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Calum Walker Interview - Cyber Smut

Calum's short story 'Purpose' is in our Cyber Smut anthology, release date 15 Sept 2020. For pre-orders visit: gutspublishing.com/books


About ‘Purpose’, where did the idea for this short story come from?

The initial spark came from thinking about how we rely on the digital realm as an archive of information for future generations, and the potential follies of using it as such. What happens when that technology fails? Were all of this to be someday gone, what will future generations make of the scraps left over? What if the last remnant of our current civilisation was a faulty, glitching PC? As you can see in the story itself, that line of thinking took a massive detour into more of a rumination of faith, but the failings of technology and subsequent loss of information still plays a huge part.


What are you working on now?

My main creative focus at the moment is an anthology of short stories, all in a similar vain to 'Purpose', an amorphous blob of dry and weird comedy-horror. Lots of material about death and the smallness of people, but also the beauty in us all. I’m both a massive pessimist and a big old softie, so basically all of my work swings back and forth between those two tones.


What does Cyber Smut mean to you – as in, what is your interpretation of these words, and this anthology?

It’s impossible to hear that phrase and not take it at face value – internet sex. More broadly, and to include the stories in this anthology that aren’t sex-related, if we substitute “smut” for “intimacy” in all forms then it’s a reflection of how privacy is no longer afforded to us in the digital world, how our personal data is constantly being mined by social media platforms and their advertising affiliates, whether we want it to be or not, and how online spaces make us bear our darkest selves to the world in ways we would otherwise never show.


Is this your first time being published? If so, do you remember your reaction when you found out your short story had been accepted by Guts Publishing?

Yes, it’s my first time being published. It was late at night when I first got the news, and while I was freaking out about it I had nobody to share it with – I tried calling a friend who didn’t pick up, so I slept on it before getting to tell anyone the news. By that point I had calmed down, but it still felt unreal to me. I don’t think I’ll be able to process that it’s actually happened until I see my name and words printed on the page.


In your bio it says you’re a fan of horror. What’s the best horror film you’ve watched in the past year?

If we’re talking recent releases, then I had a lot of fun with The Invisible Man. It didn’t reinvent the wheel or anything, but it played with genre in a really fun way, and I adore Elizabeth Moss in basically anything she’s in. If we’re talking horror films I’ve seen recently in general, however, then one that really shook me to my core was Come and See – a Belarusian anti-war film from the 80s that’s just so harrowing and unflinching. There’s none of the glitz and glamour and prestige that turns me off of most war films, it’s just a two-and-a-half-hour nightmare. Highly recommended from me, with the caveat that it’s an extremely hard watch.


You went to uni In Brighton, what’s your favourite story to tell from university?

One time I was in the pub with some of my course-mates when a friend of a friend who I’d never met before was drunkenly giving me grief because I’d ordered a vegan meal. They apologised and without thinking I said “don’t worry, I don’t have any beef.” For reasons beyond me everyone at the table manically applauded the wordplay, and then the whole pub joined in, despite nobody who wasn’t at my table hearing what I’d said. Just an entire room of drunken students at 11pm on a Friday all clapping in unison for two minutes straight, over something most of them hadn’t even heard. It’s not that I’m even especially proud of the pun or anything, I’m just glad to have indirectly caused such a show of solidarity in these dark times.


It says in your bio that you like weird fiction. How do you know if something is weird fiction?

Honestly, it’s quite a nebulous term that I find differs from person to person, but for me it’s when elements of speculative fiction seep into what are otherwise more realist or grounded works, when the macabre is presented matter-of-factly, and yet we are made to feel smaller in its presence. It’s more about unsettling the reader than outright scaring, as horror is wont to do.


Describe yourself in 3 words.

Shy, neurotic, intuitive.


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Calum Walker is a freelance short story writer and a recent graduate of a Creative Writing MA course, courtesy of the University of Brighton. He has had a lifelong fascination with the crossroads where the farcical and the macabre intersect, and as such feels most at home when writing horror, comedy, weird fiction, or any given combination of the three.

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