To start out with the new direction that the site/blog is going, The Horror Club interviewed A. A. Medina and Dustin Schyler Yoak, the editors of the recently established magazine, Aphotic Realm, ‘which is the home of sinister and strange fiction’! You can check it out below:
(Picture courtesy of Aphotic Realm)
1) Why did you decide to start up the magazine?
MEDINA: There are a handful of reasons we wanted to start up a magazine. Personally, I’ve always wanted to start a website or magazine. I had plans to create a website that covered the realm of underground metal (the genre of music, not the element). I put it off for years, but when I finally decided to go through with it, I quickly found out that I don’t particularly enjoy journalism.
The urge to create a publication resurfaced toward the end of my last semester of college. Dustin and I gravitated toward each other in school and had always discussed collaborating on a project when we graduated, but we weren’t sure what we could work on together. I proposed we start a literary website/magazine and Dustin force-fed that idea a copious amount of enthusiasm. We ran with it. Here we are now.
YOAK: “Copious amounts of enthusiasm” sounds about right. If Aphotic Realm were a rap song, I’d be Lil Jon. The enthusiasm did stem from a long time interest though. I took a video journalism class in high school and three years of web design. The final year of web design was maintaining the school’s website and reporting on sports scores, local events, and more. After studying publishing and distribution in college, that interest grew so when Adrian threw out the suggestion, it felt like fate or, if you prefer, “the past harmonizes.”
2) What is the aim of the magazine?
MEDINA: To shine a well-deserved spotlight on great authors and provide readers with their quality stories. However, the magazine won’t be all fiction. We plan on including some interviews and editorial segments.
At AphoticRealm.com, we publish accepted submissions weekly. Our main goal is to keep the site consistently updated with new content.
YOAK: Insert a hearty Lil John, “yeah,” for my part here.
3) Your first issue comes out shortly. How has the preparation been?
MEDINA: A learning process. We’ve hit a snag here and there, but there hasn’t been anything Dustin and I couldn’t solve. With that said, I believe it is turning out great.
YOAK: There have been a lot of moving pieces to track and stars to align. It certainly has been a learning process but another thing Adrian and I have in common is that we like to learn. While this is a lot of hard work, we enjoy it.
4) Why did you decide to go with the theme of apparition for the first issue?
MEDINA: Dustin and I had a back-and-forth about whether or not the magazines should be themed. Ultimately, we decided to give the themed issue a chance. If it doesn’t work out how we planned it, we don’t have to do a theme for issue two, but things are working out so far.
As for Apparitions for the first theme… It was an assortment of things. First, I think the realm of “strange and sinister” is so vast, I figured narrowing it down to stories that involve an apparition of any kind (ghost, spirit, fifth-dimensional being, etc.) would set up the first issue with a specific aesthetic. Secondly, my good friend, Gunnar Larsen, supplied us with the cover art. So when Dustin and I were brainstorming the theme while gazing at the art, the first thing that came to mind was “spirits” or “apparitions”.
YOAK: Once we decided to try the themes, it really has come down to the art fueling the inspiration. There are a few other factors that we’ve been aiming for when considering the title and theme but we’ll see if that pans out in the second issue.
5) What do you look for in a submission or a piece of work?
MEDINA: First and foremost: Readability. If I can’t make any sense of it, then I can’t enjoy it. Secondly, would be its entertainment value. I’m not looking for purple prose or poetic perspectives. I just want the story to be entertaining and fall within our criteria. That doesn’t excuse bad grammar or poor writing, but if the characters are compelling and the world is immersive, I can overlook some technicalities. Dustin and I will take our time to help the author with the editing process if we think the story is worth it.
YOAK: Call me Lil Jon again. For someone who doesn’t like rap, I’ve certainly talked up this reference.
6) What is your opinion on the horror genre as a whole?
MEDINA: At first I hated it… Let me explain. My parents were young and pranksters when I was a child. They would rather let me stay up and watch movies with them quietly than fight with me to go to sleep. I watched Child’s Play for the first time when I was six or seven and it gave me nightmares. I had one of those “Buddy” dolls, so I took it out back and ripped its head off. That night, while I was asleep, my parents reattached his head, propped him up by my bed, turned on the light, and then slammed the door. I pissed myself when I woke up with this thing staring into my soul.
