I first heard mutterings of B.R. Yeager’s Amygdalatropolis in certain
dark corners of the literary Twitterverse last year. Blake Butler
described the book as “blood meridian meets 4chan meets DC’s the
Needless to say, I was intrigued, promptly ordering a copy sight unseen.
When I opened the package, I was met by a cover adorned with parasitic
worms bursting from an intestinal tract. How could I not love this book?
I devoured Amygdalatropolis, an enigmatic and unrelenting novel
primarily shaped like an anonymous message board. Beyond the violence
and depravity spouted by a kaleidoscope of incels, the book is deeply
philosophical and speculative, a malware carrying the consciousness of
But who is B.R. Yeager, and like, what is his deal? I managed to track
him down and profess my admiration for his work. Yeager was generous
enough to share with Ligeia an excerpt from his latest longplayer,
Negative Space, which you can read
The new book, out now from Apocalypse
is a leap forward for Yeager—sharper, weirder, and grander. Following
the exploits of several teenagers as they confront a plague of
supernatural suicides, the narrative is packed with surreal, nightmarish
imagery that would make David Lynch blush. This is modern horror as it
Yeager generously agreed to correspond with me over email.
Coincidentally, our conversation took place as the world descended into
plague-ridden chaos. I cannot conceive of a more appropriate backdrop.
I want to begin with your origin story. When did you take an interest
in creative writing? Was it something you did as a child, or did you
come to the craft later in life? What or who were some formative
I think I’ve always been interested in storytelling, regardless of the
medium. I wrote a lot as a child—short stories but also concepts for
movies, video games, and tabletop role playing games. Throughout high
school and my early 20s, all my friends were musicians, so I more or
less abandoned formal storytelling in favor of being in bands. But even
then I was trying (and ultimately failing) to tell stories with the
music, or create an atmosphere that suggested a story. I was still
writing—mostly poetry and song lyrics, but I didn’t fully return to
writing fiction until my late twenties (specifically mid-2013).
I was always interested in horror—with books it started with R.L.
Stine and Christopher Pike, then Edgar Allan Poe, then Lovecraft and so
on. But the dam really broke when my mom handed down her copy of Geek
Love. I was maybe 12. That book made me realize that content forbidden
in other mediums was permitted—and even celebrated—in literature.
That probably set the tone for everything I’ve written so far.
“I do feel like the periods when I was primarily focused on making music/writing lyrics had an enormous effect on how I approach fiction.”
I always appreciate artists who take a multidisciplinary approach.
It’s cool how you’ve bridged the gap between music and literature. I
think a lot of music can be literary (Prurient comes to mind). Prose can
likewise be musical. I’ve always rejected the idea that a person is
beholden to a singular medium. Why limit ourselves? Everything bleeds
On the subject of childhood, Negative Space takes the “kids on
bikes” trope and elevates it to nightmarish levels. Stranger Things
this ain’t. The narrative features several shifting perspectives, all
of them teenagers. More often than not, when adults write younger
characters they miss the mark (usually to cringeworthy effect). I
thought you did a masterful job capturing that youthful dialect. What
was your approach to rendering these adolescent voices?
God, Prurient is so good—definitely listened to a lot of Frozen
Niagara Falls while writing Negative Space. I do feel like the
periods when I was primarily focused on making music/writing lyrics had
an enormous effect on how I approach fiction, in that I’m still more
interested in mood and suggestion than plot and exposition.
Regarding the youthful dialect, thank you, that means a lot. It was
something that was very important to me while writing both this and
Amygdalatropolis. You’re absolutely correct about most efforts to
capture “youth culture” resulting in pandering cringe. Those authors,
I imagine, have a very limited view of that age, and the depth of those
experiences. Like, teens may have a lack of lived experience, and they
may do stupid or risky shit, but that doesn’t make their experiences
and the ways they view the world inherently shallow. Because teenagers
tend to be unavailable to adults—living a sort of secret life among
their peer group—a lot of folks don’t look past the surface, and
assume there isn’t any depth there.
