Never one to do things by half measures, the legendary horror writer John Skipp has turned to editing anthologies with a vengeance, his titles including Zombies, Demons and Werewolves, and Shapeshifters. His latest is Psychos, a collection of thirty-eight terrifying tales of serial killers at large, written by the great masters of the genre. Authors include Neil Gaiman, Amelia Beamer, Robert Bloch, and Thomas Harris.
Omnivoracious caught up with Skipp to ask him, among other things, what makes for a great story about a psycho.
“Well, for starters, don’t skimp on the psychosis! That’s your primary ingredient! Past that, I’d say it’s a combination of great storytelling on the one hand and great psychological probity on the other, with language that manages to get authentically inside the experience of insanity, and pull you along.”
Since Psychos includes stories from several decades, Skipp has gained some perspective on how psycho stories have changed over the years. “I think we’ve just gotten a lot more honest about how crazy we all are sometimes, and the painful minutia therein. Its part and parcel of a larger shift—our cultural embrace of the monster—which you can see everywhere from the success of [the Showtime series] Dexter to the proliferation of sexy vampire and werewolf romance.
“Not saying that everyone does crazy right. Not even close. But these days, we’re much less apt to suggest insanity by having the character cartoonily bug one eye out and go ‘Hern hern hern…’ You know? Even the dumbest CSI wannabe spinoff on television demands greater sophistication than even fine writers of fiction used to routinely get away with. And that is good. But the great writers—the ones who truly excel at this—know too much, and are willing to share it in signature bursts of alarming clarity. And this book is full of them.