Updated: May 2

In the first of our Q&A features, we talk to our contributor Raistlin Skelley about the undead, subversion, filmmaking and fiction as we delve deeper into his inspirations behind Deep Blue Dream - a short fiction piece available in The Needle Drops... Volume One.

Raistlin Skelley hails from the rapidly deteriorating Rust Belt of Southwestern Pennsylvania

Splitting his time between writing and seething over the demise of the Kane Road Drive-In, Raistlin Skelley is a student of the hard-boiled tradition of the 40's and 50's. He taught himself to write by stewing in conspiracy theories, true crime, Tom Waits lyrics and the stories his family told about strange happenings as children. Raistlin self-published two books during quarantine, the neo-noir thriller The Five Year Trip and a collection of short crime stories titled Neighborhood Watch, along work featured in North by Northeast. His writing evokes the world he grew up in and the one that passed him by, where houses were lit with incandescent bulbs and mom jeans were a joke.

So, Raistlin - I think it’s safe to say you hail from an area many consider the home of horror: George A. Romero’s playground, arguably the birthplace of the ‘modern zombie’. What were your experiences with the genre as a kid?

There's a quote from Jamie Hewlett that I cite all the time where he said, "Romero was my Beatles."

I really think that sums it up. I didn't know about Hitchcock/Truffaut until that documentary came out a few years ago. For me growing up, it was Document of the Dead. Romero's films, particularly his early ones, were absolutely indispensable to me. The tone, the look of those movies was so relatable because that's what the world here looks and feels like. The grey skies, the emptiness, the bleakness and overbearing paranoia. That's home to me. I'm sure growing up here has a lot to do with my love for them, but ultimately I think it was unavoidable. Finding out my grandfather was Sheriff Cooper in The Crazies probably did a lot, too.

Building on this, you mentioned the rapid deterioration of the Rust Belt in your bio. Do you think the economic / social attributions of this partially led to your interest in subversive genres?

That's an interesting question. I'm not really sure. Writing, movies, music and fiction haven't ever really been an escape for me, per se. The world is a crazy, fucked up place and disappearing into another one hasn't ever really helped me to cope with this one. I think I've always gravitated toward works that echoed my own feelings about the world and society: from Vonnegut to Romero to True Detective. The