It’s the end of October and Halloween is creeping nearer and nearer. With the successful release of the anthology Dark Visions we’ve started a blog-tour to get us all hyped up for this spookiest of holidays. That, and of course to share our own personal insights in all of the hard work we’ve put in to make this great book happen. So welcome one and all to my personal part of the Dark Visions blog tour! I will be taking a trip into my own past and meddle a bit with the question on how and why we like to write and read horror stories.
Now, let’s take a trip way back to 2011. It was my first year in university, majoring media- and culture studies. Grade-wise I was pretty much average, but I always knew that the one thing I loved was a good story. Whether it was TV, a movie, a computer-game or a terrific book, it didn’t matter. I could get utterly engrossed in these worlds that many a talented writer created. I read some of the best books in my life during my studies, which is partially what sparked a renewed interest in tabletop role-playing games.
You know the ones. Dungeons & Dragons is the most popular and well-known, but it just wasn’t that interesting thing to me. I loved high fantasy settings, I mean who could argue that The Lord of the Rings was not anything less than a masterpiece right? But for role-playing games, games in which I would become a storyteller, I was looking for something different. Why am I telling you this, you wonder? Just bear with me, it’ll come together I promise!
I was never really that much of a horror fan growing up. In fact I tended to avoid many horror films because as a kid I was really queasy when it came to blood and guts. Everything changed when I started to read stories by H.P. Lovecraft and playing such psychological horror videogames as Silent Hill. These examples proved to me that horror did not always have to rely on blood and murder, but rather it varied, a lot! I’ve always loved mystery and intrigue when it comes to stories and media, and I soon found out that horror could also fit those criteria.
So when I walked into that little game-store one day, looking for a role-playing game that wasn’t D&D, I could’ve sworn the stars were all right where they needed to be.
Sitting in the corner of one of the back shelves there, a little dusty and discounted to about €20 sat a book called The World of Darkness, also known as the New World of Darkness or currently Chronicles of Darkness. I personally lovingly call it the ‘Blue book.’ It was this role-playing game that, upon reading, inspired me to finally become a storyteller not merely as a host for the tabletop games we’d play, but also as a writer. I started with humble beginnings, writing crappy knock off Lovecraft tales to silly first person mystery write-ups. Then I eventually came to terms with my own style and procured my first publication in Cyclopean Magazine #1 for which I wrote a story called The Cats in the Puzzle-Box.
So why all the buildup you may ask? See, the thing with the World of Darkness role-playing game is that the book does not specifically act as an established setting in which games can be played (at least the core book I’m describing doesn’t. There are hundreds of supplements going into far greater detail on actual settings to be used with the system). Rather, the blue book entails a sort of framework for all kinds of horror, mystery, thriller or even science fiction tales one can imagine. The book describes the mood of the games played in the World of Darkness as Our own modern world seen through a fractured mirror. This bit inspired me to no end. The way the book is written implies that any and all horror stories could technically be set in this world of darkness. This world, you see, is merely the mirror image of our own. But it’s a world where the shadows are darker, the streets are more violent, the nights longer and colder. It is a world where ghosts and other supernatural horrors hide in plain sight, or don’t, it’s all up to the storyteller.
Consider then the question, why do we as a species love and cherish horror tales so much? Is it because we like to be scared? Or is it some primordial coping mechanism in which we tell stories that frighten us so we can remind ourselves that they are but mere stories. They are not the real world, they are the darker, more sinister mirror image of our own world. Like on Halloween, where we dress up in ghoulish outfits and celebrate with candy, our ancestors first dressed up to please the so-called spirits that appeared during Samhain, when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was at its thinnest.
Every horror writer, and horror fan, will have their own version as to why they write or enjoy horror. I simply decided to reflect on mine. What are my conclusions? Heck, I don’t really know exactly. I certainly don’t particularly write as a sort of coping mechanism, I just really love a good mystery tale. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be scared if you dropped me in a truly haunted mansion, but it wouldn’t interfere with my love for ghost stories either!
Now you only have to glance a little bit into our lovely anthology collection Dark Visions and its predecessor The Box Under the Bed to realize that horror and horror writers work and think under a myriad of different and widespread circumstances and influences, and, be honest, what’s better than that? Whether it’s the mysterious voodoo mood of New Orleans, gambling near the lonely highways of Texas or something entirely innocent like ice cream or a summer camp, these stories will never make you feel the same way about some mundane things again, and that’s freaking awesome.
Personally, I wanted to give readers a taste of the little world I have created called The Eldritch Twins. I’m close to releasing the full book and I couldn’t think of a better way to introduce Lilly and Quincy to the world than in an anthology together with some of the most talented writers I’ve ever read and had the pleasure of working with. Yes, my story is a bit on the ‘lighter’ side. There’s humor and wits, but these are things I noticed early one when writing the full novel that The Eldritch Twins needed. The story and characters need those moments of relief and giggles, it’s what makes it camp like the funnier X-Files episodes, or Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. It’s what made me truly cherish these characters.
Well, that concludes my little foray into my own past and thinking about the essence of writing horror. It also concludes my post for the Dark Visions blog tour! I hope you all had fun reading my little ramblings and I sincerely hope you all go and check out Dark Visions, if you haven’t already!
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