For those of y’all who don’t know Andrew Robertson, you are sorely missing out. He is one of my most favorite people of all time. He’s super talented in everything he does – writes, musician, lots of other things – and passionate about life and his role in it. I highly suggest you take a look at his short stories.
Meghan: Hey, Andrew! Welcome back. And good luck with the anthology release today (UnBreakable Ink). Hamburger Lady is definitely a story I NEED to be reading. I know you’re busy today, so let’s get started. What is your favorite part of Halloween?
Andrew: I’ve always loved the fall months and the moodier days that come with them. I also think that cooler weather means a better wardrobe!
I was born in October near the spookiest day of the year, and I’m sure that contributes to how I’ve always been drawn to darkness and the most wonderful time of the year. As a kid, I would get spooky craft books from the Scholastic Book club and make paper spiders and masks and ask for Frankenstein and Dracula glow-in-the-dark models for my birthday.
When my family went to the Maritimes on a road trip, I asked them to stop at every roadside attraction once I realized they all had a wax museum with a House of Horrors.
I would say that most queer people also love Hallowe’en because dressing up gives you an opportunity to express yourself in ways you can’t any other day of the year. When you grow up queer with a bit of self-awareness, especially in the 80s, you realize the world is against you. Gay meant AIDS, and that only belonged to the queers then. You realize you’re a target almost every single day that you choose to shine, so you start to look for ways to express your true self in a subversive way.
So many movies in the 80s threw the word ‘faggot’ around without any concern for where it landed, or the violence it engendered, or the queer kids it affected. I took Hallowe’en as a chance to wear a ‘mask’, even metaphorically, and finally fit in. It was one of the few days I could be celebrated for my ‘creativity’ and not beat up for what I was wearing.
And in queer culture, Hallowe’en allows us to explore our identities. Lots of drag queens have tested their high heels for the first time on October 31st, and the whole art of creating a costume and exploring darker, deeper, or more revealing identities is very attractive to me as a queer person.
In my community, Hallowe’en is referred to as gay Christmas. The fact that I wasn’t born wearing black eyeliner is some kind of oversight. Essentially, everyday SHOULD be Hallowe’en.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?
Andrew: Scaring youngsters looking for candy.
It sounds mean, but hear me out – I don’t think that we need to sanitize Hallowe’en. It’s a pagan holiday that grew out of some really dark practices, and we don’t need to ignore that entirely. A little bit of fear is healthy. When I would go out as a kid, I’d be so disappointed when a house had all its lights on like a dentist’s office. I mean, that’s scary too, but it isn’t cool scary. Unless it’s Little Shop of Horrors, and then we can sing along to the pain!
For me, the night is not about the candy collection as much as the atmosphere and parading around in the dark as a little Dracula, a voodoo doll, or wee Witch. Even as a kid, I longed for the days when I would be old enough to spend Hallowe’en smoking darts, drinking rum, and looking tough in a graveyard by the full moon. I will tell you that the first time I did that, my friend Jessica and I almost ended up in an open grave running away from two giant poodles! Looking tough.
But Hallowe’en should be creepy and make you think about the necessary darker sides of existence. If you think your kid needs to be carried around on a pink cloud, take them for a happy meal. I’ll gladly take my kids to a haunted house or a corn maze one day.
When I was younger, my favourite part used to be dressing up and going to whatever haunted house was on the go. I love being scared and I love creating oogie boogie characters out of the make-up drawer and costume boxes Dinis and I have at home, but after we bought a house, my favourite part became giving out tons of candy and seeing what kids are dressing up as when they come to the door. Kids have this amazing ability to take an odd, creepy idea and translate it into a fun look. Halloween gives kids a reason to show their creativity instead of hiding it out of embarrassment or fear.
Dins and I also love decorating the porch with severed limbs, animated projections, dry ice and scary music, then watching some people avoid us on their candy crawl. That’s the best compliment a Hallowe’en House can get!
Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?
Andrew: Hallowe’en is the best day of the year for so many reasons. In the month of October, there are suddenly horror movie marathons on every channel, ghost stories become the norm, you get to decorate with skulls and ghosts, eat small versions of candy and pretend 10 isn’t too many ‘cause they are so tiny, and I love to be scared. All these haunted attractions open up…it’s heaven.
I just wish people would stop trying to make it all cutesy and spoopy or whatever that ridiculous term is. I know I’ll get some hate for saying it but, when someone says something is spoopy I assume they mean a diaper. Don’t @ me!
Meghan: What are you superstitious about?
Andrew: I really believe in karma. I think every shit thing you do to someone else will come back to you, and even if it doesn’t, you know what you did and that makes it so much worse. Each nasty thing you do, every time you leave a friend hanging, that’s your own picture of Dorian Gray.
One of my favourite films of all time is A Christmas Carol. The Alastair Sim version. Back in Dickens time and long before it, ghost stories were a Christmas Eve tradition, something that is slowly making its way back into popular culture, and I’m glad for it. That story is the perfect example of what was and continues to be everything that is wrong with the world, and even though we have all seen the story in some form, we continue to reproduce the very conditions that the story condemns. We really are an awful species, with no regard for our own future or sustainability or each other, even though we can’t do it all on our own. Weird, right?
I try and be genuine with people, follow through on what I say I will do, and apologize for what I can’t. It’s the best way to not haunt yourself.
Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?
Andrew: My absolute favourite is Pinhead, a.k.a the Hell Priest from Hellraiser. I remember the very first time I saw Doug Bradley as Pinhead. I was at the Eaton Centre in Toronto going to see some awful comedy as a tween, and there was a standup of Pinhead holding the Lament Configuration and I was just in love. The nails, the sneer, the outfit…I was a future goth at that exact moment, and I’ve worn a few cassocks since, but nothing like that. There is something about the character that Doug Bradley created and the way he voices the lines that is just perfectly evil.
