Monday, December 15, 2014

Is this the Golden Age of Horror?

Just throwing this out there cuz it's what I do. Writing horror that is, among other things. Why? I just seem to be good at it? 
Rocky Wood, Pres. HWA 2014
That being noted, I'd also like to say that we (Horror Writer's Association) have recently lost our President Rocky Wood after a long fight with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), also known as ALS and Lou Gehrig’s disease. Rocky passed away on 1 December 2014. Rocky Wood on Wikipedia.

Stephen King had this to say in the Author's Note to Doctor Sleep: "Rocky Wood was my go-to guy for all things Shining, providing me with names and dates I had either forgotten or plain got wrong. He also provided reams of info on every recreational vehicle and camper under the sun (the coolest was Rose's EarthCruiser). The Rock knows my work better than I do myself. Look him up on the web sometime. He's got it going on."

So out of respect I'm including this link above to comments by a friend of his as someone who shared his thoughts about Rocky. I only got to interact with him on a few occasions, but he was always very helpful and such a really nice guy.
Okay then...I've been trying to post less political blogs and post more writing based ones. I've given away free ebooks recently and lowered the price on my Death of Heaven book through the holidays. 

This will be another in that vein. 
I'm just sick of some of the things going on politically in our nation and the world. Though admittedly there are some good things going on, the bad ones just seem to hold precedence as they hold more of need to be addressed. But they will be there and in the holidays I want to take a step aside from all that.

I will say this on the report about the US using torture after 9/11, that came out recently. Using torture is wrong, it's not who we should be or who we should be projecting as who we are. It needs to be addressed and never sunk to again. The more we are treated poorly the more we need not to be that way. If America is to be an example of what is good, I think we need to be, good.

So, on this horror thing. 

They say that the "Hostel" type films were taking things over in 2005 when that film came out. It bled over into novels and covered the horror genre for a while. Everyone seemed to think that is what horror was. Some authors see horror not as a genre but an atmosphere to a story. For years libraries didn't even have a horror section and you'd find horror in the science fiction section, typically where you'd also find speculative fiction. 
The Hostel form of horror has been slacking off and now some are beginning to call this the Golden Age of Horror as it comes into its own to be seen for what it is. 
Writing horror, in my mind, is not just about the slash and burn type stories but exploring the dark sides of the human experience in life. It's how a turn of events can change things just enough that they go horrible wrong. Or how disease can become far more disturbing with just a little nudge in the right direction. It is the mind, losing itself. It's people's good intentions taking a turn down a dark alley and finding something that simply doesn't belong. And sometimes yes, it's just your worst nightmare scenario.
Hopefully these are all done in ways that are entertaining, that take the reader from their real life so that when they return, their life feels just that much better for their not being in that story after all. It should be cathartic, entertaining, and in some way hopefully, educational. Otherwise it's just gratuitous and granted, that too can be fun. But that is not all of what horror is about.

If you look at my first book, Anthology of Evil, there really isn't that much of the slash and burn kind of horror in it. I wanted to try and get people back to realizing that there is horror in detail and not just gross movement, not just in murder and mayhem type stories. Most of these stories in the book are also available as standalone ebooks and I also have some audiobooks available but from this book, only The Mea Culpa Document of London is available to listen to.

Here's a run down of the stories in Anthology of Evil:
  • In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear - Sci Fi / Dystopian / Horror. A world famous doctor is contacted by his late son's best friend and tries to help him. But things go worse and worse until a defective mindset is foisted upon the world. There is no blood or gore in this, it is all conceptual and in fact at the end the protagonist doesn't even realize how his mind has changed which is even more horrible.
  • Gumdrop City - Horror / based on True Crime. This is a story I learned about in my university abnormal psychology class. It's the story of a father ruminating about his life, pretty much destroyed after his wife's death. He comes to realize that his young daughter is late coming home. In his considerations, he comes to realize they do have a neighbor who might be a prime candidate for his daughter's disappearance, fanning the flames of his fears. This has some violence at the end of the story but really, it's incidental, as the actual horror involved has already happened and the horrible effect on the father comes after the fact. By the way, I am also working up a screenplay on this one that I had worked on with a Hollywood producer. 
  • Quantum History - Sci Fi / Humor. This isn't true horror and is actually a humor driven piece, but the idea that an experiment that happens clear across the country could affect someone in their bedroom in this way, while they sleep is really pretty frightening in the end. And yet, no violence.
  • The London Mea Culpa Document - Lead in to the next story, the deceit here is that this is an excerpt from a published journal leading into an actual ancient document that details an actual event. Some of the horror is listed in the "non-fiction" side of this fiction piece.
  • The Mea Culpa Document - Pure Medieval Horror. This being the story was led into by the previous introduction, it is the story of an Inquisition torturer who sees himself as a "good man". There is really very little violence in this story even though it mostly takes place in a torture chamber in a dungeon. The true horror here is a coming of age tale. A man realizing that he and his mentor may not be as pure as he once believed. It is a devastating discovery, much as many can go through in their lives as they age and grow wisdom only to realize that something they did in their youth, wasn't as benign as they once thought. 
  • Poor Lord Ritchie's Answer (To A Question He Knever Knew) - Medieval / Horror / Surreal. This is the story of a Medieval Lord. A tale of his degeneration into possible madness. His is a sad story of inbreeding and attempted murder. There are a few scenes of violence but again, the true horror of the piece lay in the situation, how it is perceived by the protagonist, and in what it has done to him, his family, his love. This story was chosen by actor Rutger Hauer in a contest back in 2004 because he said he likes stories with "heart"..
  • Sarah - Horror / Surreal. Actually, there is no gore or violence in this tale at all (save for one fowl moment) but the horror here is in what disease can do to a person's mind. That mixed up with how a well intentioned family can push someone they love into the back of their lives, even when the person lives with them. This is all juxtaposed with, well, I'll let that alone for now.
  • The Fall - Horror. Nothing gory, just misplaced love juxtaposed with insanity.
  • Japheth, Ishvi and The Light - Horror / Zombies. Okay, this sub-genre almost requires violence and at least some gore. 
  • Andrew - Novella - Horror / Paranormal / Sci Fi. A little bit of everything but mostly about a child's mind being stretched way beyond normal limits by his parents and life events. By the way, I am currently re-editing this story as well as the entire book. 

Horror isn't just blood and gore, it's not just pain and death. It's also dread, fear, expectation and a clear understanding that someone thinks they have a clear understanding and yet they don't or, they are totally 180 degrees off from reality, like a pilot flying upside down, disregarding the instruments that simply can't be right! .And yet, they are.

When you have a string of stories as with the Hostel or Saw franchises, eventually you need to pull back and zero back in, doing a kind of sensate focus (as Masters and Johnson put it), only for your genre sensibilities. 

My story, In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear is a prime example of that pulling back. There isn't really any violence or gore in this story, but to me it's one of the most terrifying stories in this book. Perhaps because it's the one story that is in many ways, closest to reality. 

On the surface In Memory feels like there isn't that much going on. But by the end, you  consider the possibilities and what they have done and it's pretty damn horrible. Not to mention that by that point, the one who was so against things has fallen into step as if nothing has happened and the entire world too is falling into the deceit. You'll notice how, isn't it odd how Canada and Mexico, the two nations closest to the US, seem to be backing away in fear, and yet it's the further away nations who want in on the party.

If this is the Golden Age of Horror, it's nice to be starting out (sort of) during this period. It offers horror writers some hope. Hope for the future of horror, hope for their writings, maybe some recognition and appreciation down the line and a hope that more people will come to appreciate the more refined nature of what has been a fringe genre for well over a hundred years. 

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