I have to admit, I have a soft spot for the Haxan world by Kenneth Mark Hoover. I love a good weird west tale and Haxan is it. Someday, the worlds of Mowry, AZ and Haxan, AZ will collide and it will be epic.
HOW I CREATED HAXAN
I fell into writing westerns, and dark fantasy westerns, entirely by accident.
About five years ago I started listening to the Old Time Radio Gunsmoke series. These were created and written by John Meston, a writer who wanted to bring adult sensibilities to the western. He hated what Hollywood had done to the Old West, relying on crude mythology and cliches. He wanted to write adult stories about the men and women of that time in a responsible way, leaving behind more cartoonish aspects which had taken root in the collective mind.
The OTR portrayal of Matt Dillon is very different from the television version. John Meston created Matt Dillon as a man as violent as the men he has goes up against. In fact, in the radio series, Matt Dillon is almost a psychopath who beats men within an inch of their life. Kitty, in the radio series, is a worn-out prostitute, and Doc Adams is a gibbering ghoul intent on collecting autopsy fees.
While listening to these episodes it wasn’t long before I knew I wanted to do something along the same lines. I had no intention before then of writing westerns or using a western setting as a backdrop in my fiction. John Meston, and his work, set the hook in my mind. I feel I owe him a lot.
Around the same time I finished reading the entire comic book run of Jonah Hex. I liked the hard-bitten edge of the character as written by John Albano, and the art of Tony DeZuniga has never been matched, in my opinion.
One afternoon I went outside to sit in the sun and I started making notes. I first had the town as Hex, New Mexico, probably a result of the comic influence. But I quickly changed that to Haxan, which is a Swedish word for “witches” and is the name of an excellent silent horror film from 1922. Just like that I had the entire plot of “Haxan” in my mind.
I started doing research, and to make things a little different leavened dark fantasy in the story. Not a lot. I didn’t want the fantasy to overwhelm the historical aspect at all. I had seen this in other “weird westerns” and frankly, never thought much of it. I didn’t want the West to be another generic (and replaceable) backdrop to my story. I wanted “Haxan” to be about the West, and any dark fantasy present would be included to illuminate that singular aspect.
I must say I have never thought I wrote “weird westerns” although the Haxan stories, and the novel published by CZP, are categorized that way. Being pigeonholed is a crux every writer must bear, and I don’t let it bother me too much. But, to me, your typical weird western is just another cliched story with vampires, werewolves, and the occasional Cthulhu-type monster in a walk-on role. I am a big reader of history and philosophy. I know the most frightening monsters have always been human. So that’s what I set out to write.
I’ve said many times Haxan is my own little dark corner of the universe where I get to play with matches. The setting and the characters lend themselves to many different story styles and genres. But I am always careful to make the West, and its culture, and the men and women of all races who struggled everyday to survive, my central focus. This came home to me in a big way when Jennifer Brozek remarked I should start writing stories about the other people in Haxan rather than concentrate on Marwood. I immediately saw what she was getting at. The whole mythos of Haxan needed to be told, rather than one slice from an individual viewpoint.
I haven’t looked back since. I’ve published about 20 Haxan short stories and more are coming. The novel Haxan was published by CZP earlier this year, and they’ve scheduled the next one, Quaternity, for May 2015. I will begin work on the third Haxan novel, Seven Devils, this fall.
So far I’ve enjoyed writing in the world of Haxan very much. People tell me they like the stories and the characters a lot. But I haven’t done it entirely by myself. I have some very good writers and friends I bounce ideas off to gauge their reaction whether a story idea is worth pursuing.
No writer writes a story entirely by himself. But as of today I am a citizen of Haxan, New Mexico, circa 1874, and I think I am going to stay there for a while.
Kenneth Mark Hoover has sold over fifty short stories and articles. His first novel, Fevreblau, was published by Five Star Press in 2005. His work has appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons and the anthology Destination: Future. He is a member of SFWA and HWA and currently lives near Dallas, TX. Mr. Hoover can be reached through his website kennethmarkhoover.com where extra content, including character biographies and photographs, can be found regarding the world of Haxan.