FIVE FOR FRIDAY: Five Questions for J.R. Campbell!

Welcome to the end of another week, and another FIVE FOR FRIDAY interview! This week I welcome J.R. Campbell to the table, hot on the heels of two recent collections of paranormal Sherlock Holmes stories; GASLIGHT GHOULS: UNEASY TALES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, MONSTERS, AND MADMEN (co-edited with Charles Prepolec) and his own single-author collection, IMPROBABLE REMAINS. Hit the Read More button to check it out!

Why don’t we start by going around the table and introducing ourselves? Tell us who you are, why you’re here today, and one interesting thing about yourself.

My pen name is JR Campbell, (the J is for Jeff), I’m a Calgary-based writer and anthologist and, I’d have to say, the most interesting thing about me is my ability to trick otherwise talented and interesting people to tolerate my company. That includes family, my co-editors and the writers (Chris included) who’ve been so generous to my projects over the years. Why? You can say? But it certainly is appreciated.

In addition to IMPROBABLE REMAINS, you’ve co-edited five collections of paranormal Sherlock Holmes stories including last fall’s GASLIGHT GHOULS: UNEASY TALES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, MONSTERS, AND MADMEN. What is it about Sherlock facing the supernatural that keeps calling you back?

Ah, Sherlock, he just keeps calling me back. “If convenient, come at once. If not, come all the same.” The thing about Sherlock is he’s such a story engine, drop him into a narrative and he just takes over and drives it to the end. The supernatural elements, well, as much as I enjoy horror fiction, they end up in the GASLIGHT books as a way of recapturing the atmosphere of the original Doyle stories. There was something about the canonical tales, an aura of luridness and terror, often missing from the modern tales. Those first adventures of Sherlock Holmes appeared before the idea of genre fiction, and the boundaries that define them, had taken shape. In order to recapture that feeling my co-editor Charles Prepolec and I found it necessary to blur some modern genre lines.

IMPROBABLE REMAINS came as something as surprise to me, Weird House Press contacted me about putting together a collection of my own Sherlock Holmes fiction. I was fairly sure I’d not written enough to make up the word count but, digging through the stacks, it turned out I had. Naturally, they wanted a couple of new tales and I had some ideas I’d wanted to explore but hadn’t found a venue for.

Now that the last handful of Sherlock Holmes stories have finally entered the public domain, is there anything from the later canon you’re looking forward to playing with in your own writing, or seeing other writers explore?

If you’re looking to learn about the unintended consequences of copyright, there is no better case study than the Doyle estate. The USA is the last country to put Holmes into the public domain and the recent attempts by the estate to keep portions of the canon protected under copyright have been pretty farcical. During his lifetime the USA was a copyright bandit, seeing no reason to pay artists from overseas for their work. The irony of the USA being the last to yield to the concept of public domain is pretty rich.

In terms of literature, I don’t expect the entry into the public domain to make much difference. You are likely to see an increase in Sherlock references in other media though. The estate did send a warning letter to Star Trek: The Next Generation that prevented Data from donning the deerstalker and cape after Season Two. The public domain status will prevent that sort of foolishness from happening again.

The other anthologies you’ve edited include a book of Professor Challenger stories, as well as collections of Camelot and Sci-Fi Noir tales. Quite a spread of themes! Can you give us a hint of any other upcoming projects you’ve got percolating?

There’s plenty of anthologies still to explore and, if I’m being honest, I’d still love to revisit Professor Challenger and Camelot. Even so, THE ASTRONAUT ALWAYS RINGS TWICE was my first proper science fiction project, that’s to say a science fiction project set in the future rather than Professor Challenger’s Edwardian, steampunk era, and I’d love to do more in the science fiction field.

Having a collection of short stories released forces one to consider the embarrassment of not having a novel out there, a situation I’m working to correct.

The obligatory time travel question! You have access to a time machine for 24 hours. What are you doing with your day?

An easy question! I have to admit I’d ‘Back to the Future’ it, heading back to Calgary on October 29, 1957. All four of my grandparents were in town back then, as well as the full regiment of aunts, uncles, and parents, so I’d spend the day eavesdropping on them. No big reveal, no need for conversations, but it would be lovely to see them again. Then I’d head over to the Stampede Corral for the ‘Stars of ’57’ rock and roll show, where I’d listen as Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, Eddie Cochran, and Buddy Holly and the Crickets took to the stage.

Thanks for taking part in Five for Friday, Jeff! Have a great weekend!






Chris Patrick Carolan is an author, editor, and hovercraft enthusiast, originally from Glasgow but now based in Calgary, Alberta. He writes science fiction, fantasy (urban and epic), and steampunk, though he has also been known to turn to crime to make ends meet. Crime fiction, that is. His first novel, THE NIGHTSHADE CABAL, was published by Parliament House Press in 2020, and was a finalist for the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence ‘Best First Novel’ award. He can be found on Twitter as @cpcwrites but – consider this fair warning – it’s mostly wisecracks about McNuggets.

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