The Worlds of Hurt is a collection of stories revolving around Brian Hodge's own mythos, the Misbegotten. They are a group of tragic immortals who must feed on something, that "something" being different for each of them and often creating a visceral narrative in the story itself, in order to survive or at least endure. Every story stands on it's own, but in reading it from beginning to end the reader receives insights into the mythos and cosmology of the Misbegotten that adds extra horrific depth through the first three stories in a cumulative manner that reaches an apex in the final story "World of Hurt", a short novel that reveals the great horror associated with the Misbegotten. Hodge's writing style is engrossing and complex without being confusing. The utterly disturbing motives that drive not just the Misbegotten but also the "regular" people in the stories are laid to bare at a pace that creates a tension while reading that is enjoyable in a way that few works of horror that I've come across are able to match. This has been one of my favorite reads of the year, definitely worth five stars.
I contacted Brian and he was gracious enough to take part in a short interview regarding Worlds of Hurt and his writing in general:
AB: Music has a central focus in "The Alchemy of the Throat" and is used in describing cosmic horror elements of "World of Hurt". I've also had the pleasure of reading your story "Cures For A Sickened World" which delves strongly into Black Metal aesthetics. What place does music hold for you in horror?
BH: A pretty foundational place, really. But it has a pretty foundational place in life overall. I nearly always work to music, and it’s often dark or moody stuff. Plus, as a player, I sometimes like to make music that’s a sonic expression coming from the same place as the prose. That got so out of hand with Whom the Gods Would Destroy that it triggered its own soundtrack.
Then there are times I’m interested in exploring creators as characters, and the process of creation, and so on. Although I feel oddly repelled by writing about writers. There’s something about that that feels narcissistic to me. I’m much more drawn to narratively exploring music and visual art … maybe because, as languages, they’re much more universal. They engage the senses directly.
AB: What did you want to do different, if anything, in Worlds of Hurt in contrast to previous works?
BH: It’s an omnibus edition, and that’s something I’d never done. It brings together the first four installments in an ongoing mythos that I keep coming back to every so often: “The Alchemy of the Throat,” “The Dripping of Sundered Wineskins,” “When the Bough Doesn’t Break,” and World of Hurt. That’s three novellas and a short novel. They were all written years apart, so in a way, while still telling an unfolding episodic narrative, they all reflect different interests and concerns and states of mind.
I was needing to get World of Hurt ported over into e-book form, and thought, well, why not package everything together at this point. Instead of just converting over the one book, why not give the reader everything that preceded it, too? As I go forward with new works in that universe, consolidating the previous stuff into a single volume will make it a lot easier for readers to have it all, rather than telling them, in essence, “You have to get this novel and these three story collections.”
AB: Despite the monstrosity factor of the supernatural entities in the stories in Worlds of Hurt, the horror inflicted by humanity seems to be a predominant reoccurring theme. Any thoughts on that?
BH: I think that would be how such entities would operate most effectively in our world. That they’d get things done either through us, or by hiding behind our skins. It’s not only stealth mode … just consider what they would have to work with. Way too many of our species don’t need that much of a nudge.
AB: Do you see any major vital trends in Horror literature occurring that weren't there when you started writing?
BH: It would take someone more conscious of a long-term overview than I am to track something like that. It’s not anything that registers with me. I just do what I do, and try to always get better at it, and to keep challenging myself instead of digging a rut to live in. To me, being concerned with trends leads to the sort of silly conversations that a friend once related. He was talking to his agent, who was telling him, “Why don’t you write a book about a devil dog? Devil dogs are hot right now!” That was our go-to punchline for a while.
AB: What are your opinions on Horror as social commentary?
BH: It’s certainly well suited to the task. It can get away with being as rude as it needs to be, and you have the option of couching whatever you have to say in some potent metaphors, if you don’t feel like being blunt about it. That’s definitely informed a share of my work. Even the story you mentioned earlier, “Cures For A Sickened World,” which I wrote for the upcoming first Spectral Book of Horror Stories … in part that’s an allergic reaction to the rancid thing that journalism has become in the age of click-bait. “Let’s throw up any old hasty piece of incendiary bullshit, because it’ll piss people off and they’ll show it to everybody else so they can be pissed off too.” And so the signal-to-noise ratio gets ever more lopsided.
AB: What would you personally like to see happen with the Horror genre, either through your own writing or the writing of others?
BH: I don’t remember who or where it was, but I once saw someone make an interesting distinction between horror and science fiction: that science fiction is a literature of ideas and horror is a literature of emotion. That’s an oversimplification, of course. Sweeping generalizations usually are. Switching to film for a moment, you can’t look at David Cronenberg’s body of work in the genre and find it light on ideas. I got the point, though. I understood where that was coming from. But there’s no reason that the two should be mutually exclusive. So I’d like to see horror be unwilling to cede that ground. To continue to strive to put forth the best ideas about the world and human existence that it can, and develop them as far as possible.
AB: What would your opinion be if Worlds of Hurt inspired others to write stories revolving around the Misbegotten?
BH: I’m sure I’d be fine with that, and find it very flattering, although I’d rather do more work on the mythology before turning it open source.