Today, I'm interviewing Jeffery Scott Sims, the famed author of The City at the End of Time that he contributed to "The Temporal Element." Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed, Jeffery.
SIMS: It is a great pleasure, and I'm proud to have this story of mine appearing in your anthology.
MTI: Thank you; it was a pleasure to include it. Let us begin. Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself? Some basic background information?
SIMS: I am a degreed anthropologist, although I chiefly identify myself as a writer these days. For many years I have made my home in Arizona. This suits me perfectly as I am a great traveler, and this beautiful state affords me wonderful opportunities for visiting marvelous locales not only archeological but majestically scenic. As an avid photographer I like to imagine I have taken more pictures of this region than any man alive. Doubtless untrue, but I'm working at it.
MTI: So, what first compelled you to write fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?
SIMS: I commenced reading for pleasure early, by the fourth grade was writing stories for friends. So soon as I passed the Dick and Jane stage I began reading science fiction and spooky tales—I especially recall from those days being thrilled by the novels of H.G. Wells, and the popular collection More Tales to Tremble—started off writing those kinds, later adding heroic and dark fantasy. I have never wavered in these joys. I love the fantastic, the weirder the better.
MTI: If you had to name just one author who has influenced or inspired you the most, who would it be?
SIMS: H.P. Lovecraft, of course. It has to be him. Having discovered the Master as a teenager, everything changed in the right way. I felt that imaginative walls had been forever breached. Although long past the uncritical fan stage, I still feel that way. Never employing the particulars of his work, I sense Lovecraft's guidance in much that I write. So many of my tales are that peculiar combination of science fiction and fantasy that he pioneered.
MTI: Lovecraft certainly has a lot of fans among Martinus Publishing contributors!
The Temporal Element is an anthology devoted entirely to time travel adventures. These fictional accounts are fascinating, of course, but do you ever believe that humanity will discover a viable way to travel backwards and forwards through time?
SIMS: If I had to bet money I would say no… given our current knowledge of the universe. Knowledge, of course, necessarily accrues and expands, these days exponentially. Who knows what comes? The general rule seems to be that if natural law does not forbid it, then (barring practical difficulties) it will be.
MTI: Regardless of whether it's probable or even possible, if you could go back to any point in history, when would you visit?
SIMS: It must be the Classical period of the Greeks and Romans. Their history absorbs me mightily; I would love to actually see some of it unfold. One of the continuing story themes in my published works deals with the ancient empire of Dyrezan, set in a lost epoch before conventional history, which is my magical version of the Classical Age.
MTI: The Classical era is certainly fascinating. Now, if you could have any one piece of futuristic technology, what would you like to own, or have for your personal use right now?
SIMS: Perhaps not so coincidentally, a cheap two-way time machine will suit me fine. If that asks too much of reality, I will settle for an instantaneous drive spaceship.
MTI: Back to your writing; can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?
SIMS: I am usually working on something. I just finished two pieces. First is an essay, "The Weird Adventures of Sapphire and Steel," one of a number on fantastic subjects that I have written especially for my literary web site: http://jefferyscottsims.webs.com/index.html
The second is a spooky short story, "Klinghofer's Folly", starring my latest continuing character, the underhanded but daring connoisseur of occult matters Sterk Fontaine, whose previous harrowing escapades recently appeared as "In a Tight Place."
MTI: Other than The City at the End of Time appearing in The Temporal Element, do you have any other stories slated for publication in the near future?
SIMS: Just being published now is another tale of my popular characters Professor Anton Vorchek and Theresa Delaney, investigators of the strange: "A Chance Result," like several other stories set in the moody and mysterious Red Rock Country surrounding Sedona, Arizona.
MTI: The main character in The City at the End of Time is also featured prominently in one of your novels, correct? Our readers might be interested to hear about that, and whether there will be even more tales of this fascinating character. What can you tell us about The Journey of Jacob Bleek?
SIMS: Jacob Bleek, the grim and obsessive scholar and mage of antique times, author of the abhorrent but much sought after Black Book, is in some respects my most successful character. He wanders the Earth, occasionally elsewhere, in search of arcane lore and secret sources of esoteric power. Originally created, believe it or not, in a series of morbid poems, he has already appeared as the dark hero in several published short stories: "The Companion of Jacob Bleek," "The Crags of the Schwartzenburg," "The Love of Jacob Bleek," and "Morstenburg." The foregoing list does not include numerous others, such as "The Seal of Jacob Bleek," (actually a Vorchek story) in which he is referenced or quoted as an ancient worthy.
