Joe Hill on the Beautiful Visuals of Strange Weather
My new book, Strange Weather, is a collection of four short, scary novels. The fiction of dread really lives at that magical length of 80-150 pages. Look no further than Turn of the Screw, Woman in Black, and Ocean at the End of the Lane for proof.
I love a tale of fear that can be devoured in one sitting; and I especially adore stories of wonder and the grotesque that come with illustrations. I’ve always thought that part of the power of the original Sherlock Holmes stories resided in the essential Sidney Paget pen-and-ink drawings that accompanied them. And of course all of the novella length works to appear in the pulps came accompanied with art, lending visceral, lurid visuals to the fantasies of Lovecraft, Bloch, and Leiber. I view Strange Weather as something of a pulp compendium as well, and so it seemed natural to ask some of my best friends in the world of weird art to help me out. —Joe Hill
“Snapshot” Frontispiece (© Gabriel Rodriguez)
“Snapshot” is the story of a 13-year-old boy who finds himself in a desperate struggle with a man known as The Phoenician, who has a camera that can steal memories. The idea of having my entire life stripped away from me, one beloved recollection at a time, is, to me, far more terrifying than the fear of death.
“Snapshot” Endpiece (© Gabriel Rodriguez)
Gabriel Rodriguez, who provided the art for “Snapshot,” was my collaborator on a long-running comic book series titled Locke & Key. We’ve been creative partners for so long that at this point we’re like an old married couple. We finish each other’s sentences, and when we talk to one another, our conversation is full of references and understandings no one else gets. When it came to the final illustration for “Snapshot,” I said, “You know what to draw,” and he did.
“Loaded” Frontispiece (© Zach Howard)
The antagonist of “Loaded” is a mall cop who’s white, male, middle-aged, dumped from the army for bad behavior, going through a divorce, angry, disappointed, paranoid, resentful. Watches a lot of right-wing TV. Basically, a psycho Paul Blart. These guys are out there, men like loaded guns, waiting to go off.
“Loaded” Endpiece (© Zach Howard)
Over the course of events in “Loaded,” off in the background, there’s a wildfire encroaching on a coastal Florida town. When I think of artist Zach Howard, I think of someone who excels at showing the moment fury takes a concrete form and unleashes devastation. And so here we have his vision of the fire tornado that turns up late in the story. Nowadays, in the early part of the 21st century, I feel like all of us have been lifted up from the America we thought we knew and set down in some smoke-filled, bullet-riddled Oz.
“Aloft” Frontispiece (© Charles Paul Wilson III)
Charles Paul Wilson III draws like Winnie-the-Pooh artist E. H. Shepard, but has an imagination more in line with Tom Savini. His frontispiece for “Aloft,” however, catches the splatter artist at his most romantic and fantastical. You’d have to read our graphic novel “Wraith” if you want to see CPiii in his natural, purely demented state.
“Aloft” Endpiece (© Charles Paul Wilson III)
“Aloft” is the story of a young man who, on his first skydiving trip, winds up landing on an impossibly solid cloud. He swiftly finds himself a castaway in the sky, ten-thousand feet above the earth. If that isn’t weird enough for you, there’s also a unicorn. I never in my wildest dreams imagined I’d write a story with a unicorn in it. Although… come to think of it… there might’ve been a unicorn in “Wraith,” too. Or at the very least there were a couple of murderous narwhal.
“Rain” Frontispiece (© Renae De Liz)
I turned to Renae de Liz and Ray Dillon — illustrators of the first rank — to depict a world suffering from a very extreme form of climate change. In “Rain,” the climate has changed so that thunderclouds now rain nails instead of water. Fortunately, society-crippling storms only exist in fiction, right?
“Rain” Endpiece (© Renae De Liz)
And we close with a crow whose eyes are, quite literally, bigger than his stomach. Mmm, juicy! Here’s hoping you’ll get a chance to check out Strange Weather, which is now available. I think you’ll be raven about it!