Inside the Lovecraftian Hesher Madness of Nathan Carson’s ‘Starr Creek’

In just 163 pages Nathan Carson’s new novella Starr Creek brings together hesher teens, D&D-obsessed 11 year-olds, bikers, cult members, hillbillies, a crazy demonic goat, a hell of a lot of drugs, and a big monster in a crazed collision of Lovecraftian weirdness and, best of all, macabre fun.

Starr Creek is the first book published by Carson, who is best known by Decibel readers as the drummer for Portland doom greats Witch Mountain. As much a student of horror fiction as he is heavy metal, Carson has a keen eye for detail as a writer as well as a vivid imagination, and those two characteristics are a big reason why this briskly-paced novella works so well. He was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book, as well as give us the opportunity to premiere the fabulous new trailer for it as well, which can be seen below.

Starr Creek is available now from Lazy Fascist Press. Order it via Amazon here. 

What drew you to writing fiction? More specifically, the weird, Lovecraftian fiction you specialize in?

Nathan Carson: I’ve always been interested in reading and writing. The first story I wrote was a tale about a family of dinosaurs. I was six. In high school, I got more ambitious and spun out pastiches of HP Lovecraft and Clive Barker while blasting Social Unrest in my bedroom. These stories were terrible, but excellent practice anyway.

After that, I realized that I needed more life experience so that my insights could imbue my work with deeper meaning. After several careers, much world traveling, and fifteen years as a music journalist, I figured that I was finally ready. As it turns out, my early interest in Lovecraft came in handy–that became a great entry point for me to share my adult fiction with a new audience.

My very first fiction sale was to the Word Horde anthology Cthulhu Fhtagn!. It’s been a blast to see my name in the table of contents with so many other authors who I admire. It’s very similar to having a song on a compilation album like Metal Swim or the Sabbath tribute that we’re on.

There is such attention to detail in the way you depict this part of the world. What is it about this part of Oregon that compelled you to set a novella there?

Carson: I grew up in the backwoods of Oregon. When Lazy Fascist Press invited me to write a book on a tight deadline, I knew that I needed the setting to be somewhere very close to home. That sense of place is in my DNA; I spent years running around in those fields and forests and soaking in the weirdness of those rural areas. Lovecraft had his New England towns and back roads. Mine were in the Northwest.

So many memorable cultural moments, pop and otherwise, play a significant role in this book: Halley’s comet, Chernobyl, Master of Puppets, Photon. How influential a year was 1986 for yourself, and how much did that play into the writing of this book?

Carson: I knew I wanted to set the book in the eighties. And there is one set of characters that are eleven-year-olds and another group that are fifteen or sixteen. In 1986, I was thirteen, so that midpoint gave me perspective to imagine being a bit older or younger in that year. Also, the more I looked at the history, the stronger my conviction that a lot of heavy duty shit was going on, including the passing of Halley’s Comet and the Chernobyl accident. Like many kids my age, I watched the Challenger explode in real time from a television in classroom. All the other pop culture details just came naturally, from having been there. Some people have compared Starr Creek to Stranger Things. But I have to say, kids riding bikes and eating Eggo waffles is not a genre. It’s a thing that happened on a pretty massive scale.

With your writing career now in full gear, what’s it been like balancing that side of your life with your music? 

Carson: As a musician, I’ve been making collaborative art since I was sixteen. It’s incredibly rewarding to make music with a group, to record albums, and tour. But, especially as the drummer, it’s not like I get to really share my personal unfiltered creativity with the world. As an author, I work at my own pace and I get to see my vision realized without compromise. They are completely different processes and I enjoy the hell out of both.

I’m trying to write during summer and winter, since spring and fall tend to be peak tour seasons. Ultimately, I’m not the kind of person who enjoys routine. Having different outlets to bounce between is wonderful. By the time I’m at the end of a tour, I’m ready for some solitary writing. And by the end of a book, I want to be anywhere but in my room on the computer.

The new trailer for the book is a riot. How did that all come about?

Carson: More and more writers I know are making trailers to promote their books. I have a longtime friend in Portland named Jay Winebrenner who is an excellent filmmaker with a truly warped sense of style and humor. I had already written the book and didn’t want to have to script the trailer as well, so I really put it in his hands. We tag-teamed with me as producer. I cast a bunch of friends and a real live goat, and we filmed it in a few hours one chilly afternoon inside the Star Theater. It turned out better than I could have hoped.

What’s next for your writing work? Is a full-length novel happening in the future?

Carson: Next up is a two-issue comic that I’m working on with Sam Ford. He’s the drummer of Wizard Rifle and the illustrator who did the line art on the last two Witch Mountain album covers. I have ideas for a few other short stories that I need to get out of my skull as soon as possible. And of course I’ve been working on notes and outlines for a full-length novel for quite a long time. Starr Creek needed to happen fast so I wrote it first. This year I’ll go back to plan A.

How about Witch Mountain plans for 2017?

Carson: We are actively writing our new album now, with plans to release it and tour in the fall. I sold a lot of books from the merch table on our last tour. It’s amazing how many people walked up to look at our shirts and saw the books and took a look. Luckily, it’s not a huge stretch to interest doom metal fans in weird horror, science fiction, or sword & sorcery.