Ghosts & Goblins 3: Silvana Massa

Best experienced in the Ghosts & Goblins 3 PDF zine

My name is Silvana Massa, I am an illustrator focused on fantasy, paganism and mythology themes. From a very young age I felt an attraction to fantastic kingdoms. Warriors and magicians stole my attention, wanting to be part of those worlds that I found in books and movies. This is how I discovered that by drawing I could create characters and landscapes from my own imagination.

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‘The Kingdom of Wandering Souls’ by Spirithar

Ghosts & Goblins 3: Cursebitten

Best experienced in the Ghosts & Goblins 3 PDF zine

Hello friends! I’m Trev, and my musical contributions to the dungeon synth community are released under the moniker Cursebitten. I also host Castbitten, a dungeon synth interview podcast where I have casual chats with other members of this wonderful community.

Tell us about the story / world building / themes behind your project

I think this is an interesting premise to get into. While Cursebitten has plenty of consistent orreoccurring elements across releases, I’m not sure if I would say there is a grand story being told or world being revisited there. Compared to other projects in the scene, I feel that I’m somewhat atypical here, as I don’t usually find myself to be directly inspired to write music about specific narratives or worlds. As far as world building goes, I typically have some sort of general thematic exploration and overall mood that I want to induce, but I don’t aim to nail in any specifics and try to just use these themes to develop an atmosphere that is reflected in the music.

In general, I’m much more commonly drawn to musical ideas. There’s absolutely an overall sonic profile that I consider to be ‘Cursebitten’, and each release explores variations that can be found within that profile. Both on a song and album level, I’ll identify a handful of musical ideas and themes as well as a sort of ‘sound palette’ that I want to explore, and I’ll start from there. I think that this is something that I’ve improved at over time, with my albums feeling more focused and consistent as they’ve come out. The album that I’ve been writing this year is certainly the most focused and concise sound that I’ve worked with.

Tell us about the art & design associated with your project

I’ve been fortunate to have worked with tremendous visual artists for my releases. Artwork and design are absolutely not my strengths, and I’ve taken advantage of that by putting together collaborations. The way that visual artists are able to take nebulous, shadowy ideas and create something perceptible and discernible is astounding to me, and I’ve always considered the artwork phase to be one of the most exciting parts of doing a release.

My strategy has always been to share the music with the artist and give them a general idea of the themes I’m trying to cover and the atmosphere I’m aiming to cultivate. From there, I mostly just let the artist interpret how to represent the release visually, giving them a little feedback along the way. I’ve always felt that the more freedom I give the artist, the better the artwork turns out.

I’d love to take this opportunity to point out who I’ve worked with on my two existing releases. Avery Bradshaw was responsible for the cover of Seize It with Thine Own Hands, and Grackle created the artwork for Northwarder, Castbitten, and my two individually released singles.

What are some of your influences (musical and otherwise)?

Something that I’ve spoken on in a few episodes of Castbitten is the different ways that one can find influence. I’m a huge fan of using reference tracks while writing music and in general find myself laying out a handful of albums that I try to consistently come back to for inspiration when working on a release. Lately, these have been some Dungeon Synth artists such as Erang, DIM, Aindulmedir, and ORCUS, as well as artist from other genres, namely Hania Rani, Oliver Patrice Weder, Ólafur Arnalds, Stevie Wonder, and Sigur Rós.

On the other end of the spectrum, I feel like there are plenty of artists and albums, oftentimes from my teens or college years, that have more or less ingrained themselves in my subconscious. With these influences, I’m not actively drawing inspiration from them throughout my writing process, but they’ve helped define how I approach music as a whole. These are harder to identify, but a few examples are Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Phil Elverum. I place a huge emphasis on texture and on the interaction of different timbres in music, and I can attribute this greatly to these artists.

Maybe a greater musical influence than either of these groups comes from my musician friends. There are a handful of people in my life that I constantly go to to talk about music with and to share ideas and projects with, and these people have a huge impact on my relationship with music. I cannot stress enough how important I think it is for musicians to have a small circle of people who they can trust to stimulate them and to provide strong feedback on what they do, and I’m enormously thankful for the people who fill this role on my end.

Although less direct and more on a philosophical level, non-musical media has been hugely impactful on my relationship with music. I’m a big literature person, and the literary approach of exploring themes and provoking thought without simply stating a position is something that I try to use to guide my musical writing. Authors like Cormac McCarthy and Virginia Woolf have really taught me how much I appreciate when a piece of media trusts the person consuming it to take their time and lead themselves to whatever conclusions they may come to.

