Hi everyone, Slick Dungeon here and guess who appeared out of the cosmos and in my dungeon! Andrew Piazza, the author of the spectacular book A Song For The Void about a cosmic horror on the high seas during the Opium Wars in 1853. You should all go out and read it, right after you finish reading this post. Andrew was nice enough to let me ask him a few questions about the book, about his speculative fiction and his writing process. Welcome to my dungeon, Andrew, and thank you for joining me! Without further ado let’s get into the interview.
Slick: A Song For The Void is not just a cosmic horror novel but a historical cosmic horror novel. Why did you feel it was a story well suited to the time period of the Opium Wars? Had you ever considered other time periods to set it in?
Andrew: The story came about as a synthesis of two separate pieces; first, the
creature known as the Darkstar. I came up with the idea for this
particular nastie a while back, but I wasn’t sure where to put it.
Then, as I started going down a rabbit hole reading about the history
of the Opium Wars (I have a tendency to find such rabbit holes) I
realized I had exactly the right setting. Using that setting and that
monster allowed me to discuss some of the themes present in the novel;
addiction, identity, existentialism.
Slick: How much research goes into being historically accurate in your fiction?
Andrew: Quite a lot. I usually have to throttle back a bit, because there is
always a risk of going overboard and including TOO much of the
history. In doing so, an author can compromise the narrative flow. I
recently read a historical horror novel set in approximately the same
time period that suffered this mistake. The author had clearly done
exhaustive research and was very keen to show it all off, but the plot
began to drag as a consequence. It’s best to learn as much as you
can, and then “forget” it so to speak, and let the setting be just
that… a background that is very believable so as to create an
immersive experience for the reader… a more perfect illusion, if you
Slick: What is your writing process like? Do you dedicate time to it every day or do you wait for inspiration to hit?
Andrew: I don’t subscribe to the need to write a certain number of words per
day. I do work on my books every day, but that need not be composing
of a rough draft… it could be research, outlining, editing, etc.
Slick: In the book, there is a menacing cosmic entity that threatens the people aboard the HMS Charger called the Darkstar. What gave you the idea for that entity and the horrors it introduces to the characters?
Andrew: (Mild spoilers) I liked the idea of a cosmic creature that could wipe
out humanity except for the presence of the magnetosphere. That is a
peculiar quirk of our planet this is highly underrated. It protects
us from certain death in the form of cosmic radiation, and most of us
have no idea. It fits in very nicely with the general concepts of
cosmic terror, which come from being a tiny creature in a vast and
Slick: The main character, Doctor Pearce, struggles with addiction. Not just addiction to substances but addiction to the past and what he has lost. Do you think that this topic is one you will explore further in future works?
Andrew: Struggling with the momentum of one’s past is a common ailment, so I
will undoubtedly have characters struggling with this in the future,
but I don’t know if it, or addiction in general, will be as front and
center of a theme as in this novel.
Slick: The story also gets quite philosophical at points. It poses the question of what we truly are. If someone has head trauma and their personality changes, are they still that same person? Is there anything behind the machinery of our bodies? This kind of question perfectly matches with the cosmic horrors that appear in the book. Why did you want to dive into these questions and do you think you arrived at answers for yourself?
Andrew: If you really want to freak yourself out, read up on what happens when
portions of the brain are damaged by injury or disease. Or studies on
how flimsy our knowledge of consciousness really is. At the time of
the novel’s setting (mid 1800’s), science was rapidly displacing
religion as an explanation for how things are. A transcendent
explanation… we are all special creatures with a near-magical,
eternal “spirit” residing within, began to be replaced by a more nuts
and bolts approach, leading to an existential hole that still exists
today. It is the great challenge of modern philosophy to provide the
consolations of religion, but still within the framework of logic and
A few years ago, I was blind-sided with an unexpected medical
diagnosis that required dangerous surgery. For a short time, I
thought I might not be around to wake up the next day. It got me
thinking quite a lot about these kinds of existential dilemmas. Part
of dealing with that was in re-prioritizing my writing, which I had
let wane in the years before out of the standard distractions of career.
Slick: I am glad that everything worked out okay for you and glad you picked writing back up so we could have some great stories to read.
Slick: This book kept me up late at night, not just reading, but also because it is genuinely scary. With Lovecraftian style horror, it would be easy to go overboard and make the horrors seem almost silly. Yet you were able to deftly maneuver the reader so that it was horrific without being outlandish. Is that a difficult balance to accomplish?
Andrew: It’s a tightrope, to be sure. Part of the key of writing effective
horror is to establish a strong sense of normalcy and a belief in the
world the author has created… now we’re circling around to your
question on historical accuracy. Writing a setting and characters
that are believable and establishing them as such allow an author to
then turn all that on its ear and present the impossible as not just
possible, but likely.
Slick: With the book and series Lovecraft Country and the role-playing game Call of Cthulhu being quite popular right now, it seems that cosmic horror is having a bit of a resurgence in popularity. Why do you think that is and how do you think that might influence your future stories?
Andrew: My favorite kind of horror is cosmic horror. I believe it is the
horror that lies beneath all other, from which all other forms of
horror flow. Why do we fear death? Because we fear oblivion. We
have this aching, dull, poorly defined fear inside all of us, that
maybe we’re not the special snowflake and center of the universe that
our ego convinces us we are. To be completely out of control,
helpless, a leaf blown by the wind, is terrifying, as is the unknown,
as is the prospect of nihilism.
As far as how it will influence further stories, you can count on my
writing more novels like this. Cosmic horror holds the best capacity
for exploring those themes that run deepest, much like good science
fiction or fantasy.
Slick: Will there be more books involving these characters and, if so, what are the plans for the next book?
Andrew: I doubt we’ll see more of the characters in this novel, although the
Darkstar may indeed decide to return and visit humanity again one day.
Slick: The story is on one level very personal and shows how one character relates to the world in a very difficult time. On the other hand, some menaces threaten not just Doctor Pearce but perhaps all of humanity. Do you think that the personal story of the Doctor helps to reflect the struggles of mankind overall?
Andrew: If you’re going to tackle a “big” story epic in scope, it is important
to have a “small” story of the individuals caught up in that epic
scope, in order to make it accessible. We can read dry statistics of
millions dying and it is a distant unreality, but the story of a single
person’s suffering can easily make us weep.
Slick: As I said above this story kept me up at night because it is quite frightening. What kinds of stories keep you up at night?
Andrew: Stories of people being cruel to each other to a level that is hard to
Slick: Agreed. Those stories can be all to prevalent and very hard to take.
Slick: How can readers buy the book and how can they get in contact with you?
Andrew: The book is on Amazon, in print and ebook format. The US link is
Readers interested in a free sample of my work in order to see if I’m
a good choice for them can go to my website, www.andrewpiazza.com,
where I have a free starter library available. I’m also on Facebook
Slick: I have signed up myself for your free starter library and I have to say, it is an excellent value with great writing. You can consider me a fan. Thanks so much, Andrew, for taking the time out of your day to come and visit my dungeon.
If you are still reading this post, once you are done, go out and buy the book. If you love cosmic horror, you will not be disappointed.