American Vampire series featuring One Story author Scott Snyder and master of horror Stephen King debuts this month

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One Story author Scott Snyder (“Happy Fish, Plus Coin” Issue #14) and master of horror Stephen King are teaming up with artist Rafael Albuquerque and Vertigo comics to produce a new monthly comic book series named American Vampire. In a time where zombies and sea monsters are appearing in classic literature, Snyder and King are reinventing American history to create a new mythology of vampire. King writes about the first American vampire, Skinner Sweet, a strong, fast, and gun-toting cowboy. Snyder’s vampires inhabit the decadence of the Jazz Age, embodied by Pearl, an ambitious starlet. The American Vampire series is being launched this month by Vertigo.

I had the opportunity to ask Scott Snyder a few questions about his project.

While vampires are culturally experiencing a “rebirth” (so to speak), was there a specific inspiration to create American Vampire? I find the choice of setting (the American “Wild West” 1880s and the “Screaming” 1920s) very interesting. Was this choice a specific counterpoint to current popular vampire depictions, or did you have other reasons?

It wasn’t specifically aimed at being a counter-point to current vampire trends. I came up with a few years ago, actually during a previous wave of vamp stuff – Blade and Underworld and Queen of the Damned – and I just started getting sick of seeing vampires in the same old way: these leather and trench coat, slick sort of club-goers or aristocracy. They were always brooding on some gargoyle overlooking a city in the rain or something. All gloom and gothic style. Everything greenlit that eerie way – Matrix vampires. And so I started thinking back to the vampires I loved the best as a kid – the creatures in Near Dark and Lost Boys – vampires that seemed part of the world around me. The vampires of Salem’s lot – your neighbors, people you know, your loved ones, turned into these real, fear, mean creatures. So I began to play with this idea of a vampire that walked the landscape I love, the plains, the west, and it occurred to me that even cooler would be to invent a new breed of vampire – a new species indigenous to North America?

From there the concept just took off: why not have a genealogical tree of vampires from different time periods and locations around the world? We could create a secret history where the vampire bloodline, every once in a while, hits someone new, from somewhere new, and makes something new – randomly mutate and create a new species.

So I started developing a story around this character named Skinner Sweet that I thought would be the penultimate first American vampire. He’s this sociopathic outlaw in the Old West who gets turned accidentally and becomes the first of this new species, with new powers, new weaknesses. He thrives in sunlight. He’s got different fangs, different claws…

Did you have any specific writers or artists (or films) that inspired you?

Sure. Stephen King, obviously. Salem’s Lot is a favorite book of mine. But also Kathryn Biggelow’s Near Dark, The Lost Boys, Nosferatu… I’m a huge vampire fan.

One of the ideas behind American Vampire that I found compelling was this idea that vampires evolve (so that the vampire characters develop distinctly “American” powers and appearance). Was this something that evolved as you worked with Stephen King on the story lines or did you originally start with this idea in mind?

I started with it in mind, but having Steve writing on the series brought a whole new level of Americana to things. He’s a treasure trove of American folklore and history. He added a ton to Skinner’s story, his background, the whole series. The whole thing is exponentially better for his involvement. After all, he’s the guy responsible for making American iconography scary! The small town (Needful Things). Your beloved family dog (Cujo). Your first car (Christine). Your good old dad (The Shining)… He takes things that are central to the American imagination and makes them murderous and terrifying. He turns them against us.

One Story Author Allison Amend’s New Book Releases Thursday

One Story author Allison Amend (Issue #13) is releasing her new book Stations West on Thursday March 4.  The novel is based on her One Story piece of the same name.

From the author’s website, Stations West is, “steeped in the history and lore of Oklahoma Territory, tells an unforgettable multi-generational—and very American— story of Jewish pioneers, their adopted family, and the challenges they face.”

In celebration of the novel’s release, Allison will be reading at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn on Thursday, March 4 at 7:30 pm.

You can listen to a podcast interview with Allison here, or read her very worthwhile advice for young writers here.

PS If you haven’t had a chance, read her NY Times “Modern Love” piece here.

Report from New York Society Library Event

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For those that were unable to attend the New York Society Library Event last week, The New Yorker blogged about it here.  A few of us from One Story were lucky enough to experience Terese Svodoba reading from the current issue of One Story, “Bomb Jockey” (Issue 130).  In the sophisticated surroundings of the New York Society Library, Terese’s stately voice and graceful charm gave her story a new dimension for me.  Check out the interview with her here.

John Wray, who read his fascinating illustrated story about underground New York from A Public Space, and Cathy Park Hong, who amused with her lyrical lipograms and Western ballads from Jubilat, were also spectacular.  The New York Society Library deserves kudos for devoting time to young literary magazines in their revered space.

One Story Doing Its Part to Help the Short Story

Ted Geoway (who edits the Virginia Quarterly Review) has an article in the January/ February 2010 issue of Mother Jones on The Death of the Short Story which had some thought-provoking comments on literary journals and writers.

While certainly there is much to be mourned in the cutting of fiction from some larger magazine publications, overall there is a great deal of exciting work being done by literary journals and small presses.  Here at One Story we stand by our mission to give our readers fiction that is both thought-provoking and enjoyable.

Story Prize Announces 2009 Finalists

The Story Prize — in its sixth year of honoring short story collections — just announced its 2009 finalists for the annual book award for short fiction. All three finalists are debut collections.

The finalists (drum roll, please):

In other Rooms, Other  Wonders

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

These eight connected stories set in southern Pakistan bring to life the world of an aging feudal landlord, his Western educated daughters, desperate and conniving servants, farm workers, corrupt judges, politicians, aristocrats, and foreigners. The author is a graduate from Yale Law School — this is definitely a book I need to read!

DriftDrift by Victoria Patterson

The wealthy enclave of Newport Beach, California, is the setting for thirteen stories, told with grace and compassion, that focus on characters who live on the margins, including waiters, waitresses, confused children of divorce, and a beautiful, brain-damaged skateboarder.

Everything Ravaged, Everything BurnedEverything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower

Ambivalence, wrong-thinking, and confusion are the engines that drive these nine insightful, witty stories that culminate in a tale about marauding Vikings who turn out to be just like the misguided, contemporary American characters in the book. I have read Wells’ collection, and I adore his stories.

You can read more about the Story Prize and previous winners here. Winners will be announced on March 3.

Tomorrow Night: Reading at KGB Bar featuring One Story author Andrew Porter and Hannah Tinti

While the weather outside may be a little chilly lately, don’t let a few flurries discourage you from going to KGB Bar tomorrow night for a launch party for One Story author Andrew Porter (Issue #72) celebrating his short story collection The Theory of Light and Matter (which incidentally won the 2007 Flannery O’Connor Award in Short Fiction).  Our own Hannah Tinti will also be reading.

The Theory of Light and Matter has received rave reviews, and we are so excited that it is being republished in paperback.

Details: The event is at KGB Bar (85 E 4th Street, New York) Friday, January 8, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.

Additionally: Hannah Tinti will be reading on Saturday, January 9 at Cornelia Street Cafe for the Italian American Writers’ Association.