Sunday, June 29, 2014

Oh! The horror?

I think it surprises people when they hear that I write horror. I am cute, cute little blonde Mormon girl, and often smiley and cheerful. But although they don't know it, I am one happy childhood away from being a goth. So why do I write horror? How do I reconcile my general joy in life with a genre that has the reputation of attracting alcoholic dyspeptic misanthropes?

I think I write horror because I love people. I love humanity in the abstract and individuals I meet, almost every single one of them. My philosophy underscores again and again the ways in which people are remarkable--individual, resilient, inspiring. This has been proved to me through so many different experiences: through the testimonies that I hear from the pulpit, through the personal statements I consult over at work, in the books that I read. People are able to so incredible, able to write poetry and construct spaceships and fall in love and conquer nations. For me, the horror of horror is this--people are remarkable, so isn't it shocking that we can be stopped with a brick to the head?

Great thoughts stopped, great hearts stilled, hopes and passions extinguished because of the mortality of our bodies. Just writing this makes me fidgety. But the next question is this, then: if I like people so much, then why subject them, even through fiction, to horror?

Because, for me, horror starts with the terror of death and lets that rational miracle of death lead to over horrors. A brief sampling include from M. R. James the snobbery of modernism, and from Ray Bradbury and the tennousness of civilization. Horror of death opens up the space to challenge things as they have always been and appear before us, and this, for me as a religious writer of ghost stories opens up a space for awe for something beyond the self and the immediate experience. In my own writing, the characters come up short in the face of such expanses. In the seatmate in "Transatlantic," the foster parents in "The Good Boy," in "Land of the Living," societal obligations loom heavy, while in "Moving" "the Addict" and "red.delicous" there's a struggle for the self to regain agency. This is how I think about horror.

A concluding word about gore: Respect drives the best horror. There can be no terror of death if the premise that people are remarkable is not present. Gore objectifies  human remains, reduces people to skin sacks of blood and sees only the physical element of death rather than the spiritual, the transcendant. In short, gore is a pornographic view of death.