Why Do You Write That Stuff?

Posted: August 14, 2009 in Uncategorized

Is a question I hear from friends who don’t read horror, or from coworkers who don’t read, period. They look at me as if I just farted in church, when I tell them I write horror. And that’s okay. I often wonder that myself, sometimes. My answer, though, and it’s something I heard Stephen King say once, is “Why do you assume I have a choice?”

And that’s is the truest answer I can give. Back in the days I was writing plays, some element of horror, or something horrific always found its way into my work. I couldn’t stop it, no matter how I tried. The first play I wrote, “Shooting Stars” had the ghosts of the main characters ex lovers visit him. It was done for comedic affect, but they were there.  In “Family Business” the main character is a domineering Mother with a violent streak, who equated how much her kids screamed from beatings with how much they loved her. Grim stuff, indeed.

Back around that time, the late 80’s early 90’s, I had a friend, John Fitzpatrick. I often had him read my work, simply because he wasn’t a genre reader. And while he often hated what I wrote about, he generally liked my work. I remember clear as a bell, or as clear as I remember anything from the 80’s, him saying to me once, “You’ll grow out of this when you get older.” As if horror were a stage of puberty, like your voice changing, or a growth spurt.

Twenty years later, I haven’t grown out of it yet, and in fact I’ve gotten more involved with horror. From my gay stoner zombies in “Killer Weed”, to the tragic life of a serial killer’s son in “Forgotten Son” and to the serial killer brothers in “Barbed Wire Kisses”.  I’m awash in the grit, grue, dread and fear of the horror field, and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s what I like to read, and what I like to write.

And yet…I sometimes find myself embarrassed in admitting that’s what I write. Why? Shakespeare wrote horror. So did Dickens, Poe, Lovecraft, Bloch, Ellison and ad infinitum. The horror genre also has some of the best writers period, like King, Straub, Barker, Wright and Keene. A pantheon of perfection when it comes to the written word. So why the ambivalence? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s the stigma attached to those who write horror. Trust me, people do look at you differently when you say you write horror. Let them know you’re writing about zombies or serial killers, and they may even back up a step. Because it’s just like telling telling a straight person you’re gay. They just KNOW you’re gonna try and hit on them. In this case, they just KNOW you’re not right in the head.

I was thinking about all of this as I finished the first chapter of “Barbed Wire Kisses.” In these opening pages, there’s a rape, brutal murder, and necrophilia. Oh, and did I mention the disembowelment? As I read through it, I too wondered, “What the hell’s wrong with me?”  The short answer is, nothing. Or not much, anyway.  I believe what it boils down to for me, is horror is an escape. As awful as the world is, as many problems and obstacles i may have in my life, it’s generally nothing compared to what my characters go through.  It’s also a way to try and understand why people do what they do.

But you want to know the really scary part? No matter what I can imagine, truth will always outdo fiction. Everytime.

And that’s the true horror.

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