When I write fantasy -- all of it dark -- I need a bridge to get there. I've rarely written fantasy that doesn't begin in the real world or at least have significant roots there. It's not that I don't enjoy reading that sort of story, but as a writer, I want to get my hooks into the reader as deeply as I can, and I find that the real world connections and settings, the characters they can really identify with, give me the bridge I need for that. It allows me to feel more intimately knowledgeable about my characters, and hopefully that means we'll all care more about them. -- Christopher Golden as quoted in this interview.

Ahhh, you're wondering what the story is of that massive chair in the Pub near the fireplace which is made of oak, leather, and a foliate print fabric? One of the Jacks says it started life as the chair that Sir John Falstaff, the portly rascal of Windsor, sat in at the Garter Inn. What? You thought he only existed in Shakespeare's Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor? Possibly he did, possibly he didn't. All I know is that the chair is more than massive 'nough to hold his reputed bulk.

Certainly some great writers have told tales in it -- both Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft held audiences in thrall with tales as did Dame Agatha during her mysterious disappearance. Now there is a new storyteller to grace the Chair -- our Oak King this year, Christopher Golden, and the story he told the packed Pub that night can be found thisaway. Go ahead -- go read it while we have another ale. We'll still be 'ere when you get back.

We could simply list his many, many works of horror, dark fantasy, and even a zombie tale or two he's done down the years, but that would tell you nothing about how amazing talented he is, so let's recommend some of his work for you. Now do keep in mind that Green Man has not reviewed everything he's written, such as his excellent CSI style Body of Evidence series, let alone his work on various comic series such as DC on Doctor Fate -- The Curse, Marvel on Daredevil and The X-Men, or Dark Horse's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so this overview is only based on items we have reviewed, such as his Gen13 novel.

Our first recommendation is The Veil trilogy (The Myth Hunters, The Border Kind, The Lost Ones), of which our Editor said 'a true trilogy with a well-crafted tale worth reading is a rare joy these days, with excessive bloat being more the norm among fantasy releases where series running a half dozen or more novels of immense size are far too common. Running just over thirteen hundred pages in the trade paper edition format, it's just about the length of The Lord of The Rings, or to make another apt comparison, not much longer than a volume of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. So yes, I'd say The Veil trilogy is very much been worth the time you'll spend reading it!'

Horror with a twist is also a strong suit for him -- just pick up his Bloodstained Oz, in which The Wizard of Oz is turned on its head with really bloody results. Or Strangewood, where a writer's trying to deal with an intrusion of his fictional creations into his reasonably real-world life. Or The Boys Are Back in Town, which the reviewer notes is a novel 'that didn't resort to silly, florid incantations or spells cast in an ancient language for verisimilitude.'

Echoing that thought, his riff on the Peter Pan story in Straight On 'Til Morning impressed our reviewer, who noted he takes 'his characters off to a strange, dark version of Neverland with only some vaguely magical directions to guide them.'

Unlike many fantasy writers, his characters always feel real, as I can tell you from having read the first book of The Hollow series, Horseman, with its riff off of (surprise) the Sleepy Hollow legend. Real and very scary!

He's also a terrific pulp writer, equally comfortable working within the DC 'verse, as he did with his Justice League novel, Exterminators, which our reviewer noted 'is not your typical superhero novel. There are no supervillains, no familiar faces to bash around amidst outbreaks of witty banter.' Or the Hellboy 'verse where he edited a number of anthologies including Hellboy -- Oddest Jobs, to name just one, and has written several novels, including The Lost Army and The Bones of Giants in that 'verse. Or the Buffy 'verse where his fiction, such as Spike and Dru -- Pretty Maids All In A Row is simply superb!

He even makes the clichéd zombie novel work, as you can see from what our reviewer says about his zombie apocalypse novel -- 'There's a lot to like in Soulless. Golden's take on zombies flashes some sneaky-nasty originality that makes it stand out. His characters are written with respect and style, and they do much to impress themselves upon the reader.'

Now I would be quite remiss not to mention his massive short story collection coming out shortly on the foremost horror and dark fantasy press of today, Cemetery Dance -- it's called The Secret Backs of Things and Green Man was fortunate to review it literally from a printout of the designed pages.

His reference works to the Buffy 'verse, like The Monster Book (written with Stephen R. Bissette and Thomas E. Sniegoski) and The Watcher's Guide (written with Nancy Holder, Jeff Mariotte, and Maryelizabeth Hart) are essential reading material for anyone deep into this 'verse. Ahhh, but he's also a damn good guide to specific writers as well -- just check out The Complete Stephen King Universe and a comprehensive look at Neil Gaiman, Prince of Stories (co-written with Hank Wagner and Stephen R. Bissette) for his brilliant work as a reference writer and editor.

Let's not overlook his work with co-authors, such as the Ghosts of Albion series written with Amber Benson, who also wrote the ever-so-creepy New England thriller, The Seven Whistlers with him; the Menagerie series written with Tom Sniegoski (see our Crashing Paradise review); The Hidden Cities series written with Tim Lebbon which has two amazing urban fantasy stories so far, Mind the Gap and Map of Moments; and let's not forget the illustrated novel Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire that he penned -- with Mike Mignola doing the ever-so-cool artwork.

