Horror is the bastard child of creative expression. I say that because most folks look down their noses as it and dismiss it as the depraved ramblings and juvenile fantasies of people not fit to walk amongst the general population. Let alone anything a serious writer/artist would spend their time on creating. A lot of the time when I mention that I enjoy the horror genre in various forms, I get looks of disgust or comments that discredit it.
But then there are people such as you that come to a site like this and read and view horror. There’s a countless legion of hardcore fans lurking in the web watching and reading and viewing horror like devout parishioners of some foreboding elder god. Much to the chagrin of academia and main stream society there’s even a coven of creative people that’ve turned their imaginations to horror and contributed in various ways to its existence and pantheon.
So, what draws someone to horror, despite its almost universal rejection? As far as myself, I would say that it goes back to when I was in middle school and first read Edgar Allan Poe’s short story ‘The Tell Tale Heart.’ What appealed to me is his ability to create a foreboding emotional atmosphere that seeped out of the pages and into my imagination. Poe’s strong literary voice put me in the scenes. I wasn’t the reader observing from a distance, I was right there with the narrator and experienced what he did. The sense of dread and apprehension was unlike anything I’d read before and when I finished I wanted more of it. I continued to read Poe on my own throughout my school years and his ability to tap into universal fears and emotions as well as create vivid characters stuck with me well beyond my school days. Poe is also credited with being the creator of the mystery, and stories like Murders on La Rue Morgue are an example. Lately, the idea of merging horror and mystery has been something I’ve been working on and would accredit to Poe.
Poe was my guide into this uncharted world of horror, eventually leading me to the novels of Stephen King. In high school I voraciously read everything he wrote. What appealed to me about his early work (Pet Semetary, It, The Bachman Books, Salem’s Lot, Four Past Midnight) was his ability to create a completely believable banal world and set of characters. The kind of people and places that seemed to be right around the corner. Then with a gradual touch he would introduce the macabre and terror until the pastoral scenes he’d painted with words in earlier chapters became twisted and dark. A strange juxtaposition like something out of a nightmare. I actually gave a damn about the characters and their world so when all hell broke loose it had an impact on me as a reader. He also had the ability to tap into everyone’s primordial fears and desires. It was brilliant stuff and still has a profound influence on me today.
I first heard of Clive Barker because of his movie Hellraiser. From there I got into his writings (Books of Blood, Imajica, Weaveworld, etc.) back in the mid 1990’s when I was in college. What appealed to me about his writing is that much like King, Barker had the ability to create believable worlds and characters. But unlike King, Barker wove into the mystical and fantastical into his worlds. The bizarre and macabre existed right alongside our own ordinary existence. Barker had the ability to weave the ordinary and bizarre together into a tapestry of words and imagination that was almost mystical on its own. The whole idea of a world existing alongside our own and perhaps crossing over by some means thrilled me. Even to this day that whole idea is one that has an impact on me both as a reader and a writer. It was around this time that I became more interested in the supernatural aspects of horror rather than the chain saw wielding lunatics of the genre.
While I was in college I came across H.P. Lovecraft. His writings and his so called Cthulhu mythos. I fell in love with his writing because it delved into the whole idea that mankind was just a speck of dust in the cosmos and that other things existed on earth prior to us. Things that would eventually come back to claim it. Things that were neither impressed with humans nor interested in working in harmony with them. His work also delved into madness and the occult. Much like Poe, a lot of his writings involved some type of investigation. His writings were filled with gore or violence; it was more atmospheric and intellectual. Lovecraft creeped out his readers by suggestions and glimpses. The whole idea of Cthulhu and the other associated elder gods was a brilliant one and sparked my imagination. Lovecraft created a world where the elder gods lurked just beyond the veil of sanity and could break through at any moment. They were like a malignant tumor on reality itself. I found this thrilling as a reader and its had a profound influence on me. Lovecraft is famous for having lengthy correspondences and collaborations with other ‘weird’ writers of his era and eventually I began to read their work as well, but Lovecraft’s work always stood out to me. Lovecraft’s elder gods and the intellectual/investigative nature of his writing has had a big impact on my own stuff. I tend to write about Old West sheriffs and gumshoe detectives and mobsters all caught up in investigations or crimes that turn into something weird, which I attribute in part of Lovecraft. Although there’s a bit more gore and disturbing creatures involved curtesy of Clive Barker’s influence.
For me horror isn’t all about the blood and gore. It’s small minded to think that it is nothing more than the playground for gore hounds. I am not into the torture subgenre and splatter punk, but I think horror is big enough to have many subgenres within it and that it is far more diverse than it is perhaps given credit for being and I am a steadfast supporter of it as a whole. I believe that every niche within horror is credible and adds to the richness of the genre.
I enjoy horror because it provides an escape from the everyday while being set in a world that is relatable. There are no faeries or goblins or blue skinned aliens or droids with British accents. Horror takes place in the house next door or the next continent. It involves anyone from diesel mechanics to house wives to high school students. The most seductive aspect of horror is the underlying supernatural/bizarre/weird world or character that exist alongside our own and the conflict that is created when the two collide. That is why I keep coming back to horror.
Horror is a bastard, but at least it has good company.