Same thing happened after I saw IT for the first time. They put balloons in the shower and in the toilet. I was quickly desensitized (and slightly traumatized) by their antics.
It was around the age of nine or ten that I discovered The Twilight Zone and became obsessed. I begged my parents to buy me the Tales from the Crypt and Goosebumps books. I’ve never stopped consuming the genre every since.
YOAK: I never really got into horror much over the years. I’ve always been more of a fantasy guy. I’d say it’s at least a monthly occurrence when I appall Adrian with some sort of must see/read that I’ve never seen. For example, I’ve never seen Child’s Play, IT, and most–if not all–of the Alien movies. For me, ever since I was two or three-years-old it was Star Wars. I read a lot of other books as a kid but outside of Goosebumps books, I only had eyes for Star Wars. Once Disney purchased Lucasfilm and obliterated my fictional friends and family, I decided to branch out into other fantasy novels like the Song of Ice and Fire series. Only recently have I started reading Stephen King. I started with The Gunslinger and have read my way through fourteen or so other King novels since late 2015.
I said all of that but didn’t answer the question. Overall, it’s great. Sometimes I enjoy it and other times, not so much. I’m really picky and choosy as far as what I watch or read. My vivid imagination and nightmares do enough to torment me without fresh fuel for the fire. However, when I do finally break down and watch or read something in the genre, I usually find it’s nowhere near as bad as my imagination.
7) What’s your favorite work/s in the genre?
MEDINA: In film: Alien. I’m a franchise fanboy. I collect the comics, action figures, art prints, etc. I first saw Alien when I was a teenager and the aesthetic of that universe blew me away (which led me to become a huge H.R. Giger fan). Although the franchise got a little wonky with Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, I still love them for what they are. I’m super excited about Alien: Covenant later this month. I’ll give any sci-fi/horror a chance.
In comics: Basically, anything Junji Ito does. Uzumaki and Tomie are absolutely amazing. Black Hole by Charles Burns is a close second.
In literature: I’m going to have to be boring and say, Edgar Allen Poe. It wasn’t until I started reading Poe as a teenager that I started to appreciate writing and storytelling as a craft.
YOAK: In Film: I enjoy the Friday the 13th franchise because some buddies and I used to like to sit around and make fun of them. I enjoyed the Predator franchise–especially the later Alien vs. Predator movies. I haven’t seen too many horror films and the ones I have seen–only one or two can be found in any top fifty that I’ve come across. My family and friends were never into horror so I’d have to watch it by myself. I very rarely have alone time.
In comics, I enjoyed the first volume that I read of Revival by Seeley but I mostly read superhero stuff or Rick and Morty.
In literature: Probably Poe or HP Lovecraft if you’ll allow it. As I said before, I recently started reading Stephen King but I haven’t read any of his big titles like Carrie, ‘Salem’s Lot, The Shining or IT yet. I have read Revival and Bag of Bones which are probably the only books of his that fall under the horror genre.
8) Have you any outside projects?
MEDINA: I do, actually. I have a fantasy/horror comic, Void & Valor, which is being illustrated by Gunnar Larsen. I am the co-owner and lead designer at Moon Market Games (facebook.com/moonmarketgames). We have two tabletop games out, Sanity and Doomsday Cult, and a few more in the final stages of design. In addition to that, I’m working on a sci-fi novella, The Pyre in Heaven.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d rather be overwhelmed with deadlines and crippled by anxiety than being bored.
YOAK: I can’t juggle in real life but I that doesn’t stop me from trying to juggle projects. I have a fantasy/horror comic, Reflections, which doesn’t have an illustrator yet but when I find one–I’m going to be ready. I also have a sci-fi/fantasy sitcom, Ditch Reality, which has been a pet project of mine for a number of years. I could go on, but to sum up I have a number of other projects in various stages of completion.
9) If you had the chance to be a character in a movie/book (or both), what would it be?
MEDINA: That’s a hard one. My wife says I’d be Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. I’d say Johnny Rico from Starship Troopers. The movie is considerably different from Heinlein’s novel, but I’d take either one. I’m not too fond of bugs.
YOAK: It’s hard to pick only one! Luke Skywalker in the expanded universe books where he was a hero rather than a secluded hermit-like in The Force Awakens or Roland Deschain from the Dark Tower series by Stephen King.