First of all, please introduce yourself.
My name is Steve Evans, but I write under the pen name Stephen C. Evans, because despite all my mother’s assurances that I am unique and special, there are a great number of Steve Evans’ out there doing the writing thing. I live in Ohio with my wife, who never shied away from settling, and our two amazing kids who don’t yet know how embarrassed of their father they should be. When I’m not hidden away and writing, I’m busy at my day job as a mental health therapist.
Can you remember the first time you were truly frightened?
When I was a kid, young enough that I don’t even remember how young, I had a babysitter that would watch us every once in awhile when my parents would go out for the occasional date. I was at an age where pretty much everyone older than me got grouped together into the same analogous grouping of “grownup,” but looking back she had to have only been a teenager, not much older than me and my brother (ie: pretty much as irresponsible as we were). I used to look forward to those nights with equal measures of terror and excitement, because as soon as my parents were gone she would invariably queue up old reruns of The Twilight Zone. Someone coming at those original episodes fresh these days would possibly laugh off the quaint special effects, blocky acting, or gritty approach. But to that kid, who watched more often than not through splayed fingers covering his face, they were a terrifying magic more alluring than sense. It was the best kind of fear, not the kind that exists in the startle reflexes of the body, but one that sinks into the gray matter of the mind and roosts; the kind that still has power when you revisit it 30 years later. Those were great stories. And consciously or not, some of my favorite stories from my own collection are the ones that—I hope— leave a reader with that same sense of fascinated, dark, unsettling, but exhilarating disquiet.
As a gross oversimplification, to my way of thinking there are two primary types of fear. The pee-yourself utter horror of the prospect of something like Stephen King’s “Autopsy Room Four” happening to you, versus the long-term unease of knowing that, once a few years ago, you gave a boomerang the best toss you had, and it still hasn’t come back yet…
What were you afraid of most as a child?
I love my parents insanely, and they are the best I could ever have hoped for. That being said, there was a blatant lack of oversight when it came to my media choices. I know I’m aging myself with this answer, but I had a tv in my room as a kid. We lived pretty far out in the country, with just an antenna for signal back then. Way too often that tv was tuned to The X-Files, and I had an unholy, persistent, and convincing terror once the lights went out that the aliens would be coming for me in the night. I recall this fear every time I endure my routine proctology exams…
What are your biggest fears now, as an adult?
It’s an almost universally cliché fear for any of us with children, but I constantly worry about the welfare of my children growing up in a world that seems to get crazier by the day. The lunacy of combined humanity makes for great story fodder for sure, but the idea I might not be able to protect my kids from the worst of it is a steady, simmering thing worthy of fear.
Oh, and vegetables.
Is fear a good thing or a bad thing?
This question fascinates me just as much as a therapist as it does a writer. The intriguing thing about fear is that it can be just as much a survival mechanism as a liability. Pathologically speaking, fear lands all over the map. When it comes to fear, trauma, reactivity, and adaptability, terror is one of the more fluid of all our human experiences. The way our fight, flight, or freeze response manifests itself is also impossible to predict, due to so many drivers. Abnormal psychology also demonstrates a captivating array of research into the topic of fear. Even how “abnormal” is conceptualized… Is a 13-year-old who still wets the bed abnormal? What if it’s an adaptive response to a history of abuse to keep a sexual predator at bay? What if the behavior persists and resists extermination once the triggering variables are no longer in play? Fear itself only exists as a tool to help us survive. But with the addition of our evolved capacity for abstract reasoning, its capacity to lend itself to our continuing safety can easily be rivaled by its potential for disruption. So the answer as to whether it’s good or bad is…yes. And enthrallingly so. Why else would it keep us coming back?
What was your most creative or favorite Halloween costume?
Not super creative, but definitely my favorite: Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, my best imaginary friend. But afterwards, my wife took away my wand and staff…
Can you remember the first horror film or television series you saw? How about the first horror story or novel?
I’ve spoken of my early, and I think highly influential, exposure to The Twilight Zone as a kid. But I’ll share this fun story, because you’re here and I can:
When I was in 6th grade, I sat in the back of class where my teacher couldn’t see me well. My parents didn’t know I even had it, but I’d smuggled a copy of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park to school and was steadily working my way through it with the book hidden below the desk where it couldn’t be seen. (I’d had to give an older kid 50 cents to check it out of the library for me because they wouldn’t let me have it…different times!) With this being my first “adult” speculative book, one of the island scenes got me so well, I actually shouted out loud from the back of class. The irony: this led to my first detention ever…for reading in English class.
What makes a book or film scary?
For me, there is no greater tool for building, sustaining, and communicating the sense of dark fear that speaks to the deepest recesses of your mind; the part that bypasses rationality and whispers to you in a place you can never turn off:
Stephen C. Evans' life is the best kind of crazy. He has an awesome wife who was willing to settle in life, and they have two amazing kids that justify his increased blood pressure in all the right ways. By day, he is a mild-mannered mental health therapist, and by night (and the occasional lunch break) he spends most of his free time making things up for fun. Quite of few of these things have been published, which mostly amounts to a lot more speculative fiction and one random Western out there on the shelves. An avid reader and writer of all things speculative, he's also published his debut sci-fi novel, Minutiae, and his upcoming second novel, Degree of Separation, is on the way. So feel free to go tell your closest few thousand friends...
Steve's stories "The Dark Side of the Day" and "The Shadow of the Sun" are featured in Fluky Fiction's When Glints Collide: A Collection of Science Fiction, Horror, and Oddities.
Like Kindle Books? Get When Glints Collide for 99 cents during our pre-sale!
Hate digital books (like me)? We have print editions discounted on our Etsy Shop! Want free shipping? Ask Steve how to make it happen!
Pre-sale prices end on October 10