The Fabled Appendix – James Jacobs (Part 2)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Today we continue the series on Paizo's Appendix N with the second part of my interview with James Jacobs, the editor-in-chief of Pathfinder. We pick up where we left off, as James finishes discussing his most important literary influences and closes the interview with an explanation of his favorite horror films.

James: Stephen King's Dark Tower books were particularly influential, as they are as much magic and science fiction as they are horror. What's neat is that all of his stories are interconnected, like Lovecraft's. Names and locations reappear and become part of King's mythos—which also includes nods to the Cthulhu Mythos. I think King very successfully straddles the fine line between homage and pastiche, as it's easy enough to write in the style of Lovecraft and other classic horror authors, but much harder to use those themes while writing with your own voice. Stephen King does this admirably.

F. Paul Wilson, and particularly his character Repairman Jack, was another big influence. The series of stories featuring Repairman Jack are like modern-day X-Files, except that one of the primary themes is the idea that it's just one man versus cosmic horror.

Ramsey Campbell was another influence; he's a British author who began his career writing Lovecraftian horror fiction but later moved on to more psychological horror themes such as madness, ghosts, and deranged murderers.

The Descent, by Jeff Long, really captured my imagination. Without giving away too many details, the novel is essentially about a real-world Darklands. Humans live on the surface of the world, oblivious to the fact that "other" descendents from our common ancestors live beneath them; in the novel, Long explains that, over the course of human history, these creatures have served as the basis for humanity's shared myths of devils living beneath the earth.

David: That's quite an extensive list of fiction! But you're even bigger movie buff, correct? Tell us about the movies that most influenced you.

James: There's probably too many to name all of them; I have a wall of DVDs in my apartment. In terms of movies, my main interest is still horror. When I was a kid, my dad and I would watch Creature Features, a TV series that aired a new monster flick every Saturday night. So my love of horror movies began at an early age. My two all-time favorites are, without a doubt, Alien and John Carpenter's The Thing.

To rattle off other big influences, there's The Blair Witch Project, Godzilla (which asks the question "what if the atomic bomb was actually a creature?"; there is a scene in the movie where a bunch of kids are horribly burned and crying for their moms, not realized that they've been killed—it's super-grisly), Jaws, the Exorcist, Lord of the Rings, Schwarzenegger's Conan, Psycho, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Lilo & Stitch (Stitch served as a primary inspiration for Pathfinder goblins, both in terms of look and personality), and the classic 1950s horror film Tarantula.

Whenever I assign adventures to freelance authors, I like to point them to movies that will give them an idea of the tone we are shooting for—it's much faster for authors to find inspiration by watching a 2-hour movie than to read an entire book, although if they have time in the sometimes too-short deadlines we give them, books can remain a great source of inspiration. For instance, I told Richard Pett to check out the old Hammer Horror movies when he was writing "The Skinsaw Murders" and pointed Nick Logue at The Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Deliverance for "The Hook Mountain Massacre."

Overall, I would have to say that my two biggest inspirations are H. P. Lovecraft for books, and John Carpenter for movies.

Thus concludes my interview with James Jacobs. Thanks for taking the time to discuss your biggest inspirations, James, and thanks for reading, Paizonians! Come back again as we continue to expand Paizo's own Appendix N!

David Eitelbach
Editorial Intern

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Tags: Appendix N H. P. Lovecraft Interns Interviews James Jacobs John Carpenter Stephen King
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