Or, to be more accurate, why my wife forbids me from writing horror. The reason for this is that apparently yesterday I hit, ever so briefly, the top 100 horror authors on Amazon. This amuses me, since Ancient Ruins was given the categories of Dark Fantasy and Lesbian Romance by me. Apparently, if you put a book in Dark Fantasy, Amazon often categorizes it as horror anyway. I mentioned this to my wife, and she approximately said: “Hun, I love you, but if you write actual horror? I’m not reading it.”
The reason for this goes back many years. *sits back in chair for story-time*
About… seven years ago, at a guess, I was part of a text-based online roleplaying group. We were playing Old World of Darkness (revised). For those who just gave me a blank look, think of it as one of those modern-day games with vampires, mages, and the sort in the shadows of society. We had a game master who ran scenes for vampire and werewolf characters to play in, but my attempt to play a mage in it fell flat because he wasn’t interested in running Mage. So, with determination in mind, I rolled up my sleeves and did it instead, running Mage for about 4 sessions in total.
I started by horribly murdering my old character as part of a murder-mystery to build up interest by the players. This led to the players then finding a horribly mutated woman who wanted nothing more than to die, which horrified them (not giving details… it was bad). It then led them to finding out who was responsible. This next part requires a tiny bit of understanding of the game mechanics, so let me explain.
In Mage: The Ascension, mages can’t cast spells in public easily because people believe magic isn’t real, and it makes it really hard to, oh, throw a fireball down the street. The exception to this are the Marauders. These individuals are insane, and project a space around them where their worldview is effectively reality. So if one believed superheroes were real, they could literally manifest Thor or Spider Man nearby and everyone would think that it was normal until they left the field. Problem is, things destroyed are still destroyed. It’s a mess. Worse are the Nephandi. These are mages corrupted to evil, and whose goal seems to be nothing less than the destruction of reality. Good times.
Anyway, they find out that the villain behind this is H. P. Lovecraft. He’s a Nephandi Marauder, so all of Lovecraft’s psychosis’ are made real nearby him. Even worse, he has a shard realm, a small… bubble of reality where all of his delusions are completely real. So the tentacle horrors from the great beyond started attacking the players.
Again, I’m not going into details. But this was the least bad of what I subjected my players to. My wife was utterly horrified by the ‘necromancer’s forest’ in another game, which will not be described. This is the reason I don’t write horror. Mostly because there are certain things that I don’t like letting out of the dark places of my mind.
6 thoughts on “Why I don’t Write Horror”
Y’know what? I think I’m with your wife on this one. Considering some of the disturbing shit in Ancient Ruins, without you actually really trying to creep out and disturb if not outright terrify people, anything horror you wrote would probably leave me awake at night terrified to close my eyes.
And this is why it stays in the back of my mind. It can keep me up at night, thank you very much. There’s no need to inflict it on everyone else.
That Amazon mixes the genre doesn’t seem surprising, but I’m not sure I’m entirely clear on the distinction either.
Horror, to me, is primarily trying to scare the reader. Writing about someone searching through an old, lonely house, with just a flickering flash light, while hearing weird noises, finding strange clues … that’s horror for me. Nothing bad needs to actually happen – the threat of bad things happening is enough. Optionally, of course, a lot of bad things can happen. But it’s not required.
Dark fantasy meanwhile I except to be bad. “Horrifying” in a different sense of the word; like, for example, magical slavery and sexual abuse. Torture. Everybody dying in gruesome ways.
But it doesn’t need to be “scary”. Disgusting maybe, but not scary.
I never much enjoyed reading horror (although I read a bit), dark fantasy is usually fine, unless it goes too far (S Hawk’s Buried Draughts – didn’t even make it through the preview. It’s just one horrifying (heh) scene after the next…). But those genre lines blur pretty often.
The sort of horror I tend to think in the lines of is what’s sometimes referred to as Body Horror, crossed with Cosmic Horror. HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos is cosmic horror. Worlds like Ravenloft or Warhammer 40k, where the entire universe is out to get you, is Dark Fantasy mixed with Cosmic Horror and, in places, body Horror. You’ve got dozens of horror sub-genres. Mine is the horror of corruption, warping flesh, and worse. Just to give an idea.
It’s the psychological crap that gets me. I read pretty much everything (or at least give it a try) and as I’ve mentioned before stuff like Jacquotte Fox Kline’s Deep Down Inside might be bad, but it’s also kinda … well, eh, it’s Hell, what do I expect? Of course it’s horrible. It might go too far at times, but it’s clearly “not real”. It’s obviously fantasy and fiction. As long as that’s clear, pretty much anything goes for me (there’s this “bizarro” genre with authors like Carlton Mellick – the entire point is just writing about stuff that’s so bizarre it barely makes sense anymore. Whatever works for people, right?).
But if a story is set in a more real world, and characters feel more real, that’s usually when it really starts bothering me. Corrupting a fallen angel into a succubus is just fantasy. Abducting, torturing and raping someone not necessarily. I’d refuse to read something that gets too graphic about that. Well. I would, but it’s not like you usually get a warning at the beginning of the book of how bad it gets – Diane Wood’s The Fortune Teller’s Daughter might start of grim, but boy did I underestimate how bad it’d get …
For whatever reason, the second you get into a real-world setting, my mind goes completely and utterly blank on writing up plots. I just can’t do it. The closest I can get is superhero stuff, which is in an alternate universe… and yet it’s still hard. So you’re not going to get real-world stuff from me.
I will occasionally go dark, though. Ancient Ruins is… pretty close to the edge of what I’m willing to publish. But the sequel story to Born a Queen is going to be bad. I’ve decided I’m not going to detail any of it, because it’s that horrifying to me.
And, since I’ve no clue on actual psychology, you’re going to get relatively lightweight stuff of that nature from me. I prefer magical corruption… it just makes my head hurt less.