HHorror writers don’t get much more elusive than Garth Marenghi, aka “The Weaver of Dreams”, aka the “Titan of Terror”. The author (who bears an uncanny resemblance to comedian Matthew Holness) is best known for his 1980s hospital horror “drama” Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, starring Marenghi himself and featuring actors who also suspiciously resemble comedians Richard Ayoade, Matt Berry and Alice Lowe. Supposedly lost for decades, the series finally resurfaced on Channel 4 in 2004, following the “worst artistic drought in broadcast history”. While some have mistakenly assumed it was a parody, for Marenghi the world of horror fiction remains extremely serious business. By 2006, he had personally written 436 horror novels, but since Darkplace’s release, we’ve heard next to nothing from the author/shaman. Here he is back with a brand new book, TerrorTome – a horror tale in three parts – for which he has contractually committed himself through his publishers to produce only one piece of press, not of his choice: this one. this. We ended up in a top secret location (although I can reveal the #36 bus went all the way there) to find out just how awful 2022 is about to get…
Hi Garth! Nice to meet you [proffers handshake] …
[Abruptly] I guess I’ll decide that… Did you wash your hands?
Yes. We probably will. No. Either way, you’re back with a brand new horror book. Terror Tome by Garth Marenghi. Apparently, it has been brewing for 30 years. How come it took so long?
[Wiping anti-bacterial gel into hands] The nature of the weather was the main problem. Seconds and minutes quickly turn into hours, gradually transmuting into days, weeks, months and, finally, years. Before you know it, decades have passed. The essential question was the time which passed between the beginning and the conclusion of my task.
Would you have been faster if you had bothered to learn to type with more than two fingers?
Writing horror balls on the walls is extremely physical. Typing with more than two fingers is counterproductive for any horror writer; you need to concentrate your strength on just two fingers. I get pretty harsh when I write, so the best way to channel that energy is to hit – bang, bang, bang. If you type with your hands dancing all over the keyboard [mimes touch-typing], you essentially rub without releasing. It’s much more powerful to jab.
What is your writing process?
Get up, eat, consider the news, dismiss it (the news, not my breakfast), eat lunch, take a nap, have a hot chocolate, then I’m hard for a good hour or two before Pointless or Tipping Point.
East your main character, horror novelist Nick Steenbased on you at all?
I would say I’m less deviant than Nick Steen. In one of the stories – TerrorTome is a triumvirate of three mini-stories that form an epic omen – he develops a questionable psychosexual relationship with his typewriter. I’ve only done it once with a typewriter, and that was for researching this book.
As a self-proclaimed “master of the macabre”, where do you stand among other horror writers such as Stephen King Where Clive Barker?
I will not sit between anyone. If it’s the annual horror convention curry, I’m always at the head of a long rectangular table. One year I wasn’t seated there and canceled the whole event. Last year, Richard Osman – who had been around and had been watching us for 20 minutes through the window – tried to offer us a free pudding, saying he hoped to turn into horror after beating a comfortable crime. I sat him on the other end and we all completely ignored him. He left two of his three balls entirely intact.
Have you encountered any problems getting the book out?
We had a little trouble finding a publisher, mainly because the content is so prescient. But my job as a shaman is to evolve humanity. These are stories that need be said. So after firing several publishers, I spoke with Ken Hodder, head of Hodder books, who was sitting to my immediate right at the same horror convention curry, but not at my level, because I was the head of one rectangular table, remember? He had agreed to read my manuscript in exchange for a free bhuna, but when the hot towels came I swapped his glass for the metal tumbler I insist on drinking from – which is deceptively deep – and I got him to sign on the spot. Give or take another bottle.
Low-budget ’80s hospital horror Darkplace didn’t finally air until 2004 in the form of a documentary/presentation Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. Would Darkplace be easier to take off now? They order all kinds of trash on Netflix and the BBC Three …
The term is “dramatic”. It’s hard to answer, because I’m legally bound not to talk about the show, anyone I’ve worked with, or – indeed – anything in my life until 2009. I don’t think we could ever do Darkplace again because last I heard the tapes had been covered in 300 metric tons of industrial cement by Channel 4. In many ways the current state of the world can be entirely blamed on Darkplace failing to enter the mainstream. If more people had absorbed his teachings, we would have evolved as a species. But that’s humanity’s problem now, not mine.
