Hey folks! I was lucky enough to corner Tom Cardamone for a few moments over the holidays, and he was kind enough to have a chat with me about his newest collection, Night Sweats: Tales of Homosexual Wonder and Woe, which has just released from Bold Strokes Books. As you all know, I’m a lover of short fiction, and I wanted to take the opportunity to shine a light on what is a freaking wonderful collection.
Set in Japan, small town America, midnight Manhattan, ancient Greece and Rome, and beyond, these stories run the gamut of urban nightmare, gay love lost and found, dragons, super villains, a fairy addicted to meth, and Satan on the subway. Readers of Night Sweats will find tales that push boundaries while supplying ample scares, erotic thrills, much wonderment, and some woe.
NB: I don’t normally read a lot of horror or darker fiction because it gets stuck in my head and I end up having nightmares, which is as pathetic as it sounds. Despite not loving the world of horror, I read Pumpkin Teeth (which I adored), and can’t wait to finish Night Sweats (I’ve been trying to read it during the mornings, so my subconscious has time to chew through the stories long before bed time). It seems to me your darker tales have a way of subtlety to them rather than visceral shocks. “Suitcase Sam” stuck with me for months after the fact, for instance. Do you craft more “subtle” horror on purpose?
TC: Well thank you for the very nice compliment! When it comes to horror, I think it’s important for writers to consider atmosphere and pacing above all else. Film is really the dominant medium here. As horror has regained box office dominance there has been this “rush to scare” and I’m in no hurry. A certain amount of life is dread and anxiety and it’s certainly always creeping up on me, so I assume it’s the same for the reader.
NB: It’s definitely the same for me.
TC: There’s definitely more horror in Night Sweats than in my previous collection, but I gave a lot of thought to the subtitle: Tales of Homosexual Wonder and Woe. Now I don’t know anyone who thinks gay marriage in the US equates to the end of this global struggle for civil rights, there is still so much woe meted out in the world; gay fiction writers have a certain responsibility to record what’s going on- but that’s where the wonder comes in. We have to actively imagine a better future before we can obtain it, that’s the process of coming out, after all. It’s our lesson to share.
NB: I have the “isn’t this enough?” and “does that really still happen?” discussions with those outside the community far too often, yeah. Fiction is a wonderful way to explore, and I love that notion of “wonder and woe.” You have wonderful range that definitely covers both. I’ve read your stories in various magazines and anthologies and you seem to move easily between erotica, romance, spec fic, comtemporary, the fantastical—and of course, the superheroic, a personal favourite. I have to admit you’re one of the names I jump to first if I see you in anthology, as I always wonder what your take will be on an anthology’s theme. You’re often the most unique voice in the table of contents. For a collection of your own work, did you find it challenging crafting Night Sweats as a themed collection—or would you call it a themed collection at all?
TC: You’re going to laugh, but I constantly see anthologies on the shelf at a book store and think, “Oh why didn’t I know about this one coming out?” And then I’ll go home and write a story with that theme! So some of the previously unpublished work in Night Sweats was done in reverse fashion, an odd quirk, I wonder if I’m the only one who does this?
NB: Ohmigosh no! I joked once I should put together a collection of tales for deadlines I missed and anthologies I didn’t know about in time and call it Better Nate than Never. It kills me when I see an anthology theme and have an immediate idea but I’m past the due date.
TC: Night Sweats doesn’t contain much linked work, though I was really pleased that Bold Strokes agreed with how I ordered the stories, and I’d love to know more about how other writers select and order, it’s such an important part of the process, one little discussed, I think.
NB: Very true. I imagine a tonne of thought goes into the first and last tales, for sure. Does that mean you have a favourite piece from Night Sweats? (And should I leave the light on when I get to it?)
TC: Did you really just ask me which of my children is the prettiest, the brightest, while the others are still in the room?
NB: I did. My own callous childhood makes me cruel.
TC: Seriously though, I hope “Halloween Parade” darkly captures a unique bit of New York City and also manages to disturb your sleep. I had a lot of fun with that one. It’s hard to call it my favorite, though. Some, like “Overtime at the Beheading Factory,” are special to me because of their origin: that one was a particularly nasty dream that I never bothered to write down until years later an editor reached out to me for a story. “The Love of the Emperor is Divine” is epistolary, something I’d been dying for years to try.
NB: Uh-oh. I have to offer a waffling answer, I’m afraid. I don’t have enough stories that aren’t in print to make a collection. I hope that doesn’t sound like a humble-brag, because it’s not: the aforementioned “missing deadlines” thing means I have a bunch of stories I never finished due to missing the date for the anthology in question. I’ve been quite lucky otherwise in the stories that were rejected have often found new homes. I think—and you can correct me if I’m wrong—that at least half of the stories in a collection really should be new, so I still need to have about six or seven tales I think are solid before I go ahead and pair them with previously published stories for a collection. I’m doing better with writing stories that aren’t specifically for calls now that I’m writing full-time, and it’s in the realm of possibility now, which is a great feeling. I love short fiction. I’d love to have a collection, so now I’m working toward the goal.
And I actually do have a working title, which is incredible for me, or at least for the tales of a particular theme I’m thinking would work best for me. Of Echoes Born. I guess that means right now I’m doing the shouting and waiting for the echoes to come back.
TC: I absolutely love that title! And now that you’ve named your baby, I can’t wait to hold it.
NB: Aw. Thank you.
Tom Cardamone is the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning speculative novella Green Thumb and the erotic fantasy novel The Werewolves of Central Park as well as the novella Pacific Rimming. His short story collection, Pumpkin Teeth, was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and Black Quill Award.
Additionally, he has edited The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered and the anthology Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy!, which was nominated for the Over The Rainbow List by the LGBT Round Table of the American Library Association.
His short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, some of which have been collected on his website
Tom can be contacted at Tom Cardamone.