Thursday, April 20, 2006

Horror Fiction

Today, someone wrote this on another site:

I've noticed there are lots of these writers who start writing horror fiction at some rebellious/difficult stage of their lives and when they find balance (redemption?) they suddenly give up writing horror.

I have noticed this myself (particularly when people get married or settle down with kids etc.). I've even noticed this in myself from time to time, but, at the age of 58, I still fight against it! :-)

I don't think I actually write Horror Fiction, but rather Swiftian fables in the mould of 'Modest Proposal', but my output seems to appeal (where it appeals at all!) to those interested in Horror or Surreal or Absurd or Nemonymal fiction (I don't like the term 'Weird' even though I invented a character called 'Weirdmonger' in 1988!).

Just to finish, in the early nineteen nineties, this (now, to me, quaint) article written by DF Lewis appeared in a popular American Horror magazine:

AS I SIT here --within my chalet bungalow close to the North Sea where recently, due to a storm, many pleasure beach-huts were smashed to smithereens or even entirely snatched away --I wonder what defines an island. The world is an island, I suppose. I am one, too.

The horror art (i.e. the words and pictures we manufacture to depict the dark side of humanity) is perhaps a personal sea against which our mental and physical coast-defences will eventually crumble. But before this happens, we should seek out the sandbags....

The only thing we are possibly good at is this art of horror. And we want to be famous, remembered after we are dead, rumours of our existence to be blessed with at least the lifespan of this island planet. But to be remembered as being sick! No, never! But that's what will happen, if we don't beware. Our families and friends will remember us as people who got carried away by our art, subsumed by our own insular minds. And if we couldn't control ourselves, what sort of people were we?

Unless, of course, we can justify the art of horror itself.

Many ordinary people love horror. Simply that. Everybody is cruel at heart. Why not give them what they want? Lay the horror on as thickly as possible. But people like a lot of things that are not good for them. This argument of personal responsibility is an unending one. If we could resolve it here, we would deserve to be famous.

Or is Horror actually good for people? A purge. A catharsis. People have evil built into the fabric of their souls at birth. And what the horror art does is dilute the real horror with its imaginary equivalent. And imaginary horror, surely, is preferable to any other kind.

On the other hand, perhaps we are intrinsically evil, inexcusably warping people's imaginations. Our corrupt soul needs an artistic outlet for its own self-satisfaction. But why also submit such art for others to publish? We want to provoke. We have always provoked people since being kids, haven't we? Mainly in minor ways. Ways that we thought would not harm them. But perhaps we are more harmful than we ever expected. We must never admit that, though. Even if it's true.

Sticks and stones may hurt our bones, but names will never hurt us. What harm can there be in simple words or drawings on a page? But we want our art to get under the skin. Be more than just art. Perhaps, if we are truly honest, we want to bite home. Only nasty medicine can cure, they say.

There's something we are missing. An imponderable that we cannot even set down on the page properly, let alone successfully address. Monsters can live in our nightmares and by describing them, hopefully we circumscribe them. By writing, I circumscribe myself. I fetter myself from creating the only horror that will harm you as well as me: me.

Yet, there is much humour in our art. Sick humour, perhaps. But it's meant to make people laugh. Laughter and horror are often bedfellows. Audiences burst out into chortling at the most frightening bits of films. Mischief and the poking of fun are part and parcel of our attitude. Seriousness could only lead to unwelcome admissions.

Perhaps we are the appointed providers of horror. Without bad, there couldn't be an equal measure of good. Good is only good when compared with bad. We are thus do-gooders. But this absurdity means we have run out of further thoughts. Leaving us with Nothing. Bliss. Nirvana.

We hope that we are forgiven by our loved ones--especially when our final artist's block comes...or after the abandon-edit button is pushed before anything is saved.

The sea is in an ugly mood again, tonight. Even the fish have fangs and flop ashore, bleating for breath. And horror surrounds me with wave upon wave of self-doubt. But, as some philosopher once said, doubt is strength.

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