Monday, October 2, 2017

True Horror

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!

It's hard to write a blogpost about writing on a day like today.  And what can I even say about the tragedy in Las Vegas that Carrie didn't already say better here?

This is horror.  True horror.  The horror we live with every day.  The horror that you try to shove down and away and cover up with Netflix binges and Scrabble and trips to the Olive Garden.  Death could come for you suddenly, so suddenly you don't even see it coming.  You could just turn around and be shot in the back of a head at a movie theater, an elementary school, a country-and-western concert.

Not long ago I dreamt I was standing in a marble colonnade and the nuclear bombs started falling.  I realized how death could come at any instant, for absolutely no reason, and I wouldn't even get the chance to clean up the loose ends of my life, say, fill the gas tank or finish this blog post.  I woke up with a deep, mortifying, existential dread.  

You always think you're going to die when you're old and gray, after a long, satisfying life.  Or, barring that, maybe you'll get a cancer diagnosis and a year to live in which to settle all your accounts and say all your goodbyes.  If you go to war there's the cold comfort of knowing that if you die, you died for something.

But there's something especially horrible about sudden, meaningless death.  It's what madmen and terrorists prey upon.  It feeds them and satiates them.  The clown from IT is more metaphor than supernatural menace, after all.

I write horror.  I try to imagine terrible things.  I'm often asked why.  Well, there are a million reasons, but amongst them is that facing death is a special kind of exhilarating, and a special kind of catharsis, especially when you know you'll be safe.  It's like riding a rollercoaster.  

Real death and destruction, though, it's never fun.  I find no matter how hard I try to inoculate myself to horror and dismemberment through movies and books, the real thing still always has the power to depress and wound me.  No matter how many times I may watch "Re-Animator" for fun, seeing someone decapitated on the side of the road will still shock and sicken.  I guess it's the difference between having the safety bar down on the rollercoaster and driving drunk without a seatbelt.  

Not long ago a great horror writer gave the rest of us a challenge, and a warning.  He said that it was our task to entertain people in these miserable times, but also to comment upon what's happening.  Great art comes out of challenging eras, but it can also change them - think about UNCLE TOM'S CABIN, THE JUNGLE, or ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES.

I'm not a kook - at least I think I'm not - but I worry sometimes, more often as the clock ticks onward, that we're reaching the end of man's time on this planet, whatever that means.  I doubt a seven-headed dragon with seven diadems on each of its heads will descend upon us, but as hurricanes swallow whole states and islands, as nuclear war seems closer than it has since the '60s, as lunatics and terrorists blow up and shoot up every place we feel safe, it certainly seems like a wave of darkness is washing over us.

Sure, it was a refrain as old as the hills when the ancient Greeks predicted the end of days, but though we came through the ignorance and the slaughter of past centuries, never before has the threat to our society seemed so existential.  That's technology's fault.  Perhaps technology can fix it.  Perhaps not.  It's the job of the science fiction writer to imagine that future, and the job of the horror writer to help us confront our fears.  We do what we can, I suppose.  And it's all of our jobs to love a little bit, and bring a little bit of light into that ever encroaching wave of darkness.  Maybe seven billion little flames can drive out the night, even if a few powerful, small-minded jackasses seem determined to usher it in.


Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I worry we're racing to the end as well. Either we're killing the planet, or each other.

Carrie Beckort said...

Well said, Steve. I'll figure out how to spread my bit of light.

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

I fear that quite a bit actually.

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

Thanks, Carrie. I hope you do.

Blogger Template by Designer Blogs