For the Fungi anthology, we asked contributors to tell us why they had written about fungi. Today, Daniel Mills answers this question. We also talk about how his story ended in our anthology.
Who is he?
Daniel Mills is the author of Revenants: A Dream of New England (Chomu Press, 2011), selected by Booklist as one of the Top 10 Historical Novels of 2011. His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in a variety of venues, including Delicate Toxins (Side Real Press, 2011), Supernatural Tales 20 (Supernatural Tales Press, 2011), Dadaoism (Chomu Press, 2012), A Season in Carcosa (Miskatonic River Press, 2012), The Grimscribe’s Puppets (Miskatonic River Press, 2012) and The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 23 (Robinson, 2012). He lives in Vermont.
Why write about fungi?
Below is Daniel’s answer to our question:
Fungi are detritivores. They feed upon the dead, deriving their principal nourishment from decaying organic matter. In this respect, they are not unlike the ghouls of Arabian folklore, or indeed, their counterparts in Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle — and Lovecraft’s ghouls, though first presented to the reader as objects of terror in “Pickman’s Model,” had ceased to horrify even HPL by the time he wrote “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.”
Likewise, I’ll admit that I’m not especially terrified by bodily decay or by the prospect of postmortem desecration. “Dust from a Dark Flower” began, for me, with a question: what if a species of fungus were to feed not only on the body but on the soul, thereby annihilating all hope of the eternal? Could that be employed as a metaphor, perhaps, for a kind of Calvinist despair, one in which the individual is helpless to escape from the trap of Double Predestination?
In “Dust from a Dark Flower,” set in the New Hampshire Grants in the days before the American Revolution, an infestation of monstrous fungi is discovered to be intimately connected to the village meetinghouse. Elements of body horror are present throughout, but here, fungi serve primarily as agents of spiritual terror — harbingers of death or the Last Day and “the final passing of this world into a night unending.”
Daniel’s story was one of the first ones we received during our open reading period, and it was one of the first ones that we decided to buy for inclusion in Fungi. We’ve rapidly become a fan of Daniel’s creepy, quiet stories (often set in historical New England), and “Dust from a Dark Flower” is one of his best, an ominous story of corruption and faith that features a singular fungal infestation invading an old churchyard.
“Dust from a Dark Flower” is one of ten stories that was illustrated for the hardcover edition.