I had the absolute fanboy pleasure of meeting him a few years back at Frightmare in the Falls at Niagara Falls, which is an incredible horror convention, and we took a pic, then I got his book signed. He was so awesome!
Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?
Andrew: This is a tie between ‘Salem’s Lot and The Haunting of Hill House.
I never understood what it meant to be really, really unsettled until I read the Shirley Jackson classic. Her writing just prints itself right into your brain with heated keys. Everything I have read by her has the same effect. It’s like the characters are right there, whispering the story behind you, warm breath on your neck as you turn the pages, and you just have to believe every word they tell you.
Stephen King has the same gift. Something about expertly creating the slow build and getting into the readers mind, that’s a gift. Then the author can use the simplest thing, the sound of walls settling, for example, to make you certain there’s a horrific vampire scratching away behind your favourite poster of Siouxsie and the Banshees. ‘Salem’s Lot was the first book I read that had me up all night waiting for someone to be floating outside my window.
Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?
I had no idea what I was in for with that one, but it is absolutely relentless. I don’t want to say all that much because of spoilers but at one point my ankles turned to water, at another point, I wanted armour for my eyes. I haven’t ever done a rewatch. I felt polluted.
That movie hits on so many vicious things, but somewhere in there, I believe it’s a comment on capitalism, race, and our disregard for anyone else, much like The Purge. That’s the real horror in the world. I also want to point out that The Purge made the issue of race and systemic racism in politics, government and policing very clear, and it was a very important statement even if you don’t agree with the medium.
There’s very little empathy left in the world at this point, and to me both Hostel and The Purge are the platinum standard of what happens when people only want laws when the laws agree with their desires, and serve their gods, in place of what’s just and equitable, and we’ve seen a lot of that during COVID-19.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?
Andrew: So, this is as far from scary as it can get, but I want to tell you about my GAYEST costume ever. When the musical Cats closed in Toronto, they auctioned of all the costumes and props to benefit Casey House, which at the time was an AIDS hospice in Toronto (and continues to be Canada’s first and only hospital for people living with HIV/AIDS).
I bought Demeter’s outfit, a spandex one piece that was painted in various stripes and had crunchy bits of ‘fur’ on the shoulders. It was $20 so a twelve-year old could afford it.
I tried to recreate the look from the musical then wore it to school. I guess I could have said I was a werewolf, but I didn’t. It still remains one of the most unapologetically queer things I have ever done, but I didn’t look at it that way back then. I just really loved that show as a tween, and figured every else would think it was cool too. #mixedreaction
Since then, I’ve lent the costume to a few people for a variety of functions, and as is often the case, the last one I lent it to never gave it back, so now it’s just a memory, all alone in the moonlight. I can dream of the old days, life was beautiful then.
But I shouldn’t dwell on that right meow.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?
Andrew: I regularly listen to Elvira’s theme song, especially when I’m walking at night. I also love the Lydia Lunch version of Spooky. Her album Queen of Siam has a carnivalesque darkness to it, and I think her version of Spooky is the cutest love song ever for the maladjusted (by now the people who hated the spoopy comment are really vexed. I’m not sporry about it).
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?
Andrew: A lot of people don’t like them, but I love the molasses kiss. It is a classic, and it’s comes back from the dead each year without fail. This is the candy in white, orange and black wrapper, printed with witches and owls and scary moons. They are my number one must have Halloween candy.
The most disappointing treats would be the ones with razors in them.
Andrew Robertson is an award-winning queer horror writer and future spaceman. In December 2021, his short story Sick is the New Black will appear in the gay-themed, multi-genre anthology Pink Triangle Rhapsody: Volume 1 from Lycan Valley Press. He is currently working on a novelization of the same story, exploring themes of queerness, addiction, fame, anti-vaxxers and the toxic nature of post-pandemic life in a culture locked in the thrall of social media. Feel free to be his agent.
He recently launched his first monstrous children’s book and sticker set, And Then The Fart Happened, on the Great Lakes Horror Company Kids imprint with illustrations by LiZzDom, and colour and layout by his partner Dinis Freitas, the Most Handsome Man in All of Puppetland®. People seem to love putting the Fart sticker on their butts, which checks out.
He is also headed to the Moon, or at least his writing is! In 2022, his short story Sundowning from Klarissa Dreams Redux will be headed to Lacus Mortis with the Peregrine Collection as a part of the ULA/Astrobotic Peregrine launch. In 2023, Hamburger Lady from UnBreakable Ink will be headed to the Lunar South Pole with the Polaris Collection as a part of the SpaceX/NASA-VIPER/Astrobotic Griffin launch. These stories will be part of the largest single collection of contemporary artwork ever put on the Moon, and will fly there on the first commercial lunar flights in history.
Back here on Earth, Andrew’s fiction has appeared in literary magazines and quarterlies such as Stitched Smile Publications Magazine, Deadman’s Tome, Undertow, and katalogue. His work has also appeared in anthologies including Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, A Tribute Anthology to Deadworld, and the Group Hex series.
UnBreakable Ink —
Travel to the furthest reaches of space, traverse time, delve into the darkest parts of the mind and beyond in this collection of speculative fiction shorts.
Curated by Shebat Legion and presented by Indomitable Ink, Unbreakable Ink boasts twenty-nine stories and is the first installment in a series of anthologies designed to provoke the unbreakable imaginations in us all.