Sunday, March 18, 2012

What Frightens Me?

Seems like an appropriate topic for a horror author to blog about.  We all have fears.  There's no way around that aspect of life.  A man without fear is a man insane.  Some of us fear more than others, and some of us have irrational fears.  Deep inside we all probably have a few irrational fears, but for the most part I think people as a whole have a lot of the same, or similar fears.  Sure, there's a whole list of phobias to choose from, but that's not what I'm talking about.  Phobias are classified as irrational fears.  What I want to discuss are real fears.  Everyday fears.  My fears.

Horror is a label for immense dread and fear.  We hear the word horror and think of slasher films and Stephen King and a plethora of fantastical images of vampires and monsters and so many other elements of horrific entertainment that we have enjoyed or have become a part of our lexicon.  But what is horror really?  What was it that caused Bram Stoker to pen Dracula?  What was the reason for Lovecraft to write stories about monstrosities and ancient gods that dwell beneath the sullen seas of the East Coast?

I cannot speak for any one else, but I have several reasons for writing horror.  Above all I write horror because I've always been a fan of the genre.  Ever since I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 I was hooked.  I rented all the horror films from the local video stores (yeah, there used to be little mom and pop video stores, three on one street and we had memberships at each and every one of them).  In Junior high I read Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" and I was hooked.  Aside form the fascination with horror that is so strong, there is also the whole idea of fear.  That's the second part of why I write horror.  I like the idea of exploring fears.  So the question remains: what do I fear?

When asked what horror novel or story scared me the most, I always respond that Richard Matheson's story "Lover When You're Near Me" was the scariest story I ever read.  Anyone familiar with that story would likely wrinkle their brow in confusion and ask, "Isn't that a science fiction story?"  Why yes it is.  And it gave me chills when I read it seven or eight years ago.  Why?  How could a story that takes place on some made up planet where a man is sent there to oversee a mineral mining operation conducted by gelatinous, oafish natives be frightening.  I'll tell you how.  Because the female native who is the housekeeper of our weary protagonist has fallen in love with him, haunting and smothering him telepathically.  In my world that's terrifying.

After much consideration I realized that the inner workings of the mind is a huge part of many of my longer works.  My novella The Madness deals with various forms of insanity.  Two unpublished novellas, The Executioner's Shroud and Stronger Than Hate, also have heavily cerebral themes that explore reasons for madness and the results.  It's a bit of a theme, though done differently each time.  Over time I have realized that insanity is perhaps my greatest fear.  To not be in control of your own mind is absolutely terrifying.  That's what frightens me.  Are their other things?  Of course there are.  Mobs are scary.  Ghettos are scary (I've had to work in local ghettos before -- fuck that!  Gang lands are no place to be).  Flesh eating bacteria is scary.  The government is scary.  Third world governments are even scarier!  Bodies of water are scary (perhaps that can be classified as a phobia).  The list could go on.

Next to insanity, too much consideration about what happens after death is scary.  That's another theme I delve into quite a bit.  If I think about that too often, I swear I feel the rising tides of madness.  Religious folks don't mess around.  They have that base covered, but I don't buy what they're selling.  No one knows what happens after we die beyond our bodies decomposing, and that brings me to one of the most influential and frightening of fears: the unknown.  Perhaps that fear has bred more horror stories than any other, because horror has so much to do with the unknown.  We as horror authors delve into the unknown and bask in its darkness.  We succumb to its draw and fill our minds with its potent elixir.  And then we tell the stories, one at a time.

Robert Essig

No comments:

Post a Comment