STRANGE TRUTH: Strieber & Spector talk “The Nye Incidents”

Tue, April 8th, 2008 at 11:22am PDT | Updated: April 8th, 2008 at 11:58am

Comic Books
Shaun Manning, Staff Writer

"The Nye Incidents" on sale this month

This month, Devil’s Due Publishing premieres “The Nye Incidents,” a disturbing crime-horror graphic novel that may or may not have aliens at its center. From the mind of Whitley Strieber, whose novel “Communion” is based on his own otherworldly encounters, and written by bestselling novelist Craig Spector with illustrations by Guus Floor, “Nye” is the story of one detective searching for the truth behind a series of grisly murders, killings that in many ways mirror the cattle mutilations often attributed to extraterrestrial visitors. CBR News caught up with Strieber and Spector to discuss the book.

“As I understand it,” Craig Spector said, “'The Nye Incidents' is inspired by true events involving a series of human mutilations that eerily resembled the kinds of cattle mutilations that the UFO subculture has been talking about for decades. Most of this stuff flies under the radar of conventional media -- you have to go looking for it to find it, unless it finds you.”

Whitley Strieber elaborated on the graphic novel's genesis. “For at least forty years, there have been strange mutilations of cattle that are blown off by the government as coyote attacks,” he told CBR News. “This is BS. The animals are found with surgical excisions and all of their blood drained, and often show evidence of having been dropped from above after being killed. Despite thousands of cases around the world, nobody has ever been caught. If the government was doing it, they'd just buy the cattle, obviously.

“A few years ago, I got word that there were also human mutilations, and that there were a few coroners here and there who had seen these cases, but they had been silenced by the FBI. I was never able to definitively track the cases down, so I began to explore the possibility -- or threat -- in fiction.”

Pages from "The Nye Incidents"
In “The Nye Incidents,” Spector decided to “blur the lines” between crime and supernatural suspense. “It might be aliens or it might be a serial killer preying on the UFO abductee communities, imitating these 'mute' killings,” the writer said. “In the end it's really about one person's journey as she accidentally bumps up against this phenomena and it literally unravels her reality to the point she thinks she's going mad.

“I've written both [crime and supernatural stories], and to me they are flip sides of the same coin. When you're dealing with freakishly gruesome murders and the UNSUB -- the unknown subject -- could be either a very sick killer imitating aliens, or aliens acting like a very sick killer... well, that's compelling drama.

“One thing that interests me is the clinical detachment of both the killer(s) and the ones trying to solve the mystery: at a certain point the humanity of the victims disappears for them. I remember once as a child going over to a neighbor kid's house, and he was calmly pulling the wings off bumble bees and dropping them into a mason jar of water. Just to see what they would do. One wing, then the other. Then, a leg. Another leg. Etc. He had nothing against bees per se... he was just studying them. To see how they come apart. To see what they do. I don't know what was scarier -- the death twitch of the bee or the look on his face. I still don't. But I remember telling Whitey, maybe they do it just to see what it feels like for us, because we can feel and they can't.”

Pages from "The Nye Incidents"
According to Strieber, the need to tell the story of “The Nye Incidents” comes from his own experiences, but is less directly autobiographical than some of his other works. “I had a close encounter of the third kind in 1985 that was the basis for the book 'Communion,'” Strieber explained. “In 1989, I got an implant put in my left ear in the middle of the night, that could not be removed because it became mobile and slid away from the doctor's scalpel when he tried to excise it. He got a piece of it, which proved to have cilia on it, and not to be a natural object. Both the doctor and the pathologist involved found it to be the strangest thing they had ever seen come out of a human body. A few days after the removal attempt, the part of the object that remained in my ear returned to the top edge from the earlobe, where it had gone when touched by the scalpel. This is where it remains. I am afraid to attempt further surgery.

“'The Nye Incidents' is an effort to deal with some very personal demons,” continued Strieber. “Were human beings mutilated or not? In early 1986, after I realized that the bizarre events of late 1985 had been real, I began to walk in the woods at night, returning again and again to the place I remembered being taken by the visitors. The terror was so great that I could hardly put one foot in front of another. I was like a mouse trapped in a terrarium with a snake: my fear had hypnotized me. I couldn't turn away.”

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These experiences represented the beginning of Strieber's connection to the unexplained. “This led to a stunning eleven year relationship with the visitors, most of which I've never written about. Why bother? The only thing the culture has ever returned to me is jokes about rectal probes,” he said. “So I lived this thing pretty much by myself and with my friends and family. As many as fifteen people had physical contact experiences with the visitors at our cabin on the same night, when we would have groups there.

