Chris Allinotte lives and works in Winnipeg. Many of his stories explore themes of isolation and fear of the unknown. He also hosts the yearly Days of Madness at his site The Leaky Pencil, and he has Ten Days of Madness up This Year. Chris met me at The Slaughterhouse, where we talked about the pharmaceutical approach to madness and his plans for the event’s future.
How did the idea for Days of Madness originate and how have you seen the publication evolve?
Originally, back in the winter of 2011, I had seen and participated in a few online story festivals, most recently at this point, Erin Cole’s 13 days of Halloween; and I loved the format. It was a great way to be exposed to new writers, and the comments sections came alive with positive, friendly conversation.
So, I decided to “me too” the idea and, in a joking sort of way, decided that I would do “Madness in March” as a counterpoint to the “March Madness” basketball tournament. In this respect, the word “madness” came before the concept. As I explored and planned the event, though, I realized that some of the most terrifying, stick-with-the-reader stories I’ve read, are those that have stayed within the realms of the possible. As much as I love, and will always love, “monster stories” – it’s never failed to chill me when you look at history and discover the absolute depths of depravity that humans can get up to.
From there, I put out the call, and got eight stories that were right for the theme, and I launched it. To my great delight, the response was everything I hoped for. When it was all over, I decided to collect all the stories into a proper ebook that I would provide to the authors, as I couldn’t pay them, but figured everyone should receive at least a little something for their efforts.
The following year was much the same as the first, but I knew a little more from having been through it once, and was better able to shape my call for submissions to make sure I got the kind of stories I was looking for.
Last year, I started to have fun with the concept and decided to see what would happen if I just asked for a bunch of much shorter stories on the theme – and that produced some fun results.
This year, we’re back to longer stories, though, which is where I think this concept is best served. Again, I’m surprised by the different takes that everyone has produced on the theme – and that is really the fun for me – setting out the box of LEGO, and seeing what everyone builds.
Every year, I try to grow the event a little more, and make it a little better, and this time around, I was very fortunate to have illustrator Niall Parkinson approach me as a potential participant. Niall agreed to create a new drawing for each and every story in the event – adding another layer of depth to the presentation.
Most of the authors are folks I’ve read a lot of, and really liked – so getting them all together in one place is a real coup. It’s going to be a good year.
What do you make of Nietzsche’s observation that ‘man is the unnatural animal?’
While I first must admit to not being well read on Nietzsche, he may have been on to something.
Humans are the only species that seems to suffer with psychological problems. In a way, it’s as if our deeper intellect merely presents more places for our wandering thoughts to go astray. What’s more, in some of these shadowy crevasses of imagination, humans have found the most horrific uses for the creative impulses. To quote George Carlin, “A rat will do a lot of gross things; but it will not fuck a dead rat. It wouldn’t even occur to it.”
What do you make of the pharmaceutical approach to madness in the modern age?
Well, getting back to your question about the logic behind rehabilitating people back into the society that caused their challenges in the first place – I think we have to deal with the civilization we’ve got, rather than the one we’d like. If I’ve learned anything in almost forty years, it’s that the world doesn’t care about “should be”.
But there’s more to it than that. As I understand (and I certainly could be better educated about this), many times the core problem behind “madness” is chemical imbalance. So, you fight chemical with chemical. If it helps a person get out of bed, and participate in the world, without being dragged down into the depths of their own internal dialogue, then I am totally supportive of it.
Does everyone with an issue require meds? No.
Do some people feel the need to medicate when analysis and self discovery may prove a better, longer solution? Probably.
Am I the one to decide where that line is? No goddamned way.
What future madness do you have planned?
Future madness? Well, based on how the event goes this year, I’d love to be doing a fifth edition next year. Already I’ve got ideas to go even further with the concept.
Also – I’d like to finish writing something really in depth – where I can really get into the characters and have the room to get subtle here and there. I refuse to say (rhymes with “hovel”) because every time I’ve said that in the past it’s thrown up a giant brick wall in my way. Might not be that crazy all things considered, but given that I’ve yet to do it – it’s a mental reach for sure.
Chris thank you for a perceptive and informative interview.
Days of Madness: http://chrisallinotte.blogspot.com
Past Days of Madness editions: https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/12447