Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Five Habits of Highly Offended People

Taking a cue from Carlton Mellick III's blog post, The 7 Types of Bizarro Fiction Haters, I decided to profile the five most common types of Extreme Horror haters.

1. The Spooky Guy. "I like spooky, creepy, atmospheric horror stories. Extreme Horror isn't atmospheric enough for me. They don't spend pages and pages describing the scenery and the weather and the shadows on the wall and the sound of doors slamming and creaking floorboards. Obviously, it's because they aren't very good writers. It's much harder to describe shadows and fog and strange noises in the night then it is to describe scenes of evisceration."

Because obviously we see evisceration everyday. It's the shadow of trees and dark storm clouds that we see so seldom. It takes real talent and imagination to describe them.

2. The Gross-For-The-Sake-Of-Grossness-Shock-For-the-Sake-Of-Shock-Gore-For-The-Sake-Of-Gore-Guy. "The entire story serves no purpose but to shock and appall. That's not real horror. That doesn't take talent. In real horror, the entire story serves no purpose, but to terrify. That's a far nobler endeavor."

But don't a lot of people find gross, shocking, gory things terrifying? And why do you think a story written with the sole intention of making the reader cry or laugh or sentimental or angry is somehow more indicative of genuine artistic ability? Let's see you try to freak someone out with a story. Let's see you make today's jaded readers cringe and shudder. There's enough people writing bad Extreme Horror to lend some credence to the opinion that writing good Extreme Horror ain't easy.

3. The Morality Policeman. "That's disgusting! Writers of Extreme Horror have no moral compass. They are all sick, demented, perverts who should be locked away for the safety of society!"

Really? You're an adult and you really believe that people are what they write? You think Anne Rice wants to drink blood and Thomas Harris really wants to eat people? You think it takes a twisted mind to write about twisted murders? So when Stephen King wrote that scene in Firestarter where the government agent dresses in women's underwear and sticks his arm in the garbage disposal while masturbating he should have been locked up for that? You really think Stephen king is a menace to society? What about writers of more mundane murders? Are they exempt or should we lock up Agatha Christie too?

4. The Puritanical Guy. "I don't mind the violence and gore. Mutilate, eviscerate, dismember, and torture all you want. Just don't put any sex in it. That's just disgusting and it makes me uncomfortable. The human body isn't meant for sex it's meant for annihilation! Now that's entertainment. Sex is just... blech!"

Grow up and see a psychiatrist about those issues, missionary man.

5. The Literary Guy. "All genre fiction is inferior. Genre's are literary ghettos where we send our less fortunate, less talented authors. Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror authors are all hacks. If they weren't they'd be writing literary fiction and be in Oprah's Book Club. When you can spend two pages describing the dew on a leaf or write a story about a man or woman from a third world country who finds their humanity through a heroic struggle, then you're a real writer."

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is as much about the human experience as THE KITE RUNNER. So is SUCCULENT PREY for that matter. A good story should show extraordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and it doesn't matter if those circumstances are real or imagined. Just because you've never been attacked by a zombie or a psychopath doesn't mean that isn't part of the human experience. Our fear of monsters is as real as our fear of starvation, disease, and war. It is part of who we are. And writing about these monsters and how we overcome them has as much relevance as a story about Black women working as nanny's during the Jim Crow era.

And dragging out scenes with pages of endless, unnecessary descriptions that don't serve to advance the story or further engage the reader is not the mark of a true author. Keeping a reader turning the pages, breathless with anticipation and leaving them thinking about the book for days after they put it down, that's true art.

So, fuck those whining, hating, conceited, literary snobs. Fuck them in their upturned noses. They can all kiss the darkest part of my ass.


Story said...

I... I think I love you.

I've spent decades trying to justify my taste in books to people who are convinced that you are what you read. I'm sick to death of explaining that I'm just addicted to stories, that I also recently loved a biography of Catherine the Great, or a ridiculously light and fluffy chick lit book or that the written word is potent and magical in ALL its forms.

Fuck 'em! Fuck 'em all! Some assholes would be happier if Jackson Pollock painted landscapes.

11811 said...

Damn straight. And Succulent Prey stayed with me much longer than just a few days. I like to read books that provoke an emotional response. Extreme horror does that for me more than anything else.

Angelia said...

Can I kiss another part of you for writing this? (collectable at any convention we both attend) I have lost readers over writing horror and had those who wondered if I needed mental treatment.

And of course, being in the romance genre, I get sneered at by other genres as well as the lit-snobs.

Sean M Davis said...

Well said, sir. I also like to trot out the parade of canonized authors, poets, and playwrights who wrote Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror to counter those purveyors of Literature with a capital L. A good story is a good story, period

Anton Cancre said...

A-mother-fucking-men and halle-goddamn-luyah.

Louise said...

"There's enough people writing bad Extreme Horror to lend some credence to the opinion that writing good Extreme Horror ain't easy."

Too true.

Orgy of Souls was a great example, imho, of well written horror with some extreme scenes that were very powerful. Honestly, you two made me cry at the end of that book.

nycolelaff said...

Thank you for posting this, Wrath. I've actually recently dealt with #2 and #3 as critiques in a contest that I entered (and the story was really TAME compared to what I usually write!).

Sometimes I think I get it doubly because of those pesky X-Chromosomes that I carry around. Didn't you know? Women shouldn't write violent, explicit horror.

Thomas said...

It's precisely because we see "the shadow of trees and dark storm clouds" every day that atmospheric horror is more difficult to write than is gory horror.

It's easy to terrify with a chainsaw. Much harder to terrify with mere shadows and wind.

NickJones said...

While I prefer literary horror (Ghost Story, The Shining), that doesn't prevent me from enjoying all types of horror, from the classic to the extreme. I once tweeted you a thanks for writing one of the most harrowing and frightening books I've ever read (The Resurrectionist, in my top ten if not the top five), and The Book of a Thousand Sins, esp. the title story, is a new favorite. Why would I want to limit myself to a narrow band on the horror spectrum, am I right? :D

Steve from Australia said...

Amen to that. Huge fan of yours Wrath. I'm 6'6, have long hair, tattoos, love horror and metal music. People look at me like I'm a serial killer. In truth I love my girlfriend, work as a gardener in a cemetary for the last nine years, own a house and talk to my dogs like they are babies. So in other words I'm a big teddy bear.

Phantom of Pulp said...

This post cuts to the quick. True and hilarious.

I also tire of people degrading this genre. It's a little like calling the dancing in SINGING' IN THE RAIN gratuitous. If you don't understand that it's all about the fiber threaded through the work, go hang yourself.

Great post.