I think the key is to just write those characters as people, rather than
specifically “teenagers.” The fact that they are teens informs their
circumstances (attending school, living with parents, limited autonomy),
but not necessarily their personalities. Otherwise, I was mainly mining
my own memories, and experiences my friends and I had when we were that
age. Over the past ten years I’ve also had a lot of jobs that have had
me working with people between like 18-22, so I pulled from that, too.
Yeah, I teach mostly teenagers. I’m often astounded by how brilliant
and insightful they can be (often more so than many adults I know, ha!).
Reading Negative Space brought me back to those wild teenage years.
Kept thinking to myself, “I’ve been in that crummy basement, I’ve
bought shitty weed from that creep,” etc. Your characters might lack
that life experience like you said, but they are more perceptive of
what’s happening than their parents.
You also take on the challenge of writing “the other.” You bring a
lot of nuance to a trans character, a young bisexual woman, and a person
of color. I’ve been hearing a lot of discussion on this topic lately.
Some say white males such as ourselves have no business writing minority
characters. Others argue we have a responsibility to create diverse
characters, permitted we do the research (I think I fall more in this
camp). All the conversations I’ve had about this never end with a clear
answer—seems to be a murky debate. How did you approach writing “the
other” in Negative Space?
Oh, I can absolutely confirm that I’ve been in that crummy basement,
and have bought shitty weed from that creep! I’m glad that rang true. A
driving force of this book is that young people are often able to see
things that adults cannot—not sure if that’s a result of adults
becoming comfortable with their condition or being beaten down by a
sense of inevitability, while young people often have a lack of baggage
that allows for novel perspectives. I’m not an expert in any of this,
but that’s what it feels like.
This is probably going to sound evasive, but I didn’t really see it as
taking on a challenge. Ultimately, I think my stance is that everyone is
free to write whatever they like, and any reader is also free to
criticize it. I’d like to say I wasn’t trying to strike a win for
“representation,” because that tends to be self-serving when the
author’s background differs from that of their characters, but on a
subconscious level who knows? It’s largely an instinctual thing, and I
try not to get in the way of my intuition (with varying degrees of
success). This was just the way the characters emerged, and it should
always be a goal to write characters with as much nuance as possible.
That’s what I aimed for, but it’s not my call to say whether or not I
You’re right to follow intuition. There’s nothing worse than
diversity for diversity’s sake. I think you bring a lot of complexity
to these voices. They aren’t caricatures—you’ve made them much more
dynamic. I think the characters’ fluid sexuality helps too.
At the center of the narrative is Tyler, but we have a limited
understanding of him. We only hear his voice parroted through other
characters. We never get inside his head. He strikes me as a sort of
chaos agent, almost more like an uncontrollable force of nature than a
human being. He seems to precipitate much of the novel’s conflict, but
we also get the sense that he too is beholden to an unseen master. How
did Tyler evolve as you were putting the book together? Did his
development surprise you in any way?
So I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to broach this, or even
whether I want to broach this at all, because it’s a touchy and
personal subject. Not just for me, but a lot of people I’m close with.
Essentially, Negative Space was instigated by the death of one of my
best friends, and his struggles leading up to it. And it feels as though
that needs to be said because the book is inextricably linked to that
event—there would be no reason for it to exist had that not occurred.
There’s an aspect of saying this that feels gross and exploitative, but
it feels inadequate talking about it without that context. It also helps
that he was a real morbid and melodramatic motherfucker, someone who
loved art that mined real loss and agony, and I believe he would’ve
loved the idea of a book inspired by his death.
None of which is to say that Tyler is a stand-in, because he
isn’t—the more I wrote Tyler, the more he became vastly different
from my friend. And maybe the biggest surprise was how different he
ended up being. But “chaos agent” and “uncontrollable force of
nature” are definitely characteristics that would apply to both the
character and his inspiration, for better and worse.
“All the characters' various forms of communion are attempts to reach the space beyond the limits of their senses.”
Thank you for being open about the loss of your friend. I suspected
something like that must’ve sparked the book. It has an incredibly
intimate undercurrent. Obviously I didn’t know your friend, but the
book doesn’t feel heartless or exploitative. I think in a way it honors
your friend, like a tribute or testament.