Show/tell us about your creative space

I write all of my music at my workstation in the corner of my tiny apartment. I try to keep it free of too many distractions, but I have my small tape collection nearby and have books lining the windowsills on either side of me. It’s honestly surprising how much of an impact my workspace has on my music writing process, and it’s something that I try to pay attention to. I’m somewhat of an ex-gear collector and don’t typically play live shows anymore, so the nitty gritty of my setup is actually fairly minimal. I have this full-sized keyboard that I absolutely adore, and I run that directly into an interface as a MIDI controller. From there, I play straight into Reaper. For my two current releases, I’ve done the mixing and mastering on my own, using a mix of my headphones and a pair of speakers.

How does your sense of place affect the way you express yourself?

My sense of place has an enormous impact on the music that I write. I live in the upper Midwest of the United States, and nothing influences me more than the long, brutal winters that we get here. The constant build-up of snow as well as the large frozen lakes that I live between keep me mesmerized and stupefied. One of the tentpole themes within Cursebitten’s identity is the effect that this harsh and captivating environment has on me. Gearing up and going on cold winter walks is my constant cure for writer’s block and is something that I find myself doing partway through almost every track I make.

Other sources of identity and inspiration come heavily from my career outside of music. Many of my friends in the scene know this, but this is a great time to mention that I’m a scientist specializing in agricultural research. This means spending long summer and fall days doing working in the field, caring for crops and collecting data. There’s a huge contrast between these parts of my life and the time I spend during the winter, and this contrast is a theme that heavily impacted my sophomore album Northwarder.

What does dungeon synth mean to you? How would you describe the Dungeon Synth community?

First off, I just want to say that I think this is a wonderful topic to bring up. I’m always surprised at how much this answer can vary from person to person, and I love hearing what people think of it all. I personally see dungeon synth as a vehicle for experimentation. It’s a place where you can take any idea and run with it, seeing it through to whatever end you’d like. For myself, I think I interpret the dungeon synth world as more of a scene than a genre. It’s wonderful and inspiring to see that despite how much variety there can be in the actual sound of different dungeon synth projects, there’s something that still ties them together. I’m not around in all the places that dungeon synth gets discussed, but in my experience any approach to music, no matter how strange or esoteric, is met with welcome arms. That hasn’t always been my experience with music scenes, and it’s something that
constantly inspires me.

Tell us about your gaming habits: video games, RPG, tabletop, other? Past & present.

In complete honesty, I’m generally not much into gaming. That being said, the Dark Souls trilogy is massively influential on all of my releases as Cursebitten, as well as on myself as a person. A core philosophical idea from Dark Souls is this concept of being introduced to a challenge that feels absolutely insurmountable at first, and then gradually overcoming the challenge, eventually getting to a point where the things that seemed impossible now become second nature. This idea is something that deeply resonates with me and makes the games truly feel like something special.

Beyond that, playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends was the way that I was first exposed to dungeon synth. The process of being creative in a group environment and collaboratively telling a story with your friends is something that I hold dearly, and has both directly and indirectly influenced my writing with Cursebitten.

If you could step through a portal to any realm of fantasy, where would it be?

My gut reaction? Seize the opportunity and learn a thing or two about dungeon synth by stepping into the Land of the Five Seasons! Erang was my main introduction to the genre, and I’d love to get a glimpse at what’s going on over there.

Bandcamp – – Instagram


Ghosts & Goblins 3

Ghosts & Goblins 3 features interviews with Avery Bradshaw, Cursebitten, Ithildin and Hermit Knight/Weregnome Records

Also featuring games by Natasha Wright and the fantastic art of Silvana Massa

Ghosts & Goblins PDF zine

The podcast is brimming with dungeon synth, epic rock/heavy metal goodness, hosted by our resident spirit/demon Guin.

Listen to the Ghosts & Goblins 3 Podcast

1 BaR – Ghosts’n Goblins Theme (Oxy remix)
2 Moss Troll – There is Peace in the Surging Tide
3 BOGWITCH – The Drowned (feat. Sarie)
Ghostbusters Bloopers Gag Reel (1984)
Tangerine Dream – Street Hawk intro
4 Gong – Outer Temple / Inner Temple
Koji Kondo – Super Mario 64 Title Theme
5 Draconic Regicide – Shadowrealm’s Demise I: A Coward
6 Ad Infinitum – See You In Hell
Cheers – We Will Rock You
7 Archierophant – Litanies of Lost Relics
8 Ithildin – Culumalda
SpongeBob Square Pants  – Band Geeks (Excerpt)
9 Warkings – Immortal (feat. Morgana le Fay)
10 Shaun Garea – Pilgrimage
AT&T Archives Telstar
11 The Tornados – Telstar
12 Rainbow – Catch The Rainbow
Gremlins 2 Deleted Scenes
13 Ephemerus – Ephemera V
14 Werna Wolf – Fidélité
15 Brothers of Metal – Weaver Of Fate
16 Hermit Knight – once
17 Peikko – Sisäinen taistelu
What We Do in the Shadows – Collaboration (Excerpt)
18 Within Temptation – Never-Ending Story
19 Black Sabbath – Children of the Grave
20 Erang – The Lonely Madman
M.A.S.K Theme
21 Mons – Temple II
22 Cursebitten – A Quiet Move
Outro (Enigma)