(On a side-note, there is an animated Ghosts of Albion series that BBC commissioned which you can find thisaway. It's a rather amazing affair)

I don't know how I earned the honor of being Green Man's Oak King this year. It puts me in excellent company, and for that I thank Cat and the whole Green Team.' But let's talk about fantasy. . . .

How We Slay

For me, the allure of fantasy has always been twofold. Certainly I love the trappings of the genre, the creatures and stories of myth and folklore. All such tales represent an enormous toy chest to me, and I love nothing more than to take them out and play with them. I confess, though, that like the abominable toy-mutilating Sid --the boy next door in the original TOY STORY --my greatest pleasure comes in taking them apart and putting them back together in ways that their original tellers never intended.

Yes, I love the monsters and magical creatures for their own sake. And putting them through metamorphosis -- better yet, dropping those transformed beings into territory familiar to the modern reader but not to those creatures -- makes me smile. But there's more to my love of the fantastic than just trolls, strigae, gods, giants, and vampires. What draws me to those tales again and again, and makes them the perfect inspiration, is their purpose. Oh, I don't claim to know the aims or ambitions of those who dreamt up the tales to begin with, but I can tell you the purpose I see in such stories. Fantasy usually revolves around the eternal struggle between good and evil. If you argue that most modern fiction does as well --whether by exploring gray areas in morality or clearly delineating white hats and black -- you won't be alone. And yet fantasy allows us to explore that struggle more directly, and to identify the twin purposes of the fantastic -- hope and fear.

Human society shares a general consensus on fundamental morality perhaps best expressed by what we've all heard referred to as the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Pretty simple, right? From that foundation, heroism is born. Heroes take doing the right thing to the next level, in which instead of just treating other people with kindness and courtesy, they act selflessly to aid others no matter the risk to themselves. They face their own fears, and in doing so, they set the example.

Monsters and demons are often metaphors for the things that prey on us in reality, both the cruel entropy of age and the startling cruelty we find too often in other people, and worst of all, within ourselves. Heroism is about fighting that darkness in spite of the fear and sorrow that it may bring. That is, to me, the entire purpose of horror and dark fantasy, and much of fantasy in general.

I prefer flawed heroes, of course. The heroic ideal at its zenith is not a reflection of humanity. It's what we wish we could be, not what we are. In such tales, the evil -- the monster -- is often more human than the hero, and I've always found that frustrating. A flawed hero, one with whom we can identify because he shares our doubts and weaknesses and troubles, gives us hope that we, too, can find the courage to fight the darkness.

I believe what has always drawn me to the fantastic -- aside from all the cool monsters -- is that it provides that kind of inspiration. It's about how we face our fears. How we stand against the dark.

For me, fantasy has never been about the dragons.

It's how we slay them that counts.

Christopher Golden
Bradford, MA
October 8, 2009

Chris was kind enough to take some time out of his NECON this year to sit down and answer a few questions posed by Richard Dansky on behalf of Green Man Review . You can find his thoughts on where Strangewood came from, the importance of Kolchak the Night Stalker, and why its interesting to make the Flash stand in line -- plus a great deal more -- thisaway.

We should remind you about our special editions which are our way of looking at specific writers and other subjects worthy of exploring in-depth. Of course, we've done several editions on master storyteller Peter S. Beagle which you can find thisaway and over 'ere. Needless to say, we're very proud of the great edition on Charles de Lint we did.

We did one on the ever fascinating trio of Brian, Toby, and Wendy Froud; naturally we did one on master storyteller J.R.R. Tolkien who is much loved by our staff; not to mention ones on Christopher Golden, Kage Baker, Neil Gaiman, Catherynne M. Valente, Patricia McKillip, and Elizabeth Bear

Oh, our Editor just reminded me that we did (as if I could 'ave forgotten!) an edition devoted to the now departed and much missed Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthology.

We pulled together a look at the Bordetown series that Terri Windling created -- go here for that article.

Lastly, we have put together a Recommended Series Reading List covering many genres from fantasy to mystery and (of course) sf for your reading pleasure. You can find that list thisaway.

For our main page, please go here; to search the roots, branches, and leaves of This Tree, use the Google search engine; every past edition of our fortnightly What's New can be found here; for a detailed look at Green Man Review, go thisaway; and lastly, you report errors over here. Still have questions? Email our Editor here. Provided he's not in the Green Man Pub savouring some kick ass metheglin while listening to Blodeuwedd tell her tale, he'll try to answer your question!

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Entire Contents Copyright 1993 - 2009, Green Man Review, a publication of Twa Corbies Publishing. The GMR logo illustration this edition is designed by Lahri Bond for us and any other use will result in one of our ravens tearing out your eyes very slowly and eating them. Really. Truly. And when isn't a raven terribly hungry for fresh flesh? All Rights Reserved.

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Uploaded Samain 2009 LLS 9:33pm PST
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