In that sense, there is a devotional quality to the book. Parts of it
read almost like a sacred text—incantations, rituals, myths. There’s
a wonderful intersection between religion and spiritualism. Characters
commune with saints and demons, like Saint Gobnait. Still, the occult
permeates everything. I was getting echoes of Lovecraft, but also
Christian mysticism, like The Cloud of Unknowing. As a former Catholic
turned atheist, I see elements of that faith creep into my own writing
at times. Did you have a religious upbringing? If so, how does that
inform your work?
I had the complete opposite of a religious upbringing. My parents had
extremely religious upbringings (fundamentalist Christianity and
orthodox Judaism), which they both rejected completely, so I was more or
less raised as an atheist (though not entirely—they have some
non-denominational, intuitive spiritual inclinations, but nothing
dogmatic). For the most part, I embraced atheism for the majority of my
life—sometimes to an extreme degree, which has been shitty at times,
and I’m not proud of that. I’ve been trying to be more open, and the
last few years I’ve realized that absolute materialism has maybe been
lacking. I’ve been working toward recognizing the value of
spiritual/religious/mystic practices and communities, even though my
actual engagement has been minimal.
Ultimately, my current belief is that it’s not that I don’t believe in
God or the divine, I just don’t believe in an anthropomorphic God, or
an anthropomorphic rendering of the divine.
But yeah, in terms of the book, it was one of those things where just
because I skew toward atheist/agnostic beliefs doesn’t mean the book
should be solely populated by atheists and agnostics. All the
characters’ various forms of communion are attempts to reach the space
beyond the limits of their senses. But even though they’re able to
reach that space to varying degrees, it doesn’t mean their beliefs or
practices are entirely “correct.” So while a character may pray to
Saint Gobnait, the actual entity that speaks back isn’t necessarily
her. Or while a ritual may give a character access to that space,
individual details of the ritual may not be necessary to access that
space. Does that make sense?
I think I get what you’re saying. We’re surrounded by the
metaphysical realm without being able to see it. Sometimes people access
these other planes of existence—through drugs, rituals, spells. Even
if you can reach these dimensions, you can never have a complete
understanding of them. How can we process something beyond our
comprehension? Again, Lovecraft comes to my mind (probably because I
just watched Richard Stanely’s Color Out of Space, ha!).
I wanted to get your thoughts on genre. To me, Negative Space is not
only an excellent novel, it’s a masterpiece of modern horror. I put it
up there with guys like Brian Evenson. You play with different genres
though. The end gets a bit sci-fi, and there are fantasy elements as
well. For whatever reason, genre gets maligned in many circles. It
baffles me how much of the literary establishment doesn’t treat genre
fiction seriously. What attracts you to horror? Why do you think it gets
relegated to the gutter?
Shit, thank you so much. Evenson is objectively far better than me, but
I’ll take the compliment.
I think the reason horror gets relegated to the gutter is because the
genre is foremost centered around exploring base, primordial responses.
Which isn’t to say horror isn’t often cerebral—that just isn’t
necessarily the focus, much of the time (there is also plenty of
theory-fiction out there that proves this statement wrong). I can’t
speak to the literary establishment, because I’m not in that world and
I don’t pay much attention to it, but I feel as though a lot of folks
simply find it embarrassing or childish to incorporate imaginative
elements into their stories. Similarly, to be frightened—especially by
a piece of media—is to feel like a child. And there’s something
embarrassing about that. So maybe horror is maligned by squares as a
defense from being seen as childlike.
That said, genre fiction can get awfully stuffy as well. There’s a lot
of work that isn’t concerned with trying anything new, just trotting
out the same formulas and standard bogeymen, and that’s just as boring
to me as a book about rich people getting divorced. Maybe not as
boring, but you get my point. Mick Garris often says that the best
horror stories are great dramas first, and that you could remove the
genre elements and it would still be a compelling story. I maybe agree
with that about 60-70% of the time, because there is a lot of horror
media I love that would absolutely not fly as straight drama.
But here’s the thing: I don’t want to see horror crawl out of the
gutter. Horror belongs in the gutter. That’s where it thrives. I feel
similar about the state of literature in general. Aside from the
potential of making more money, why clamor for institutional acceptance?
