Lor Gislason is a horror writer from Vancouver Island who focuses on body horror and film analysis from an autistic perspective. Their work has appeared in Horror Obsessive, Hear Us Scream, and Lost in Cult. Their first novella, Inside Out, comes out later this month from Darklit Press.
It’s a stomach-churning debut — and we mean that in the best way! Beginning with a strange incident at a mining camp in British Columbia, the novella documents a nightmarish phenomenon that quickly spreads across the continent.
We got the chance to chat with Lor about the inspiration behind Inside Out, writing during a pandemic, and finding humour in horror.
Vancouver Guardian: Congratulations on the upcoming publication of Inside Out! Can you tell us how this novel was born?
Lor Gislason: Thank you! The initial idea came from a dream I had, and, luckily, I remembered to write it down when I woke up! It involved a man in a parking lot melting and was extremely vivid. I began jotting down ideas, like how the world got to be this way, and how other people might react to it. I think it’s fun to tackle stories from different angles. Throwing ideas at my friends helped to develop it further, and I’m very grateful they put up with my gross horror stuff!
VG: Most of the book seems like it was written after the COVID-19 pandemic began. What was it like to be immersed in a project like this during such an intense period?
LG: Yeah, I think I started writing it in August 2020. I lost my job in February, and like many people, I suddenly had a lot of free time on my hands!
While I didn’t start out with the pandemic in mind, I think it found its way naturally into several chapters, as a way for me to process my feelings with the world at large becoming a scary and often frustrating place to live, and as a reaction to surreal news headlines.
VG: Are there any specific artists or work that influenced Inside Out?
LG: The three biggest inspirations are the films Body Melt, Society, and the 1988 remake of The Blob. As you can probably tell I like “gross” horror films, but these also set the tone, with each using comedy in addition to their iconic special effects. As the months go by, I’ve realized that lots of tiny moments from TV and film influenced me as well, like “oh that’s where I got that from!”
VG: The novel is cohesive, but each segment also functions as a short story, making Inside Out a kind of collection of vignettes. Why did you choose to structure the book this way?
LG: This was a happy accident! I mainly write articles or flash fiction, which cap at about 2,000 words, so that’s just how I write. I also have a short attention span, so I’m sure that has something to do with it. It helps move the story along without being too hung up on things, I think.
VG: The first chapter is set in British Columbia! What impact has growing up on the west coast had on your approach to writing horror?
LG: I’m from Vancouver Island, so I had to work in my home province somehow! There’s something about growing up surrounded by nature that gives you a sense of awe and respect for it. We’re animals too and just as vulnerable, if not more so, than wildlife. Getting lost in the woods is a classic horror trope for a reason!
I also think there’s a lot of untapped potential in PNW horror. Besides sasquatch and the Ogopogo, we don’t really have any cryptids to speak of. Maybe that’s a future project!
VG: I was surprised that Inside Out was so funny! What role does humour play in your writing?
LG: I appreciate that, haha. I’ve always wanted to be funny, but I’m not quite fast enough on comebacks and jokes in person. Writing lets me work them out without an audience to judge me too harshly. My partner is also hilarious, so I bounce ideas off him sometimes. Horror and comedy thankfully work well together in general. I think you have to acknowledge the ridiculousness of a situation and use that to your advantage.
VG: What impact do you hope Inside Out will have on readers?
LG: I just hope people have fun with it, maybe check out some weird movies afterwards. Horror doesn’t always have to be serious or gloomy!