Horror 80s series are all the rage now. Do you watch Stranger Things with a hint of jealousy?
Rage is an appropriate word here. all i will be say is that the television is broken. And I refuse to fix it twice.
Is there room for comedy in horror?
No. That said, horror can create emotions akin to laughter. When I took my horror show to the Edinburgh Festival, people were so terrified they burst out laughing. It’s a survival instinct: extreme fear induces either chronic laughter or immediate evacuation of the bowels. It all depends on the essential integrity of her sphincter.
Were the gates of hell opened by Darkplace hospital a clever premonition of the current state of the NHS?
Not the literal doors, no. They were made of wood and plastic. But yes, metaphorically they were indeed a smart premonition, with the emphasis on smart.
It’s a pretty miserable time to be British. Which Darkplace horror plot would you most like to see happen in real life to cheer us up?
2022 certainly seems like the perfect time for a hell to open beneath us. But if said hell were to open and engulf the entirety of the United Kingdom like the jaws of a primordial infernal beast emerging from the living core of the Earth – which is also sentient, by the way – humanity would certainly need of a shaman, or a sha woman, to plan our ascent to hell. Hence: TerrorTome.
dean learneryour editor describes you as “the Orson Welles of horror, and not just because of your weight”. How are you generally doing these days?
Still in my prime, thanks for asking. Although we have all gained a little weight. One of the main issues with Darkplace’s redesign is that we’d have to change the aspect ratio to fit everyone on screen, probably going all the way up to 16:9 or, on a particularly bold day, 21 :9.
What do you think Dr. Rick Daglessyour Darkplace character, is it until now?
He is undead, like most of the other members of the hospital, with the exception of the receptionist, who is half-butterfly.
What happened to the movie you were working on – War of The wasps ?
Unfortunately, the wasps escaped and entered the salad, then attacked the entire cast and crew. So, unfortunately, the whole movie got pulled, which was a big blow for us – and a sting for the wasps. Hey hey hey.
Are you working on other film ideas?
Yes, a Violent Horror Thriller Called Joist. A man is found half dead in an elaborate wooden crate, his entire body covered in pine splinters and Ronseal fence varnish. Elsewhere, the local B&Q has run out of loft paneling and cherry wood planks. With the victim identified as a former executive of the Jewsons advisory board, police suspect the work of Joist, a crazed psychopathic serial killer recently escaped from a local asylum. Joist, an embittered former carpenter and joiner once fired for building shoddy, splinter-strewn treehouses for the local orphanage, is now getting revenge on his former employers, as well as anyone who doesn’t like it. the know-how of its planing. To stop Joist, Chief Detective Blake Packbury must first fight his way through the Larsen plywood trap blocking the Portaloo station door, followed by a mesh mahogany ladder trap encasing the lockers in the compound. , using only his language. It is currently hosted in the Second Circle of Development Hell, Fourth Draft, Third Revision. I’m going to walk.
Many other writers and comedians cite Darkplace as a massive influence on their work…
Yes, and I will sue them all.
What do you think is the secret to Darkplace’s enduring appeal?
Some cite Darkplace’s script, acting, and core message as reasons for its longevity. It’s all of that, of course, but Darkplace was ultimately the result of my brain alone. So I would say: my brain alone.
What are your advices to enter the glamorous showbiz world of horror writing?
If you are lucky enough to enter my sphere at a convention, never hand me your own “book” and ask me to read it. If necessary, I will respond with violence.
Is horror writing worth living?
For the third time, I am a shaman; I do not have a choice. But luckily, I’m the best at what I do. When I put two fingers on the keys, I evolve humanity. I don’t know what would happen if you put two fingers on a typewriter. Can you even pound hard?
[Mimes touch-typing]. No. I am clearly a dancer.
That’s your problem. Don’t dance on the keyboard – hit like a Norse god, which I apparently am, by the way.
TerrorTome by Garth Marenghi is out by Hoder on November 3.