What does it matter? When people lament the decline of literature as a
force in popular culture, really I think we should be embracing that.
The most interesting shit grows in the dark. There’s so much freedom in
no one caring except for the hardcore. Build a weird little cloister
with other writers and readers who value the same qualities you do, and
even then keep trying to surprise and subvert expectations.
“It's everything leading up to death that scares me.”
Amen. Some of my favorite horror movies are utter trash. I wouldn’t
have it any other way. There does seem to be a shift towards arthouse
horror these days with the A24 boon. Sometimes I’d rather just watch a
Troma flick though, ha!
I think you’re onto something with the notion that people shun horror
to avoid feeling embarrassed by being scared. I like that Garris quote
too—I’m a fan of his podcast. In whatever kind of story you’re
telling, the relationships and behaviors of people are usually what’s
most interesting. Package it however you want. Throw in some monsters
for good measure.
Horror has a long tradition of anti-establishment sentiments, as it
should. Keep it underground, eschew the mainstream. True weirdness
breeds in the sewer. Negative Space is singular work—I haven’t read
anything else quite like it. I’m astounded by the amount of nightmare
fuel in the book. The underlying sense of menace and danger is
omnipresent, the casual violence unrelenting. Much of the imagery has
seared into my brain—geese with beaks sliced off, a dancing rabbit
with human eyes, a skin sheet flapping in the breeze. I’m curious, what
frightens you in real life? How did these fears or phobias manifest in
Don’t get me wrong—I love a lot of contemporary arthouse horror. I
love Robert Eggers and Ari Aster, etc. But that’s largely because there
is still an embrace of the gutter in those films—the relentless
depiction of physical trauma and manic energy. The sense that a pocket
of the world is crumbling apart before your eyes. I mean, Texas
Chainsaw Massacre is an arthouse film to me, and Hereditary or The
Lighthouse feel like natural extensions of that tradition. On the other
hand, you have A Quiet Place, which seems like a conscious attempt at
creating a “respectable” horror film, and the result is something
that’s utterly boring and unremarkable to me.
Actually just re-watched Color Out of Space with my wife last night
(she hadn’t seen it), and it did strike me as the perfect mix of
schlock and artistic vision. It does very much feel like a B-movie in a
lot of ways (and mostly in good ways), but that doesn’t stop it from
being intensely upsetting and compelling. I’m hoping for more in that
There is so much that frightens me. The fragility of the human body.
Terrible, irreversible injury. Illness. Losing loved ones. The general
threat of population-ending events and the slow apocalypse.
I was talking about the fear of bodily fragility with a friend about a
month ago, and he said, “So, dying and stuff?” But dying doesn’t
scare me so much—dying is the easy part. You’re here, and then
you’re not. It’s everything leading up to death that scares me. So I
put all of that into the book. I like your description: “omnipresent,
casual violence.” That’s exactly what I was attempting to
instill—this sense of an extreme, overwhelming degree of violence that
has become normalized by the people living within it, almost as a means
Which, to be honest, is what many, many people have to deal with. I am a
very fortunate and privileged person. I don’t have to worry about
violence befalling me in my day to day life. But that isn’t the
baseline for most people.
Negative Space has a wonderful combination of real and imagined
references to books, movies, music, etc. We get everything from Post
Malone lyrics to lines by Márquez. As a reader, I had fun guessing what
some of these were. But there is also invented material, like the
passages from The Entropic Pantheon. What’s your process like for
layering in these fictitious works within a work? How did you go about
curating what outside sources your characters would be interacting
I’m so happy you caught the Post Malone lyrics, haha! That was a last
minute addition. I was driving home from Boston, and I only have a radio
in my car, and that song came on, and I just got this image of the kids
singing along to it as they danced beneath the dead bodies. One of my
favorite moments in the book, very happy that came through the ether.
The in-text books came out of necessity. I’m typically very
anti-exposition—I used to have a sticky note at the top of my computer
monitor that read NEVER EXPLAIN ANYTHING—because there’s nothing
less scary than knowing what’s going on. But I wanted to provide some
theoretical context for what was occurring, or at least how the
characters were interpreting what was occurring. And because none of
those texts provide any concrete answers, and could actually be entirely
off base, I believe they dodge the exposition trap.
