Sunday, 8 June 2014

Why I write horror.

Well, I was trying to write a blog post every week, but last week was too filled with life, children and (I’ll be honest) sunshine. I’m feeling very stretched lately (what’s that Tolkien/Bilbo quote? “Like butter over too much bread?”) so I’ve decided to relax on my writing to enable me to get a bit of energy back. Due to starting new jobs, moving jobs, scheduling holiday for when my kids are off etc. I am now in the position where I’ve only had a week and a half of holiday in eight months. I am fried.

So I now watch Hannibal on my commutes, with just a bit of writing thrown in if my mind can take it. Hannibal is a great program, though very grisly. I wouldn’t mind if the violence was more implied, as it’s not the reason I watch it. The characters are the draw (even if the female characters are very two dimensional compared to the male). It’s a wonderful story of a descent into madness, and a chillingly believable one (for all of its mammoth body count. I’m never going to Baltimore. There must only be about three people left).

Annnnnnnnnyway, all of this led me to thinking about why I actually write horror. I never intended to be primarily a horror writer. The majority of the books that I own are science fiction or fantasy, and my first book The Binary Man was a cyberpunk effort. My second book Heal The Sick, Raise The Dead would have a hard time to be classed as anything as horror due to the fact that it features the undead, but I intended it to be more of a mystery than straight up zombie pulp. The corpses are incidental and present a sense of constant threat, rather than being the main story. Then came Cuts of Flesh, a six part novella Lovecraftian series about a detective investigating a murder, which leads to him uncovering the fact that his wife might still be alive after she disappeared seven years ago. Yes, these ones are definitely horror. The Real Thing is not, going back to cyberpunk with an overblown near future romp, which I enjoyed writing, but has never taken off. Then there was Terror Organic, an anthology of my short stories (all pretty macabre), Carnival, another horror novella, and finally Shy, an interactive Japanese horror novel. I’m now in the process of flitting between three novels, one sci fi, one dark fantasy and one thriller/yes, probably horror. The strange thing is, I don’t really think of the word horror when I’m writing the story. Horror to me evokes a revelling in gore. I’ve seen posts by horror fans along the lines of “that is so sick, when the eye gets squished!”, where the violence itself is seen as being a reason to watch. I know horror fans who don’t give a flying limb about narrative, as long as the blood keeps flowing down the screen.

Yes, my stories do sometimes contain gore, but I don’t enjoy writing it. I fear it. Maybe I keep falling back on such dark writing because I’m older, I have a wife who I love dearly and am petrified of losing, and now two daughters. My heart aches with worry, and those worries come out in my stories. I want to push those worries back, but don’t feel strong enough to do it myself, so I write protagonists who can. My ideal life would be farming and sunshine, away from a society that seems hell bent on stripping the world of its life and reducing everything to a commodity to be consumed. Unfortunately, farms are expensive, and I fear my wife wouldn’t do well in the solitude that I crave, so I slog it out in the city, and exorcise my demons with writing.