Baltimore-based musician Terence Hannum is probably best known within the extreme music community for his work with experimental metal outfit Locrian. But a lesser known fact is that Hannum has been publishing fiction over the last few years in addition to his musical endeavors. His newest novella, “All Internal”, was recently published by Dynatox Ministries and is available now. This bizarre, fever-dream of a story weaves together grotesque body horror with philosophical underpinnings and will pique the interest of fans of both Dennis Cooper and David Cronenberg’s body of work.
In this recent interview with Svbterranean, Hannum speaks on the inspiration behind his new work and its creation.
Your new novella, All Internal, follows Anita, a camgirl whose body and mind are gradually taken over by a mysterious entity. What was the genesis for this story?
I had been thinking a lot about the mind-body problem and was listening to some horror soundtracks like the one that Susan Justin did for Forbidden World and the John Scott soundtrack for Inseminoid, it got me thinking about how body-horror and science fiction merge. Like this terrible film Xtro I saw when I was a kid. Then, I’m always interested in technology. It all just kind of mashed together. I saw this character who is really two characters, and that internet pornography dictates these rules of viewing, distance, and agency. I thought it made an interesting dual landscape, one internal and one external.
The Mind-Body Problem is one of the story’s philosophical underpinnings. What was your first exposure to this idea and what drew you to include it as a major plot point in the story?
In college, I concentrated on Philosophy and always thought within the discipline they tend to treat these amazing ideas as givens and not as totally weird and alien ideas that sound so evocative and abstract. I tend to come back to a lot of philosophy and use it as a basis for my writing, so All Internal really goes through these Cartestian ideas of dualism to the more obscure ideas of Chalmers or whatever. I wanted to kind of shift the story as it evolved, through these weird ideas amidst not so philosophical terrain. I mean Lovecraft did this in “From Beyond” which became a great body-horror film in the 1980s, but he used the pineal gland, which Descartes said is how spirits interact with the body. Seriously.
How do you feel the pornographic industry is an appropriate vessel for these ideas?
As far as the industry itself, I don’t know, my knowledge of how it works is very limited. However, I think as far as technology and how pornography presents itself, absolutely. It’s a decent metaphor for external and internal desire, something that is ubiquitous yet no one wants to talk about it. But it’s this public expression, for the most part free, and extremely specific to each individual’s desires – or even an unspoken or unknown desire that creates this strange space of watching other bodies participating in intimacy that can arouse and repulse.
As the unseen entity continues to meld with Anita, it comes increasingly perplexed by the human condition, almost losing itself within its host. We see glimpses of this in lines such as “For all of my time spent here, I do not know what my body really looks like. I do not know who I am outside of my thoughts”, among others. I found this decision to tell from the entity’s point of view interesting as it gives the parasitic antagonist a bizarre sense of “humanity”, if you will. What inspired you to choose this kind of narrative?
It was kind of at the beginning the whole time that the entity would take over, talk to the reader and be our guide. Then Anita would really take over and wrestle control. It is an internal battle. But it was like these opposing fade ins and fade outs of who was speaking or addressing the reader and themselves. I thought it would be an interesting challenge.
The story is full of interesting ideas and deeper meanings below the surface, but it is also chock full of grotesque and explicitly sexual subject matter. How do you find a balance between the two extremes?
I think it’s just finding balance, horror should be about something. Or try. I also just kept letting the story grow, it was like a cancer or something, just kind of metastasizing and I couldn’t stop where some threads were going. So, I would wrangle it back and get it together with some of the larger themes. I never lost sight of what it was about, but where it all came from was extremely grotesque.
As previously mentioned, there are plenty of grotesque, “body horror” elements to the story which remind me of David Cronenberg’s work somewhat. Being a horror movie fan yourself, do you feel viewing horror films over the years has influenced the way write, particularly in All Internal?
For sure, I mean it initially was inspired by like third-tier Alien rip-offs like Inseminoid and Forbidden World, or even Demon Seed or Breeders. I mean the original Alien is rife with ideas about birth and the life cycle, the terror of birth, etc. Cronenberg’s Shivers and The Brood were big ones too, unafraid to address human sexuality and relationships. If anything they made me think that this weird messed-up idea was worth pursuing.
What I enjoyed about the story is that there is not a lot of exposition. The plot shows, rather than tells, and doesn’t offer a concrete explanation for the events that occur. What do you think the benefits are of choosing this kind of narrative?
I don’t know about benefits, I thought of it more as a risk. Personally, I hate it when that happens, like when the scientist explains it all, it’s a waste. I would rather figure it out or have the question hanging there and try and piece it together. I just know the kinds of horror I like, and I like horror that thinks I’m smart enough to figure it out or is dumb enough to have done away with any pretense of reason, like Fulci or something.
Throughout the story the dialogue is placed in italics as opposed to question marks. What was the reasoning behind this decision?
That is one thing I would maybe have changed, although I would hope it could bring about some questions of the perspective of what is happening or appears to be happening and the title.
Both All Internal and your previous novella, Beneath the Remains, have been set in Florida. What keeps you coming back to the Sunshine State?
Have you been there? I grew up there, from like 6th grade through college. And it was absolutely weird in every part of it, from the central parts to the south, to the panhandle, it is absolutely weird – even the animals are weird. I used to hate it but now I love it. It’s a landscape I know pretty well, it is just full of extremes in landscape and personalities.
In addition to these two novellas, you have also written a handful of short stories. What keeps you coming back to short fiction and what do you feel the challenges are to writing them?
Well in some ways it’s way easier to complete and submit. But I like novellas, I am very invested in them, obviously. I think it is long enough to kind of say something but short enough that it isn’t a burden on the audience as I figure out who I am. The challenges are more space, like for short fiction trying to keep it contained and not just following every impulse. With novellas the challenge is more the publication, you may get interest but a lot of publishers are not so interested in novellas. It’s sad because I’m a huge fan so if you’re interested there’s a great series from Melville House you should check out.
What do you feel the pros of short fiction are for both reader and writer?
Hopefully you’ve excised the extraneous and can make something interesting and evocative in a short period of time.
You also recently completed your first novel. Would you care to speak a little on that?
My first novel Lower Heaven is done and I am getting feedback back from my reading group, it is a paranoid story about a religious family navigating between their faith and surveillance. The husband edits web content while the wife is a debt collector, it deals a lot with guns, internet violence, suburban survivalists, and Christianity. And it features an Army aerostat that becomes a god as it hovers over the city.
What else is on the horizon for you, writing wise?
I have a short story “The Seam” coming out in the first issue of Exoplanet, and I did a reading for this great ongoing cassette story series published by Grotesque Materials, my story that I read is “The Last Show” and is about a band on tour and their last show. And then, hopefully, Lower Heaven finds a home.
What is next for your musical endeavors?
Locrian is writing our next album. The Holy Circle is about to record. I have a solo LP ready to go, and the next Axebreaker full-length “Brutality in Stone” CD will be out on Phage Tapes soon.
Any final words or thoughts?
Thanks for asking such great questions.
All Internal can be purchased here.