Earlier this year I was on Joe Bielecki’s podcast Writing the
Rapids, and one thing we
talked about was the challenges and contradictions surrounding writing
about the Unknown. And one thing I believe pretty strongly in is that if
you truly want to write about the Unknown, it can’t just be what is
unknown to the characters but known to the author, it has to be what is
unknown to the author as well. So while I have some ideas about what is
really happening in Negative Space, I wanted to make the theoretical
context big enough so that even I am in the dark regarding some of the
The more incidental elements—the songs the characters listen to, or
the movies they watch, and video games they play, etc.—just comes out
of imagining what media the characters are engaging with. I think their
inclusion can make the world feel more vivid and lived in. Sometimes it
means pulling from real world sources, other times it’s purely
invention—the latter tends to originate in dreams. I often dream in
the style of video games, so I like to include snippets of those when it
Man, you are speaking my language. I’m much happier living in
ambiguity. Nothing kills a work like concrete exposition. But for
whatever reason, I constantly hear people voicing the opposite
sentiment—“Gee, this is weird and confusing. I wish the author would
explain this more clearly.” Rubbish. I suppose people are uncomfortable
confronting the Unknown, whereas I prefer diving into the deep end
without knowing how to swim. That’s definitely part of why I dig
Negative Space so much. There’s no tidy conclusion. I think this lack
of closure makes it even more frightening. I see this in horror movies
as well. The best ones leave our questions unanswered, the beast
I know you’re a Massachusetts native. I spent a year in Boston and
have fond memories of the city. Beautiful country up there, but also
wild and eerie. Remembering those dense, dark woods, it’s not hard to
imagine monsters lurking in the brush. You render this environment into
an unsettling, hostile place. Everything man-made is in decay, slowly
being reclaimed by nature. How have those New England landscapes
influenced you and your writing?
Oh, very cool! I’m on the other side of the state, in an area that’s
more or less rural-adjacent suburbia. Clusters of towns split up by
woodlands, and larger cities to the south. Wild and eerie is absolutely
how I’d describe it, and it’s been a perpetual inspiration. I wrote
the majority of Negative Space while living in the town of Greenfield,
which has this utterly haunted vibe. Tiny and somewhat archaic and
surrounded by mountains. I used to get a real bad, ugly feeling whenever
I went there, but now I love it. There’s this old covered bridge, the
Eunice Williams bridge, named after a murdered colonist, and supposedly
if you drive into the middle of the bridge, kill the headlights and
wait, you’ll see her apparition, still searching for her family.
Definitely tried that a couple times, to no avail.
A little ways up north is a ghost town that ended up inspiring the
Abandonments, and a little further is the mouth of the Hoosac tunnel.
It’s a railroad tunnel running through a solid mountain range, and
earned the nickname “The Bloody Pit” because 200 or so workers died
hollowing it out. Purportedly insanely haunted, and when you go up
there, you can really feel it—bizarre cold spots and vapors
everywhere. The tunnel goes so deep it’s like staring into the abyss.
Then there’s New Hampshire. New Hampshire has that same vibe but ramped
up even further. The woods are grander and darker. There’s that “Live
Free or Die” attitude that often manifests as casual hostility. It’s
probably only because I live adjacent to it, and not directly within,
but the landscape and feel there is still incredibly romantic,
mysterious and sinister to me. I don’t think I could’ve put Kinsfield
in Massachusetts, because Massachusetts is too familiar. It had to be
Might need to take a field trip to this haunted railroad tunnel—love
exploring places like that. I live close to a bunch of Civil War
battlefields. There’s a road called “Spook Hill” where if you stop
your car and put it in neutral, you’ll start inexplicably rolling
uphill. Legend goes that the ghosts of soldiers are giving you a push.
