Author Jesse Bullington on His "Enterprise of Death"


Jesse Bullington leapt onto the scene with his first novel, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, published by Orbit. A scandalous romp through Medieval Europe with a couple of murderous brothers, the novel managed to meld dark humor and horror, while also injecting the supernatural. The novel divided reviewers but received its fair share of praise.

Now Bullington’s back with a second novel that’s no less ambitious. Set during the terrors of the Spanish Inquisition, Enterprise of Death features a young African slave named Awa unwillingly apprenticed to a necromancer. Although she manages to extricate herself from the arrangement, Awa finds herself under the power of a curse. Only a mysterious book may help release her—but first she must find it. Along the way, she’ll meet up with the artist Niklaus Manuel Deutsch, the alchemist Dr. Paracelsus, and a Dutch mercenary. Vampires and zombies also put in an appearance.

Sound like your standard fantasy novel plot? Not at all, and as the Wall Street Journal noted in its review, you have to admire the results: “It's macabre, gruesome, foul-mouthed and much more complex than the usual vampire-and-zombie routine. The book is also a great counter to any notion that it's easy to tell the difference between scientific fact and occult fantasy.” I interviewed Jesse Bullington recently about the novel and his relationship with weird fiction, continuing the theme from Tuesday’s feature on Michael Cisco and Brendan Connell. What does the term “The Weird” mean to you, and how would define your own work in relation to the Weird?

Jesse Bullington: It’s a bit of a cheat, but for me “The Weird” is best defined by what it isn’t—ordinary, mundane, predictable, the not-weird. What exactly that is varies wildly from era to era, movement to movement, medium to medium, and artist to artist, but I think the core of “The Weird” is an effort to create something fantastic and often fantastical, to turn up something new and unexpected even in seemingly overworked fields. As such, it’s pretty much a catchall for the sorts of art that I’m most interested in experiencing, consuming, producing, and participating in.

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