What Scares You, Dan Stout?

Honestly, Dan had me sold when I found out he wrote novels set in the 1970s, my favorite decade by far. Check them out here for all the disco and grit you need.

But as to his deepest, darkest fears? Those were still a mystery…but no longer. Join us as we take a trip into the shadows and learn about what makes a great monster and how hypnogoria makes David Letterman seem utterly terrifying.

What are your earliest childhood memories of fear?

I had intense fever dreams when I was very young, and they terrified me. There was one in particular that I still remember, about cannon fire echoing and reverberating so loudly that it actually became physically painful. It was actually worse than the spider dreams.

And of course I had all the usual piles of clothes and half-open closet doors that transformed into menacing shapes at night.

While we’re on the topic of dreams, what about recurring nightmares?

I’ve never really had recurring nightmares, but I have had several instances of hypnogoria, which is when your dreamstate carries over into waking life. I’d wake up and dream imagery would literally be imposed on the world around me. So I might walk down the hall to find someone standing there, looking as real and substantial as any other person. Which is, you know, kinda disconcerting.

It’s a condition that often gets attributed to supernatural causes. I totally understand how people can interpret it that way and might have done so myself if it weren’t for the fact that the images almost always reflected the last thing I’d seen on TV before going to bed. For example, one time I found David Letterman standing behind my bathroom doorway. (This was before he had the giant beard, so it wasn’t as frightening as it could’ve been.)

“One time I found David Letterman standing behind my bathroom doorway.”

What is your greatest fear as a writer?

That I don’t have what it takes to keep producing high-quality work. I usually work at the fringes of my craft, meaning that I’m pushing myself to get better with every project. The upside is that it’s extremely rewarding, the downside is that I constantly feel like I’m about to fail. I strive to always deliver the best work I can, but there’s part of me that thinks that still won’t be good enough.

Scariest movie or TV show you’ve ever seen?

Holy crap… ALL of them! When I’m immersed in a good story, I have a very visceral reaction. My mirror neurons fire on all cylinders, and even the most laid-back movie gets a strong reaction from me.

What is your favorite type of monster?

I’m torn on my favorite monster—I can never decide between Godzilla and Springheel Jack.

I discovered both of these monsters at a very young age, and they’ve both stuck with me through the decades. They’re two ends of the spectrum in that Godzilla and other kaiju are forces of nature, almost cosmic horrors that plow over the face of the Earth with little regard for humanity and our petty concerns. Springheel Jack, on the other hand, is a character with roots in true encounters (whether that was originally pranksters, amateur magicians, or malevolent assailants), but over time he became an urban legend, imbued with powers and a narrative far beyond anything tied to reality.

You are driving alone on a road at night and your headlights illuminate a man standing alone with a lantern in the middle of the road. What do you do? Also, is it more or less scary if it’s a little kid in pajamas?

So, the flip side of being scared of every movie is that I stumble through life in blissful ignorance. The old man with a lantern would certainly cause me to slow down and peer at him with curiosity. The kid in pajamas might cause me to stop completely and put in a call to the police. No matter how initially weird the scenario, I just plod happily along.

In short, I’m *totally* the guy in the movie who goes into the basement alone, with the half-dead flashlight, to see what that weird noise is during the thunderstorm.


Dan Stout lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he writes noir with a twist of magic and a disco chaser. His prize-winning fiction draws on travels throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim as well as an employment history spanning everything from subpoena server to assistant well driller. Dan’s stories have appeared in publications such as The Saturday Evening Post, Nature, and Intergalactic Medicine Show. His series of noir fantasy novels, The Carter Archives, is available from DAW Books.

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