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Morbid blog tour: Cybele Collins
Photo by Wim Van Gelder.

When it came time to illustrate each issue of Morbid Curiosity, I would post a list of topics from its stories. I invited artists to bid on the topics they wanted. I could count on some topics -- like Blondie or ghosts -- to be very popular. Others, like sky burial or Malaysian shamans, I had to assign. I tried to send each artist at least two stories. As I went along, I learned to assign each story two artists as well, because sometimes the topics in my list evoked different images than the artist, the author, or I intended.

Some artists, like Cybele Collins, worked especially well with the adrenaline rush of creating original art specifically for a specific story, usually on a very short deadline. I never knew what Cybele would send me, but I could count on it being exquisite and very carefully rendered. She provided eight illustrations in the final four issues of the magazine.

Q: What does morbid curiosity mean to you?

A: A kind of patience. Looking for the truth of something in all its facets, including the unknown, ugly, or frightening, to a point where the meaning of all those things can be stretched.

Q: How did you discover Morbid Curiosity magazine?

A: I saw a reading of the stories at a World Horror Convention in San Francisco.

Q: You had a number of pieces in the magazine. Which was your favorite?

A: One of my favorites was for a story about excarnation. (Editor’s note: The story was Will Walker’s “Gone Tomorrow,” which appeared in Morbid Curiosity #10.) I did a scratchboard drawing of a vulture taking off with an arm -- which wasn't an actual image from the story, but based on the general idea.

In that sense, there was a lot of freedom in illustrating for Morbid Curiosity. I would read a story 2-3 times to have a sense of it and look for images, or see what just came to mind. I'm fond of the first one I illustrated, "The Bomoh,” for which I did some research, although it may not have shown. Snake bracelets are or were a trend in the US, but I found them while researching Malaysian jewelry, so I included one. That had something personal to it, too: an interest in snakes. (I had a pet snake that a roommate lost and I still miss it.) It was nice to read the interview with the author of that story, whom I tried to draw in the illustration without having seen her. I didn’t know what she looked liked, until the photo that accompanied the interview. (Editor’s note: The story is called “The Bomoh” by A. M. Muffaz. It appeared in Morbid Curiosity #7 and was reprinted -- with Cybele’s illustration -- in Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues. The interview with A. M. Muffaz is at http://www.redroom.com/blog/loren-rhoads/morbid-blog-tour-a-m-muffaz.)

Q: What was your favorite story in the zine?

A: The first that comes to mind is Alan M. Clark's story about his operation and the circumstances leading to it, which was very open. (Editor’s note: That’s “The Unseen and Unknowable” in issue #10.) Of the artwork, there were many things I liked, but Suzanne Dechnik's work hit me.

Q: How did the piece you have in the book come to be made?

A: All the illustrations I did were from stories that you sent. I did them all on 5x7-inch white scratchboard.

Q: Do you have a tale to tell about your involvement with the magazine or the book?

A: I made a few silk-screens of illustrations I’d made for the magazine and gave out or sold them, mostly when I toured while doing a violin noise project. As a result, a drummer in Indiana has a tattoo of "Excarnation." (Editor’s interjection: That’s so totally cool! Maybe I ought to have a contest for “tattoos inspired by Morbid Curiosity.” I have one. Wonder who else does?)

Q: Have you had another morbid experience that would make a good story?

A: I didn't have a reason (or visa) to go to Britain when I was 18, but went there for four months. I just saved up for a month-long ticket, avoided making any plans, and landed in London for a couple weeks, then decided to take the train to Edinburgh and stayed on. I remember the night I decided to miss my plane; I thought there was something more I needed there. I was extremely shy and barely spoke to people and had my first social and sexual experiences, nearly lost my mind a couple times but survived it somehow, and despite the horrors I found -- and may have gotten myself into -- it's part of me, in ways I might not even know. I wasn't around any Americans, so I spoke broad Edinburgh Scottish when I left, and lost that in a few days, but it comes back when I'm drunk sometimes, which must be where my mind was for those months. I would like to write about it sometime. I think I need to.

Q: What are you up to these days?

A: I've been in a pre-medical program for a couple years. I went back to school in order to prepare for medical illustration work, but fell in love with the biology, particularly microbiology, and plan to continue with medical research. However, I am going to move to mainland Europe in a couple weeks to be with my partner, so I have to quit school for now, but am drawing a lot again and am illustrating a biochemical book with a medical student. I didn't illustrate much in the past couple years and don't have a website, but made a short movie called Help me with my partner Wim last summer. You can see it at http://www.youtube.com/user/mangenerated#p/a/u/0/hua-_fZxvBk. I am on facebook. I have an ugly music site at http://www.myspace.com/cybelec. I think there's some artwork on it.