Monday, July 30, 2007

Thoughts on Horror, part II

I don't care much for horror as "morale tale." An example of this would be the early "Friday the 13th" movies. Teens smoke some pot and have sex. Teens get hacked up by a goon in a hockey mask. It's simple. If you sin, bad stuff will happen to you.

It's also stupid. And oversimplifies our existence. It's also so over the top as to almost be funny. If kids smoking a joint or two and having sex means they deserve to be tortured, mutilated and murdered ... well, without getting all religious on you, let's just say there's not a lot of hope for humanity. Maybe there's not anyway. I don't know.

On the flip side, though, I can understand an author who delves into some pretty dark and/or taboo subjects for his or her own peronal reasons. Over the years I've written at least a couple of such short stories, one called "The Second Judas" and the other simply titled "Sins." "The Second Judas" isn't worth printing because I've never gone back to clean it up beyond the first draft, and it does indeed need a lot of work. "Sins," on the other hand, has had a lot of work done to it, and it is probably pretty close to being ready for publication, though I'd like to give it one more quick line editing. Both of these stories are pretty old, "Sins" originally going back to 1994 and the other to 1997.

Here's the thing though ... both stories are so dark, touching upon subjects that are so taboo to general society, that yeah, I would fear some of the backlash. And I don't even mean from the general public, or general readers. I mean even from friends and fellow writers.

"The Second Judas" doesn't bother me nearly as much, because it's mostly dealing with religion ... and religious nuts I'm used to. I ran into enough of them as a newspaper editor ("Yer goin' ta HELL fer publishin' that there story about them gays and abortionists and anti-gunners!" which generally was answered with, "Oh, yeah? Well, you wouldn't even KNOW to be mad at the damn story if I hadn't run it!").

Not that friends of mine are religious nuts, but I don't feel any qualms about discussing religion with most of my friends. That's why they're friends. If I couldn't talk to them about something like religion without it turning into a screaming match, they likely wouldn't be friends of mine.

But the story "Sins" ... yeah, that one bothers me. And the matter of it is, it's a story of art imitating life. As a newspaper editor, over the years you read lots and lots of weird, quirky and sometimes downright horrific stories. Usually these are Associated Press stories about events that have happened in another state or country. Every once in a while they hit close to home.

But "Sins" came out of my mental/emotional struggle of trying to make sense of something horrible that happened to a family in one of those AP stories I read on the newswire. It was so horrifying that I couldn't let it go for a few weeks. Then I wrote "Sins." I still don't fully comprehend how someone could do such terrible things, but writing the story did help me some. But that's been 13 years ago. I still break the story out every few years, clean it up a little more, maybe send it out to a magazine or two that supposedly runs really dark stuff. Usually I get back something like "Sorry, but this is too dark to publish." I think one of the reasons it's too dark to publish is because it isn't about some monster, or aliens, or bigfoot, or whatever, terrorizing someone. It's about everyday people doing the most godawful stuff to one another. And I promise you, whatever you are right now picturing in your mind, whatever horrible image you conjure while trying to guess what my story is about ... the real story is worse. I don't say that to brag. I say that because ... well, because I know my mind couldn't have come up with something as horrible on my own, no matter how many horror novels I've read and movies I've watched.

My point is: Sometimes horror can be a bit like therapy. Maybe not for the reader, but maybe for the writer.

I don't know if "Sins" will ever be published, but that doesn't matter. It was my little way of dealing with a part of the world.

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