story in that setting?
Marissa Lingen: There was a lot, a lot, a LOT of research for this story, most of which did not make it anywhere near the page. The history of the Inca Empire and of what is now Peru is fascinating and was a joy to read about, but also it was a lot of work that I hope I got somewhere near right. I feel like even with reading well over a dozen books on this setting and period, I have just scratched the surface. There is so much more to learn and think about here.
DB: What were the challenges and payoffs in writing about a venerable part of history and culture?
ML: I feel like one of the most fascinating parts of Inca mummy culture was that the mummies were set apart but not removed completely from the world of the living. They were consulted through their caretakers, they were involved in processions and rituals. So the assumptions involved are completely different from a lot of mummy stories American culture is used to hearing and telling, and I hope I’ve managed to make that interesting but also build in enough information that it’s understandable to the average reader.
DB: How does “In the Ancestor’s New Home” differ in any way from your stories? What would you like readers who have not yet read your stories to know about them? Please feel free to include some links.
ML: Honestly one of the things that was most exciting about this project is that it was so far outside my wheelhouse. I am usually not a writer of the dark and monstrous! Usually I write a lot of science fiction and secondary world fantasy. So it differs from my other stories in basically most ways. I have love stories with genetically engineered mastodons! I have fantasies of environmental peril and birds gone wrong! I have a lot of kinds of story really. You can read a bunch of them from here: http://www.marissalingen.com/bibleo.html
DB: What do you think is the appeal of the “supernatural” and the “monstrous” to readers?
ML: I think the monstrous gives us funhouse mirror ways to reflect on different aspects of humanity. We get ways to think about parts of ourselves, to look at pieces rather than the whole. And, of course, a scare in a safe environment–something that we can control–is very appealing. Just this week a friend’s toddler watched a movie that scared her very much, and then rehearsed the story of what happened that it came out okay, in toddler terms. I think on some level knowing that we are safe while we think about unsafe things can be very helpful. But of course different readers like different aspects, and that’s great too.
DB: What appeals to you most about the “Mummy” as monster in pop culture, literature, and or film? What if anything about the same do you find bothersome?
ML: Mummies and mummification have existed in cultures across the globe, and I really like the diversity of possible stories there. The flip side is that I get bothered by how much some of the same stories get told over and over again without consideration for the variety that’s out there. Ideally this book will provide some contrast to that.
One of my favorite mummy stories is Josh Ritter’s song “The Curse” from his album “So Runs the World Away.” Sometimes Josh really tells a full story in song form, and this one is haunting and lovely.
DB: Which “monster” intrigues you most as a reader and as a writer? Is there any monster you would like to write about but have yet to do so?
ML: I am a sea serpent person from the word go. I haven’t gotten much into them yet, although I’m revising a snow serpent manuscript that makes my heart sing. I think it comes from cutting my teeth on Norse sagas. Trolls are also good, and wendigos. Basically if it comes with a cold howling wind, I’m there.
MARISSA LINGEN is among the top science fiction and fantasy writers in the world who were named after fruit. She has many opinions on Moomintrolls. She has been known to cross international borders in search of rare tisanes. Her personal relationships with bodies of water are intense though eccentric. She has recently branched out into essays, much to no one’s alarm but her own.
DANIEL BRAUM is the author of the short story collections The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales (Cemetery Dance), The Wish Mechanics: Stories of the Strange and Fantastic (Independent Legions 2017) and Yeti Tiger Dragon (Dim Shores 2016). His third collection, Underworld Dreams is forthcoming from Lethe Press in 2020. The Serpent’s Shadow, his first novel, was released from Cemetery Dance eBooks in July 2019. He is the editor of the Spirits Unwrapped anthology from Lethe Press and the host and founder of the Night Time Logic reading series in New York City which can also be heard on the Ink Heist podcast. He can be found at https://bloodandstardust.wordpress.com, www.facebook.com/DanielBraumFiction, and @danielbraum
SPIRITS UNWRAPPED can be ordered by your favorite local bookseller and also at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and direct from the publisher.