Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sex and Horror

Recently, I have been hearing terms like "Torture Porn" thrown around to describe any horror that includes graphic descriptions of violence and dismemberment and particularly if there is a sexual element to it. This is of course a derogative term meant to imply that these works have no artistic merit and are meant merely to appeal to man's basest nature. Saw, Touristas, and Hostel have recently acquired this label. Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Friday The Thirteenth, they would have all been slapped with this label had they been made today. Now, Erotic horror novels that are designed to titillate as well as terrify are at risk of being dismissed as torture porn along with just about any novel with graphic descriptions of violence and sexual violence in particular.

Now, it doesn't take a prude to be offended or disturbed by my writing. I push the envelope with the reckless abandon of one who genuinely has no idea where the boundaries of that envelope ought to be found. But let's get it straight, I'm not doing it just to turn you on or freak you out. I've got a point I'm trying to get across in 99% of what I write. And I don't mean to imply that every work of extreme horror ought to have some social relevance in order to avoid the torture porn label. There is such a thing as artistic merit above and beyond any socio-political message a novel might contain. An expertly described evisceration is every bit the artistic achievement of a skillfully rendered landscape. The difference is one of aesthetics. It is one of preference not talent or artistic merit. As I have said many times in the past, you can take a bad story and remove all the sex and violence out of it and it won't get any better and conversely, adding sex and violence does not make it a bad story. It just may not make it your cup of tea.

I wouldn't call works by writers like Kathe Koja, Poppy Z. Brite, or Sephera Giron torture porn even on the occasions where there work has ventured toward the extreme end of the violence spectrum. Even when they write about the most violent acts there is still a poetry and beauty to their words. I wouldn't put even the most extreme works by writers like Jack Ketchum, Dick Laymon, or J.F. Gonzalez into this category. Why? Because they all have meaning beyond mere titillation and terror. You could compare both Off Season and Off Spring to Lord of The Flies as a study of how quickly man can revert to his animal nature when left to his own devices. The Girl Next Door was of course a riveting look at child abuse, the depths of inhumanity people will descend to out of peer pressure and when "just obeying orders", as well as a look at how truly cruel children can be. This was made even more disturbing by the fact that it was true. Gonzalez's book Survivor was originally titled Maternal Instinct when it was released as a novella by Delirium Books before being expanded into a mass-market novel and the original title tells you exactly what this book was about. It was a look at how far a mother was willing to go in order to protect her child, even to the point of sacrificing another mother's child. Poppy Z. Brite's book Exquisite Corpse about love between serial killers offered us an entirely new way to look at love and with her lavish and beautiful descriptions, even the most horrific scenes had a type of romantic beauty to them. As extreme as it was, Exquisite Corpse could almost be called a romance novel, a tale of impossible love between two lovers whose lifestyles and peculiar obsessions doomed their romance from the start. And finally there is my own novel Succulent Prey , a tale of addiction and obsession set against the backdrop of sex, serial murder, and cannibalism.

All of these books have at one time or another been dismissed as "Torture Porn" and not one of them deserves it. Each one of them has a real story to tell. The graphic sex or violence may not be your thing but that's quite a different statement then to say that the violence and the sex are the only point to these novels. Speaking for myself, I usually use copious amounts of sex and violence to keep the socio-political or philosophical themes in my stories from overpowering the narrative and making them too cerebral or from turning them into pure propaganda for whatever point I am trying to make or message I am trying to get across. Often, I am not successful and the messages are so heavy-handed that no amount of sex will hide the fact that I'm proselytizing. Most of those novels don't get published (though I'm still trying to get one or two of those onto the shelves because I think that what they have to say is that important.) Sometimes I go the other way and the violence and sex completely obscures whatever point I am trying to make. That's when I get slapped with the pornographer label. The difference though is that pornography is not trying to make a point. If I fail to make my point that is not quite the same thing as not having a point to begin with.

In truth, I have written pornography many times. I have written stories with no other purpose then to arouse a visceral reaction in the reader, whether sexual excitement, fear, or revulsion, and there's not a damn thing wrong with that. Everything has its place and horror, by its very definition, is all about evoking a visceral reaction. So is porn. Seems like a perfect marriage to me. If you called some of my shorter works "Horror Porn" I probably wouldn't object so long as you applied that term to the right stories and not to every damn thing that I write.

I like porn. I love it in fact. I am, after all, a sex addict. And when I am writing porn I am just as proud of that as when I am writing stories with genuine social relevance. In the end, we are all entertainers and a multi-billion dollar porn industry speaks strongly to the fact that porn is damn entertaining. I can write pornography in a short story but I cannot do that for over 30,000 or 80,000 words. Even a hedonist like me would get bored with that. So, if you have a book written by me in your hands and all you have gotten out of it is an erection or a chill up your spine or a roll of the stomach then I suggest you read deeper. You definitely missed something.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Blog!

Feeling the need to separate my writings about love, family, and the horror genre from my religious criticisms and political ramblings, I have decided to create a forum solely for my atheistic writings. I am planning on slowly importing past posts from Words of Wrath onto this one as well as posting newer blogs. So, if you would like to continue following my examinations of faith please go on over to and subscribe to my new blog. Words of Wrath is now officially a blog about my writing and me. I hope you will contniue to follow my musings on one or both of these blogs.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Broke Another Damned Computer!

For those who have wondered why I have these long breaks where I publish nothing and then seem to publish half-a-dozen things all at once, here is the simple truth. I break shit, computers to be more specific. Whether it's from surfing porn sites and collecting more viruses than a five-dollar crackwhore or from doing something stupid like tossing a bag off the bed that just happens to contain a big ass candle that comes down on my laptop and smashes my computer screen all to hell, I just keep breaking shit.

So, now I have to buy yet another computer (thank goodness for Ebay)and transfer all the data from my old harddrive into this new one so that I can finish my non-fiction book and one or two of the three novels I am currently writing. Luckily, the novel I am most enthused about is on my wife's laptop. Lucky for me. It sucks for her because now I am on her laptop all the time and she complains that her virus protection isn't strong enough to cope with some of the websites I go on. Oh well, that's what you get being married to a hedonist who breaks computers.

I think I need to buy one of those ToughBook laptops that you can drop off a speeding Jeep. That and Pentagon grade virus protection so the people over at can't put spyware on my hardrive.