My wife and I spent some time in Vermont and New Hampshire last
summer. Stunning woodlands and mountains up there, but I definitely had
the vibe it’d be all too easy getting swallowed up by the wilderness. I
was surprised encountering that “live free or die” mentality you
mentioned. I was expecting a bunch of granola crunching hippies but came
across loads of gun-toting Trumpheads. Strange country indeed…
I’ve been digging the snippets of Burial Grid’s soundtrack for the
book. Looking forward to picking up the full release soon. I love this
concept of scoring a book. It’s a wonder we don’t see these
collaborations more often. How do you hope readers will pair the book
and the soundtrack? What are the ideal reading/listening conditions? I
see myself reading by candlelight in a dark cave with the score playing
softly on a warped tape deck, haha.
That’s so wild, because Greenfield has the exact same thing! It’s called
Gravity Hill, but there is a reasonable explanation: the incline is an
optical illusion. You’re actually going downhill, but it appears as
though you’re going uphill.
My wife grew up in New Hampshire and Vermont, and it’s absolutely true.
There is also a load of hippies, but there seems to be a truce, haha.
One notion that really needs to die is that the U.S. north is some
bastion of progressivism, and the south is the inverse. There’s plenty
of racism here, from across the political spectrum—it may not always
be blatant, but it’s definitely there. You also see a lot of
anti-poor/anti-homeless sentiment. This one town, Northampton—which
prides itself on progressive values—has been waging an on and off war
on the homeless and poor for the past decade. But folks love clinging to
whatever high horse they’ve got.
I’m also surprised more people haven’t tried pairing music with
literature, though I’ve been told that most people don’t listen to music
while reading. So I feel like the music can function as a direct
companion to the text, or as an extension of it. I tend to get very
obsessive when I find a work—whether it’s a book, film, video game,
etc.—that really strikes a nerve and resonates with me. I like to have
multiple ways of staying in that atmosphere, in that world. Soundtracks
have been a terrific way of doing that, and I feel like the Burial Grid
record can serve the same purpose.
The longer I’ve digested Negative Space, the more I’ve come to
think it’s an intensely political novel in many ways. The book is
filled with parasites, like the “zombie fungus,” or wasps laying their
eggs inside a living organism. There’s this through-line of people
being manipulated by forces beyond their control, much in the same way
our society is manipulated by the media or the government. Were you
consciously threading in this political commentary or was this a happy
accident? Any hot takes on the dismal state of American politics?
That interpretation is very interesting, but I’d be lying if I said
that was my aim. I guess I saw it more as a philosophical question than
specifically a political one: the question of whether free will actually
exists within the context of our “self” and our beliefs, which are at
least partially dictated by factors beyond our conscious control—our
nervous systems, our endocrine systems, and who knows what else. But I
am a total layperson with regard to these issues, so I imagine my
thoughts on the subject are highly flawed. The great thing about
literature and art in general is that it allows even the layperson to
explore and dabble in these issues without necessarily worrying about
That said, my views and observations about how social structures impact
people within them inevitably informed aspects of the book. Beyond all
the spooky bullshit, Negative Space is ultimately about people trying
to maintain while their basic social infrastructure crumbles. That could
be called a political slant, but it’s also just recognizing that one’s
environment and condition impacts how they exist in the world. Maybe
I’m hesitant to accept the political label because there’s so much art
out right now using shallow allegory to prop up shoddy work. I’m about
as far from being an “art should be apolitical” guy as you can get,
but then I’ll encounter something so cringey it almost makes me
That said, let’s loop back around to the horror genre in general and
look at something like Dawn of the Dead. Intensely political, and
successfully so, in part because it avoids the straight allegory trap. A
lot of people focus on the “critique of consumerism” angle, but it’s
so much broader than that. It’s about the attempt to return to a
“normal,” middle-class existence after the possibility for such has
crumbled. What could be more relevant now? An easy target is the
faux-nostalgia pitched by Trump, but that’s also what Biden and the DNC
are pitching now. “Let’s go back to a time when you didn’t have to
worry about what was going on in Washington. Ignore the fires and
floods, ignore the fucking bodies piling up, don’t get involved, we’ve
got it all under control.” But we’re long past the point of no return.
There’s no going back.
I tend to think the most effective “political” art are works with a
documentarian objective rather than a didactic objective. Again,
thinking about Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead, or
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or Invasion of the Body Snatchers—those
are works about capturing the madness of the time, rather than trying to
instill specific lessons or values.