“Then I discovered that some of the possible human mutilations had taken place within a few miles of my cabin, while we were having these contact experiences, while I was going into the woods alone, while our kids and friends were encountering the visitors.

“I cannot express the emotions that this discovery brought up in me. Absolute terror. I started trying to write about it. I obsessed on it. I wrote scripts about it. In fact, ten or twelve scripts, all exploring the story from different angles. But none of them worked. Each time, I turned away from the terror in a new way. But I couldn't let it go.”

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Unable to tell the haunting story of human mutilations himself, Strieber turned to “Animals” novelist Craig Spector. “I was invited to meet with Whitley and Mark Wolper by Kevin Nicklaus, his VP of development,” Spector explained. “Kevin called me one day and said Whitley has a story he says is too scary for him to write. I laughed and said, so you call me? I was intrigued. I'm a great admirer of Whitley's work and we knew each other professionally from the horror scene. Before I even sat down to meet I knew next to nothing about the idea, but from the little I was told I knew I wanted to approach the story from an 'embed' POV -- we would only know what the main character knew, as it was revealed to her. I wanted to emphasize the feeling that this can't be happening but it is, the sense of losing grip on the 'known' that the character feels, with a little 'Jacob's Ladder' vibe thrown in.

“Our collaborative process was pretty natural -- we jammed story back and forth until we had something we liked, and then I wrote it, sending blocks of pages to Whitley to comment or jump right in if he had a flash. He came back with some very inspired and disturbing stuff. At a certain point I felt like I was Devlin and Whitley was the aliens. Sick. It was great. And Mike O' Sullivan at Devil’s Due was a great editor, it was off conversations with him that I got the flash of how to re-do the ending to make it creepier than it originally was. Which was pretty creepy.”

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Strieber agrees that the team-up has been successful. “Collaboration can be hell or sex or creativity or whatever you want to make it. Craig is a stunningly good horror writer. He has the ability to make the truly scary even scarier. That's how you turn fear into entertainment. You need to make Jeffrey Dahmer dance, and Craig can do that. He was able to really get down deep into the fear, and do the transformation with it that I was attempting: to turn it into entertainment, and thus make it bearable.

“As far as collaborational sparks go, there haven't been any. But I'm always up for a fight. I love it. None of my collaborations have ever been feisty, sadly enough. I have a fair left hook, for an old fart, but Craig's too big for me, I think. He'd send me into orbit, would be my guess.”

“The Nye Incidents” represents Strieber’s first foray into comics, at least as a creator. “The first reason [to do ‘Nye’ as a graphic novel] is that I love comics. I am a small-time collector with one great book: one of the few copies left of 'Detective Picture Stories' #1. Otherwise, my collection runs to mostly Golden Age funny animals. I guess many would regard it as a fairly idiotic collection. Do I care? No. I love it.

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“Second reason, I want to see this. I want to absorb it visually. It just felt like a comic or a movie more than a novel, that's all. I want to see it. That's the way to capture it and possess it, which is what I need to do to bear it.”

Spector, though best known for his prose horror and suspense novels, is not completely new to the graphic medium. “I'd done some comic work before, a ‘Green Lantern’ for DC Comics, some other stuff; I also worked for a while on adapting a Dark Horse character as a feature film, and I was always a fan of comics, especially the old underground comix from the early '70s,” Spector said. “Writing a graphic novel for me was a somewhat more rigorous version of writing screenplays--very different forms from prose, but in a comic you are really being the director, telling the artist what the camera sees as you tell the story. It's storytelling not chapter by chapter or even scene by scene, but frame by frame. Each panel captures one moment in the story. Tricky. There were some points where Whitley and I were kicking around notes and he would send pages back with brilliant ideas in them, but I'd have to go back and say okay, we have to break this into separate panels to convey it, we can't do this in one panel.

“Whitley and I were first working on ‘Nye Incidents’ as a film, but the graphic novel came as a result of my meeting with Josh Blaylock of Devil's Due. When he expressed interest Whitely and I both thought it was a great idea -- a comic is like the world's best storyboard for a film -- so we evolved the story as something we felt would work in both media. We have film interest in this now, and to me the best of both worlds is to have 'Nye' come out as both. And then perhaps... a fashion line?”

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TAGS:  craig spector, whitley strieber, guus floor, devil's due, the nye incidents

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