Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Good News Is, There's Horror Everywhere

I've been reading through On Writing Horror, which my good friend and awesome zombie photographer Bill gave to me for Christmas. And I noticed one of the things several essayists mention is how seminal 20th century horror works moved the setting out of castles and moors and put it in contemporary America. And that got me to thinking about how different places are creepy in very different ways. Out in New Mexico - where Bill grew up and where I spent my high school years - or in Arizona or Utah or Nevada, you can be out in a place that's undeniably, even overwhelmingly beautiful, but also so desolate and deserted that you feel naked, exposed, vulnerable. I even get creepy thoughts, like if I were to die (or if I were to kill my hiking partner), the bleached bones wouldn't be found for months, if then. You're scared, because there aren't enough people around. But then I thought how differently discomfiting the woods of Appalachia are. Not as barren and uninhabited - there are roads and power lines and you see a trailer or cabin every couple miles - but there's something wrong. It's not that there are no people, but somehow they haven't reached the critical tipping point to qualify as civilization. Or safety. And again, the creepy thoughts creep in. Why would someone want to live off in a cabin, miles from the nearest town? Unless they were mutant cannibals! And then finally, of course, you reach the overload point when you're in a city, and there are just too darned many people to feel comfortable - smelly, rude people jostling you, bumping into you. And even the nicely dressed ones - some of them are probably up to no good, too; they look kinda shifty and all uppity, eyeing me in my Old Navy and Target clothes. Jam nine million people on to an island, and there must be thousands of them who are killers, crack heads, rapists, spouse and child abusers, witches, mad scientists, psychos, devil worshipers. Anyway, just means there are plenty of stories yet to be written.


Blogger Matt Staggs said...

Yep,and what's amazing to me is the amount of pure horror that is broadcast deep into our homes via CNN, Fox, and MSNBC.

Tell me that war isn't a horror story come to life.

I'm wondering if the experiences of some of these men and women will find itself expressed through horror stories and novels. It would be appropriate, given my belief that the horror genre is a product of our collective anxieties and guilts.

I hope that you enjoyed "On Writing Horror"; I certainly did.

11:14 AM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

That's an excellent question, and I've heard both sides. Some people say "Horror stories? Why do we need horror stories? We got real horror on the news and on the battlefield." And others (and I tend to this side) think that horror stories may well provide a release or a "safe" place to deal with these feelings. But I'm sure discretion is called for in all cases: if I knew a friend had been raped in the woods, I think I'd probably not suggest watching Deliverance, unless he or she suggested it first.

11:40 AM  

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