Why Is Horror So Important?–Part Two
Yesterday, we explored the often overlooked genre of Horror with Author Kevin Lucia. Why are we fascinated by being scared? What purpose does the genre of Horror serve? Why is Horror vital to the human condition? Today, Kevin continues as guide into the dark realms of the human condition.
No need for two gold coins for passage. We’re classy that way :D.
And remember, Kevin will be teaching BOTH DAYS at our virtual writing conference WANACon next weekend along with writing legends like Les Edgerton and David Corbett, so get your seat! All the benefits of a writing conference without the hassles.
Take it away, Kevin!
Three years ago, on our annual vacation to the Adirondacks, at Enchanted Forest’s Water Safari, I made an awful mistake that’s haunted me ever since. To make a long story short: my autistic son discovered the kiddie water tubes that summer and fell in love with them. Embolden by this, I took my son – too young to know better – down one of the big slides, Black River Falls. What I wasn’t counting on?
The all encompassing darkness.
The water, which rushed MUCH faster than in the kiddie tubes.
And my son’s screams.
Now, I held my boy in a death grip and we survived, and more than likely we were never in any real danger. But it haunted me (and honestly, it chills me even writing this) wondering what could’ve happened if I’d let him go, my two-year old autistic son who didn’t understand WHAT was going on, much less know how to swim. And of course the shame I felt at my foolish risk nearly overwhelmed me. I felt irresponsible, a horrible father.
Two summers later, Lamplight Magazine solicited me for a novella. I wrote about that incident, imagining a scenario in which my worst fears had come true, and the consquences. And to date, it is one of the hardest things I’ve ever written, and I think one of the best things I’ve ever written, because it hurt so much to write.
Perhaps one of the best reasons why horror is one of the most important genres is how it examines the human condition, by probing our worst nightmares and fears, as well as examining society and humanity – all our best and worst aspects – in close detail.
Good horror takes characters of depth and exposes them to their worst fears, watching closely how they either rise or fall…which speaks (no, SHOUTS) volumes about us as humans.
Though not strictly a horror series, this is why some of the best Twilight Zone episodes reverberate with a haunting resonance that simply won’t let us go. Episodes like Living Doll, The Masks, The Shelter, I Am the Night Color Me Black – these aren’t just freaky, weird tales that leave us feeling chills down our spines for thrill’s sake alone.
No, these episodes in particular showed us the dark, ugly side of human nature…they held up mirrors that showed us all our most unsavory aspects.
The Twilight Zone has its flaws, but this is why the series endures today in endless syndication: Rod Serling found that horror (along with fantasy and science fiction) provided an excellent vehicle for stories about social consciousness, stories he might not have been able to tell on television otherwise; and like Sterling, scores of horror authors believe their genre allows them to ask questions about that which most of us would rather not even consider:
“What I see is pain and isolation that empowers not the sufferers, but that which afflicts them. I
want a reason for this. I want a reason for babies born with cancer, for the endless supply of thoughtless cruelties both little and large we inflict on one another on an everyday basis, for old folks who are abandoned to die alone and unwanted and unloved.
I want an explanation, please, for all of the soul-sick, broken-hearted people who become so hollowed by their aloneness that they turn on the gas, eat the business end of shotgun, or find a ceiling beam that can take their weight. I want sense made of this. I want to know the reason why…and since none is forthcoming, either from above or those around me, I’ve decided to try and find an answer on my own. So far, the best – the only – way for me to work toward this is through writing horror stories.”
– Gary Braunbeck, To Each Their Darkness (Apex Publications)
Horror. One of our most important genres, because it comments on our fears and nightmares, on the things that makes us weak, holds up unflinching mirrors to show our inherent ugliness, and dares ask questions about things the rest of us would rather ignore. And, like any other genre, SO many want to write in it.
But writing GOOD horror is hard. SO hard. And even I’m still struggling, myself. But I think I’ve begun to understand the key elements to writing GOOD horror, and that’s what I’ll share next time….
Thanks so much, Kevin! Did you guys grow up watching Vincent Price and those old Edgar Allen Poe black-and-white movies? Did you cut your story teeth on Twilight Zone, too? To this DAY I hate dolls and clowns because of the ventriloquist episode (on top of “It” and “Poltergeist”).
Have you ever had a similar terrifying experience like Kevin? One you later mined for a work of fiction?
As a personal aside, I know my short story Dandelion was written winter of this past year and published in the spring. As a mother, after Sandy Brook, my mind had to give resolution and make some sense of the sheer random horror of the event (for some reason, when I write NF I am very light and funny and my fiction goes DARK and Dandelion I think qualifies as a version of horror, so READER BEWARE if you check it out).
Have you ever had a piece you HAD to write because the sheer terror or emotion of it demanded action? What books, movies, shows influenced you the most as an adult?
I LOVE hearing from you, and I know Kevin will, too. Ask him your questions. Tell him your fears. Comments for guests get double weight in the contest.
To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
Kevin Lucia has worked as an Editor for Shroud Magazine and a Submissions Reader for Cemetery Dance Magazine, and is now an Associate Fiction Editor for The Horror Channel. His podcast “Horror 101” is featured monthly on Tales to Terrify and his short fiction has appeared in several venues. He’s currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles and his first short story collection, Things Slip Through is forthcoming November 2013 from Crystal Lake Publishing.
WANACon now has Day One and Day Two for sale separately so you can choose if you only can fit part of the conference. Just a note: A LOT of major authors sacrificed time for no or little pay to pay it forward and offer an affordable and easily accessible conference for those who need one and WANA is extremely grateful to have them.
WANACon, the writing conference of the future is COMING! We start with PajamaCon the evening of October 3rd and then October 4th and 5th we have some of the biggest names in publishing coming RIGHT TO YOU–including the LEGEND Les Edgerton.
Get PajamaCon and BOTH DAYS OF THE CONFERENCE for $149 and all recordings for anything you miss or need to hear again. Sign up today, because seats are limited. REGISTER HERE.