The Journey of Jacob Bleek, published last year, enormously expands the Bleek concept. This novel chronicles ten fresh adventures, tied together by the over-arching plot structure of the titular sorcerer's quest for the ultimate secrets of the Gods who created and control—for their own purposes—our universe. During his epic journey Jacob Bleek confronts the living dead, evil scholars, corrupt nobles, haughty wizards, vampires, and horrors from beyond time; travels to eerie underground worlds, a kingdom of malicious mages, the ruins of lost civilizations, lands beyond the farthest seas; in the end ventures beyond the known cosmos to face the Gods he dares defy.
Still more tales of Jacob Bleek await publication. My latest completed work involving him is the scary thriller of deferred revenge from beyond the grave, "Nightmares in the Castle Titana." He also puts in a critical appearance in my next completed novel, The Journey Through the Black Book. This one leads Professor Vorchek and company—via spells drawn from Bleek's book—on a mystic odyssey into the magical chaos of ancient Dyrezan.
And yes, if I have my way, more is to come!
MTI: Shifting to something less relevant, what sort of television programs do you watch?
SIMS: I watch very little television, devote much more free time to reading. However, I recently discovered the series of years past, Sapphire and Steel, which on the whole impressed me sufficiently to, as mentioned above, compose an essay about it.
MTI: What sort of music do you enjoy these days?
SIMS: The same as ever, mainly orchestral works. My private collection contains much Classical, also a broad array of classic film scores. In the latter category I include works by Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, Leith Stevens, Dimitri Tiomkin, many more.
MTI: You have the attention of potential readers right now. Do you have any words of wisdom to share with them, perhaps something to make them even more interested in your work?
SIMS: Their likes and dislikes, of course, are private business, but I may say this: I consider the literature of the fantastic to constitute the finest and most imaginative of the arts. Feeling that way, I endeavor to live up to that loftiness in my writing. When I succeed, I think I may have something to offer devotees of such material. I urge them to put me to the test.
MTI: I'm sure the readers would love to see a sample of your work. As we wrap things up, would you be so kind as to share a paragraph or two with us, perhaps something new that nobody else has seen before?
SIMS: Here I offer an excerpt from Nightmares in the Castle Titana:
Appointed a spacious room of his own, in such wise began Jacob Bleek's sojourn among the denizens of the Castle Titana. The passing of the days found him closeted with moldy books, his few prized possessions and the expansive library of Tharaspas, several volumes of which might reveal unto him useful insights and indicative revelations. His host especially wished to discover a means of communicating with the departed spirits of those who had long ago rotted in the marshy pit behind the castle, that he might question them and wring from them their olden keys to wonders. As they cooperated in this intellectual task Bleek learned that the Count had, months before, inspired by his illustrious ancestors, attempted spells of this sort on his own, with dubious results. One formulation, drawn from a sorely tattered partial manuscript of the great sorcerer Azamodias, had appeared to promise much, in that it claimed to raise shades from the gulfs beyond the veil and hold them in thrall, yet in the end it neither produced ostensible ghosts nor opened a path to their materially disintegrated minds. On reflection, Bleek discerned the flaw, in that the lord of Titana sought to raise those whose power in life vastly exceeded his own, and were unlikely to submit to commands fomented by a lesser adept. From this point, therefore, Bleek labored.
The passing of nights brought to Bleek's tired, restless mind nightmares insidious and terrifying. A masterful dreamer, he knew how to turn the images of slumber to advantage, only these fell dreams behaved as if directed upon him from without rather than within, in that he could not structure and focus them to his bidding. They impinged, struck his psyche as physical blows, which puzzled; nay, alarmed.
At the end of their first interview Count Tharaspas had asked if he were sensitive to the outer influences. "I am," confessed Gregor, "at whiles suspecting subtle entities about me, seeking admittance to my cognizance. Fortunately none of my people possess that heightened awareness, but I fear some of the village folk do. In recent weeks a deputation from Gromengatz pestered me with ludicrous fears. Rubbish, all of it, but I suppose they feel morbid stirrings too."
Bleek avowed that he was, indeed, open to whispers seeping through the ethereal barrier, that said ability meant much in his trade. During those early days he toured the castle, including those lower vaults which were actually relics of the demolished temple, unfortunately containing nothing from the old days, the largely forgotten catacombs empty or given over to tombs of the Tharaspas line. He explored the castle's environs, including the reeking swamp which had in ages past swallowed the Sons of Xenophor. Bleek bathed in the atmosphere of these places, oft detecting signatures of non-material forces at play. He ventured into Gromengatz as well, there to quiz the village elders. They told of disturbing moonlight visions, which news Bleek pondered deeply; and in the village he also felt unseen presences.
Wearing and sobering were those nightmares that Bleek deduced were fostered or enhanced by his unique sensitivity. They paraded through his unconscious mind as vile snippets from a pageantry ripped from the pages of obscure history…
MTI: Excellent! Well, thank you, Mr. Sims, for that insightful interview. Those who wish to read his latest short story in-print can pick up a copy of The Temporal Element.