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The Phantasm Japan Q/A with James A. Moore

by nickmamatas

Welcome to the first of our brief Q/As with select contributors to our new anthology Phantasm Japan. First up is James A. Moore, who wrote a great, and chilling, story of the feudal era and snow people, “He Dreads the Cold.” (Phantasm Japan co-editor Nick Mamatas is asking the questions this time out.)

I was thrilled to receive a story involving samurai and the like. What made you choose this particular myth to explore?

I was absolutely delighted to get a chance to work on PHANTASM JAPAN because I have been fascinated by feudal Japan and by the amazing layers of the society since I was a kid. As to the story itself, the cold and the silence that is often prevalent in a deeply showed in area lends itself perfectly, to my way of thinking, to a horror story. Having been in a blizzard and its aftermath, I remember walking around and being stunned by the silence, when the only sound was the snow dropping from branches and the trees creaking softly in the wind. And I remember looking at the shoes and wondering what was waiting underneath.

You’re known for your novels, including some very long ones. Does it require a shift in your work or mentality to create a piece of short fiction?

I’ve always loved complex stories, and, ironically enough, I’ve also always loved short stories. “He Dreads the Cold” was very much a challenge, because, as a few editors have pointed out in the past, even my short stories are normally novel length. They might be joking, but only a little. I wanted to test myself, to see if I could provide a good scare or even solid chill (no pun intended) in a shorter format, without sacrificing any of the character development. I hope I succeeded, but I’m not the person to judge that.

“He Dreads the Cold” obviously required a lot of research. Was there anything especially interesting that just didn’t fit in the story, and had to be left out?

I wanted to incorporate as much of the “snow people” mythology of Japan as I could, but it wasn’t possible to add it all in. There are a great number of different legends and some of them are rather uniquely localized. I was fascinated by the myth of Yukinbo—apparently a one legged snow boy—but couldn’t quite find a way to incorporate him and not expand the story in ways that would have expanded it substantially and hurt the story’s flow.

What’s the coldest you’ve ever been?

When I was six years old my family moved from Georgia to Colorado (near Breckenridge before it became a ski resort town) and my brothers decided it would be fun to stuff me in their clothes, fill the clothes with range and then toss me in a snow bank. I was six. they were fourteen and fifteen respectively. In order to get inside I had to climb out of their clothes and run over to the door in nothing but my underwear. They took the liberty of locking the door. I’m gonna have to say that was a pretty cold day.

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