Elizabeth Massie is a Bram Stoker Award-winning writer of short stories and novels, and she is also a humanitarian who has come up with some creative ways to give back. Elizabeth was gracious enough to take time out of her schedule to answer a few questions about the short story, "Abed," and her Hand to Hand Vision Fundraising work.
"Abed" has been called "one of the most disturbing horror stories ever written." What inspired you to write the story?
Necon is a fantastic horror convention in Rhode Island, a convention I attend as regularly as possible. One year, back in the early 1990s, John Skipp and Craig Spector were in attendance. Skipp had read some of my other works and invited me to submit a story to the second of the Book of the Dead (zombie) anthologies, Book of the Dead 2: Still Dead. He basically said, "Send us something that will blow our minds."
Having never written a zombie story before, I went home and rolled ideas around in my mind. I wanted it to blow their minds. But I also wanted to blow my own mind. I’m not one to write gore or graphic imagery for gore and graphic imagery’s sake. To me, there has to be a reason. There has to be some depth. There has to be emotion beyond just fear. And so I considered what would disturb me most. What would terrify me most. To me, isolation, alienation, unchecked power, and desperation are the springboards for the world’s worst horrors. And "Abed" was born.
"Abed" was recently adapted for film. How did that all take place, and what was the process like for you?
I heard from friend and producer Phil Nutman that Ryan Lieske was interested in creating a film version of "Abed." Several have expressed interest before but it never happened … with one big reason being the extreme graphic nature of the content. I was willing to agree to a film being made as long as I got to have script approval. I didn’t want a bloodbath film. I didn’t want a porn film (though I know the content skates really close to the edge there). "Abed," as horrific as it is, is a quietly and claustrophobic-ly desperate story. I didn’t want blaring music and screams and cats being tossed into frame with screeching yowls. I wanted the heart of the story to be ever-present … a story of love banged up and bruised and twisted into something almost unrecognizable, but still there, still clinging to life by a thread. Ryan’s script hit those marks very well.
As to the filming, I live in Virginia and it was filmed in Michigan. However, I did go to the premiere party in Grand Rapids and the energy and reception was incredible. The actors, the music, the special effects, the props, the filming locations – it all came together just right. And the audience clearly "got it."
Are there any plans in the works for future adaptations?
No plans, but I’m always open to discuss movie options!
You also started a charity program called Hand to Hand Vision Fundraising. Can you talk a bit about that?
I believe we, as humans, are here on Earth to help care for each other. I believe it’s the biggest lesson we are supposed to learn. It’s heart-breaking that some are suffering so much while others are detached and can’t even see the need. Back in January 2011 I starting thinking of ways I could help others who, during this difficult economic time, could use a hand. Though things are often tight here, too, I want to do something.
I like to knit in the evenings when my brain is too tired to write. I don’t do anything fancy, just warm, colorful, often very long scarves. So I started thinking … if I knitted warm, colorful scarves and offered them for sale, I could use that money to help someone who needs it. It would be a bit different from donating to Habitat for Humanity, or Food Banks, or other charitable organizations, though I heartily commend them for all the wonderful things they do for others. My idea would be different in that instead of providing items to others, I will provide some cash. There are a lot of people who could use some extra cash for a tank of gas, a birthday present for their child, an extra bag of groceries, or money toward a heating bill. These people could be the hard-working waitress at a little restaurant, a motel maid, a guy who carries groceries to the car (if his store allows tips), or just someone whose need becomes apparent. I would like to be able to pass cash on to that person, no strings attached, keeping it low-key, matter-of-fact.
A first scarf was completed and sold to a top bidder on January 15th. The money – $140 – was given as what we now call a "hand off" to a man who works at a local dump and collects cans to supplement his minimum wage income.
Since then, I’ve made and auctioned more scarves, and others have donated quality handmade items of all kinds that have likewise been auctioned. So far, Hand to Hand Vision has given money to 38 people, an amount totaling over $4,000. To find out more, or to take part or get updates on auctions or "hand offs," visit the Hand to Hand Vision Facebook page.
Nancy O. Greene started writing at the age of nine. Her short story collection, Portraits in the Dark, received a brief mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007. Other works have appeared or will appear in ChiZine; Lovecraft eZine; Cemetery Dance; Tales of Blood and Roses; Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror; Shroud Publishing's The Terror at Miskatonic Falls; Dark Recesses; Flames Rising; Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore!; and others. She has a BA in Cinema (Critical Studies) and a minor in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Southern California, and is a Film Independent: Project Involve Fellow.