"THIS ONE IS FULL OF LUNATICS"- DRIVE IN: THE MULTIPLEX'S CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN AND BRIAN KEENE
Joe Lansdale's The Drive In series has an effect on many writers who crossed its path. Christopher Golden and Brian Keene gathered many of the talented ones to play in Joe's World of The Obit Drive In where a weird comet cuts off it rom the rest of the world, descending it into an apocalyptic nightmare before it is dropped into a dinosaur infested world in the second book, before it gets weird in the third.
Brian and Christopher took some questions from us about putting the anthology together and the continued influence of The Drive In.
SCOTT MONTGOMERY: How did you come up with the anthology?
CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN: Brian probably remembers better than I do. We’re the same age, and so as horror guys, many of our influences are the same. Certainly we both have a long history of being massive fans of Joe Lansdale in general and The Drive-In particularly. My earliest paid comic book work was an adaptation of the novel into comics, though the adaptation didn’t see print until years after I first wrote the scripts. Over the years, Brian and I talked about writing a musical adaptation of the novel for the stage (seriously), and at one point Joe and I talked about me working on a TV adaptation pitch. I don’t remember the conversation where Brian and I decided we needed to do this anthology, but I remember the excitement I felt at the idea. We had to do it. We knew how many writers had their imaginations permanently rewired by The Drive-In, and that we would get some weird-as-fuck stories from some amazing writers. And we did!
BRIAN KEENE Yeah, it was in-between the attempt at writing the stage adaptation (we got about halfway through the first act before we figured out that neither of us had any business writing a Broadway musical) and the possibility of the TV adaptation. I'd mentioned "Wouldn't it be cool if there was an anthology where other writers got to play in the world of The Drive-In, and Chris enthusiastically agreed that it would, and then Joe surprised us both by telling us to go for it. That was heavy -- the fact that he liked and trusted us enough with that responsibility. The Drive-In is such an iconic and influential work... the pressure not to fuck it up was tremendous.
S.M.: How did you go about choosing the writers?
C.G.: Everyone in the anthology is a writer whose work we admired and whom we knew was a big fan of Joe Lansdale. Some of them Joe suggested, others were contributors either Brian or I suggested. I’ll tell you, one of the difficult things about editing anthologies is the writers who roast you afterward for not asking them. But putting together an anthology is like building a football team—or, maybe more appropriately for me and Brian, choosing the latest roster for The Avengers or the Justice League. Everyone has different powers, and different writers are needed for different books. This one is full of lunatics. I say that with love and admiration. We all float down here.
B.K.: Something else we did was focus on contributors who loved the source material as much as we did. We knew there were a number of our peers who were equally influenced by it, and not just horror writers. There were crime writers, bizarro writers, practitioners of multiple genres for whom The Drive-in and its sequels were part of their developmental DNA in becoming writers.
S.M.: What was it about The drive in books that grabbed you?
C.G.: If you’ve read them, you know. It’s not just the insanity. It’s the ordinary joe characters and the way Lansdale tells a story. Ordinary guys on an ordinary night, and then impossible terror, horror, and mystery unfolds. It’s like S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, Alice in Wonderland, 50’s sci-fi, and the ninth circle of hell all blended up in Joe Lansdale’s imagination. It’s irresistible.
B.K.: Exactly. You can't pigeonhole The Drive-In. There's no handy genre label to slap on the spine, no applicable way to market it like other books, because it eschews genre classifications. It's weird fantasy. Science-fiction. Horror. Comedy. Adventure. Bizarro. Any one of those labels can be applied but they don't sum it up. the only way to accurately classify it is "It's a Joe R. Lansdale novel". The power and majesty of his enormous imagination is on full display in that original trilogy.
S.M.: Did you notice anything that playing in Joe's sandbox brought out in the authors' work?
C.G.: Freedom. So many of these stories are weirder and wilder than the contributors would typically produce. That’s because once you take The Drive-In as your inspiration, you’re already off the leash. Anything can happen.
B.K.: S.A. Cosby's story, for example. He's rightfully known for his incredible crime novels, but his contribution was unlike any of those -- just straight up pure in your face horror. And that's a genre that he personally loves, so it was neat to see him get a chance to write in it.
S.M.: Is there such a thing as a quintessential drive in story?
CG: If you mean something not written by Joe Lansdale, I’d say no. But there are stories that have tapped the vein of The Drive-In, have drunk its blood and been changed by it, and this book is full of them. It’s glorious.
BK: Outside of this anthology? The only thing that even comes close are some of Carlton Mellick III's novels -- Sex and Death In Television Town and Adolf In Wonderland in particular. They're written in Carlton's equally unique voice and style, of course, but The Drive-In's influence is all over those books.
S.M.: What do you think makes the drive in world so enduring after these years?
C.G.: It’s so good, the characters so human, the writing so vivid and funny and wrong, that anyone who has read it will have the book resonating in their imagination forever. How many writers ever get to do that? Joe Lansdale is an American treasure.
B.K.: Agreed. If Stephen King is our Charles Dickens (and I agree with those who say he is) then Joe Lansdale is most certainly our Mark Twain. He's going to be read and studied and discussed long after all of us are gone. After the giant comet comes and washes us all away, The Drive-In will still endure.
photo of Brian Keene Copyright Brian Keene 2018