When I opened up R. K. Duncan’s story in my submissions inbox and began reading, I was thrilled. His story, “Raff and the Scissor-Finger” embodies the ageless Grimm folk-tale aesthetic I was looking to include in the Coppice & Brake anthology. The vibe is eerie and plaintive, with imagery straight out of a dream … or a horror film. Keep reading to learn more…
Q: Why horror? Why do you write it? What about the genre appeals to you as an author?
A: I find that a lot of the striking images that occur to me to begin stories with are unsettling, and that I am often interested in characters and plots of questionable morality. This means that much of what I write falls into the genre of so-called Dark Fantasy, and from there, the slip into pure horror is almost effortless.
Q: What inspired your story in this anthology? Tell us the “story behind the story.”
A: This story is set in the world of my first (completed, but not published) novel, and it is intended to be the kind of ‘fairy-tale’ that people in a world where fairies unequivocally exist would tell. It is a story about how to behave within the rules of that secondary world, and it gave me a chance to show what kind of thing one of my characters would have dealt with before the novel caught up to her.
Q: What draws you to the genre of horror/dark fiction? What do you find there that you don’t find anywhere else?
A: I think horror is the place, apart from truly realistic fiction, where the most visceral emotional reaction can be achieved. The optimistic or pleasant sublime is possible in writing, but it is hard to aim for, whereas I can aim for and hit the unsettling or terrifying with some consistency.
Q: What was the worst writing advice you ever received? The best writing advice? Why, and how did it affect your writing?
A: Worst: take out the poetry. Both in letter and in spirit, this is always wrong. Let your heart sing on the page. The best advice I’ve gotten that was not story-specific was really just a twitter thread from Alyssa Wong about titles. It has made me give my stories longer, more interesting titles. I find the idea of advice as good or bad as suspect more often than not. The best advice is always the advice that is given with understanding of your individual story and your process. Advice hurled into the void will find a few bullseyes and countless misses, because it is not aimed at the person it is for.
Q: If someone asked you to recommend books/stories similar to what you write, who/what titles would you be giving them? And, why?
A: Elizabeth Bear’s Promethean Age, which has shaped my writing of fairies. Patricia McKillip’s Riddlemaster of Hed, because it makes novel myth feel ancient. Neil Gaiman’s short stories because I really, really want my writing compared to his.
R. K. Duncan
R. K. Duncan is a queer polyamorous wizard and author of fantasy, horror, and occasional sci-fi. He writes from a a few rooms of a venerable West Philadelphia row home, where he dreams of travel and the demise of capitalism. In the shocking absence of any cats, he lavishes spare attention on cast iron cookware and his long-suffering and supportive partner. Before settling on writing, he studied linguistics and philosophy at Haverford college. He attended Viable Paradise 23 in 2019. His occasional musings and links to other work can be found at rkduncan-author.com.