Wyrd Question Daze : T. K. Rex

Hi! I’m TK. I write science fiction and fantasy largely on ecological themes, which you can read in Strange Horizons, Queer Blades, New Edge Sword and Sorcery and elsewhere — I keep a full list of everything that’s online at I’m currently working on:

A collection of climate fiction stories that take place in Northern California as drones are rewilding everything but the cities for carbon sequestration and wildcrafted agriculture

A collection of secondary fantasy stories in collaboration with my mom, L. A. Kinyon, that takes place in a vaguely Gold-Rush era region that strongly resembles the West Coast, and is struggling with industrialization, colonialism, exploitation and looming environmental collapse. And there’s dragons.

A mostly-biographical collection/disjointed speculative memoir about my chaotic childhood in the 90s, that spans four states and includes topics ranging from the AIDS crisis to 9/11, with big mental health themes and lots of queer characters

I live in San Francisco and work in tech, my ancestry is mostly British Isles and Ashkenazi, I’m between cats at the moment and I have a brilliant partner named Gary Boodhoo who is an artist and musician and listens to all my early drafts. Also, I like plants.

Where did you come from and where are you going?

The Earth.

What preoccupies your mind these days?

The future. How to prepare for an increasingly chaotic timeline. How to build community and strengthen friendships. How to bring more vision and purpose to the world. How to get out of my current creative slump. How to be more in the moment.

Name a favourite taste, touch, sound, sight and smell

Taste: Nopales burrito from my neighborhood taco place
Touch: Warm mug of tea
Sound: The smooth yet satisfyingly clackety keys of the custom mechanical keyboard that Gary built for me
Sight: Accurate renditions of fully feathered dromaeosaurs (I highly recommend watching Prehistoric Planet)
Smell: Fresh coffee beans. Even after years as a barista. Even after switching to decaf

Describe one of your most vivid dreams or nightmares

I had one years ago when I was at my first advertising job and I had just graduated college and I was still in this relationship that had gone on way too long. And in my dream I was sitting at my desk at work and it was completely realistic, not like a dream version of it but like the real thing. And a fucking eagle flew into the window next to me. And it kept banging against the glass. And when I woke up I knew it was trying to tell me something because it had been so vivid, and I asked myself, OK. What does an eagle represent to me? And the answer was so corny and obvious: freedom. And I knew then that all I had to do was open the window and let it in. So pretty much immediately after that, I found a new job and moved to Albuquerque and ended that relationship and adopted a bunny.

Have you ever had an uncanny experience?

This world gets exponentially weirder every day? But as far as the truly unexplainable goes, one morning when I was like five I was at my dad’s apartment in Portland coloring in the kitchen and I looked up and this weird pointy black ball flew right through the walls across the corner where my dad was washing dishes. It was like a ball of black triangles about the size of a starling and literally came in through one wall and out the other. When it was gone, I was left just kinda staring at the wall it disappeared into, and my dad turned around and saw me and he was like, “Holy crap you saw it too!”

We never came up with an explanation.

How does your sense of place affect the way you express yourself?

This could mean so many things. I think place is very important to my fiction, and probably to most eco-fiction… or really, all eco-fiction since “eco” literally means “home.” I try to ground much of my fiction in places that are either real places I’ve spent significant time in, or inspired by real places I’ve spent significant time in. Place itself often inspires me, and I think sometimes I set a story in a place I just want to spend more time in, just so I can spend more time there in my imagination. My recent story in New Edge Sword & Sorcery, The Beast of the Shadow Gum Trees, has a setting that was very much inspired by the UC San Diego campus where I was attending the Clarion Writers Workshop when I wrote it. Similarly, A Holdout in the Northern California Designated Wildcraft Zone, which appeared in Grist’s Imagine 2200 collection this fall, is set in rural Mendocino County where my grandmother lived for awhile toward the end of her life, and I spend a ton of time up there with her. And another story that came out this year in The Molotov Cocktail, And In Her Sleep, She Cooed, is very close to home — it’s about a pigeon who lives in my neighborhood in San Francisco.

I think my emphasis on place has a lot to do with my own need to feel grounded that came from a pretty chaotic childhood where I moved around a lot. Whenever I felt unsettled in a new place, I would go walking around looking for some quiet spot to sit alone and just take in my surroundings, to start to feel like part of them, to feel like the plants and rocks and wind knew who I was. Highly recommend.

What has particularly touched or inspired you recently?

This morning an editor said my story made her happy, and that was awesome.

Tell us a good story, anecdote or joke

One time, a very nice blogger invited me to answer some questions for their blog, and I took waaaaaaaaay too long to answer them, and I’m sorry.