“Once you see the wheels of capitalism start grinding to a halt, and you see companies taking actions resulting in major financial losses, that's like the canary in the coal mine.”
Oh, trust me, I could talk horror all day. I think horror has always
been inherently political, Romero being a perfect example. The medium
forces humanity to stare into its ugly reflection. The various Body
Snatchers incarnations also illustrate what horror does
best—capturing a society’s unique, contemporary anxieties through a
timeless theme, like loss of autonomy/identity. Definitely why so many
of these films still remain relevant. I just had a rather Dawn of the
Dead-esque experience trying to buy toilet paper, haha. Expecting there
will be a wave of plague-based horror after the coronavirus scare.
I’ve been digging your selections as guest editor at Hobart
recently. You’ve got a good eye. When you’re reading other writers’
work, what are you looking for? What are the essential components to a
compelling piece of fiction? What turns you off?
Oh same, regarding being able to talk horror all day. It’s my fucking
lifeblood, haha. It does feel like a particularly bizarre time to be
alive. I’d been taking the reaction to the pandemic pretty lightly up
until last week [Editor’s Note: Yeager is referring to the first week
of March 2020], just because corporate media has such a tendency to
blow things out of proportion. But once you see the wheels of capitalism
start grinding to a halt, and you see companies taking actions resulting
in major financial losses, that’s like the canary in the coal mine.
I’m definitely taking it a lot more seriously now, and it’s hard not
to get a feeling of “Shit—I’ve seen this movie before.”
[Hobart] was actually my first attempt at editing for a lit
magazine. In terms of what I look for, my answer is going to be terribly
boring: it’s a gut thing. At this point I almost feel like I know less
about writing, and especially what constitutes good writing, than I ever
did before, particularly from a technical, or even a critical
standpoint. It’s driven by intuition and visceral response. I don’t
think it’s necessarily a good or bad thing—it’s just how it is.
I suppose one thing that almost always turns me off is too much scene
setting. “It was me and [x person], at this [x place], doing [x
thing],” going on for a full paragraph. Unless the setting is
profoundly interesting, it probably isn’t going to excite me. Also, any
attempt at being twee or cute is likely going to rub me the wrong way.
What a coincidence we happen to be doing this interview as society
descends into anarchy around us. Strange times, my friend …
Since we’re all trapped inside, what better time to talk about books
and movies. Something to stem the anxiety, haha. What are you reading
and/or watching these days? Any cool new discoveries, whether it’s old
or new stuff?
Right now I’m in the middle of reading Confidence Man by Anthony
Dragonetti, and Love Hotel by Jane Unrue. Both are terrific, though
completely different—the first being a collection of thematically
connected short stories about secrets, lies, trauma, etc., somewhat
reminiscent of Jesus’ Son, and the latter being a novel that puts you
in the position of a fractured psyche navigating fractured locales. Also
just recently finished The Artifact by Germán Sierra, which is this
brilliant navigation of damage and technology and the damage technology
inflicts, and the ways we grow new skin around that damage. I’m not
nearly smart enough to fully grasp or describe it, but thankfully Sierra
is such a great writer that you don’t have to fully understand it in
order to enjoy or appreciate it.
I was lucky enough to grab a sugar cube of LSD and a quarter of
psilocybin mushrooms before going into isolation, so I’ve also been
spending a lot of time studying the patterns in grass and wood grain,
What’s next for you? I’m excited for Pearl Death. Any other
projects you care to tease? Long lost manuscripts stuffed in a drawer
waiting to be excavated?
Thanks man! I’m excited about Pearl Death too (which is good, since I
still need to finish it!). Otherwise, I’m going to be contributing to
an anthology-novel being compiled by 11:11 Press—that should be out
this summer. I’m looking forward to seeing how that turns out.
I’ve also started working a little bit on what might be the next novel,
though I’m going to refrain from talking about it. It’s in such early
stages—we’re looking at something that might be two or three years
B.R. YEAGER reps Western Massachusetts. He is the author of
Amygdalatropolis (Schism Press).