What a treat! Today we have a guest blog from a fantastic author, Ross S. Simon. Simon is the author of The Snow, from Eternal Press, and Red Dhalia, from Damnation Books. He’s a helluva talent. Check out this essay on how his influences helped to hone his craft. All of his pertinent links are at the end of the essay.
HORROR ON THE WING
Ross S. Simon
Grappling with the culture of horror is about as much a part of my life and career as is absorbing it. There are elements I agree and disagree with; oftentimes a horror author, or “fright-write,” has to put the aspects out of mind that they really hate, or else, at least, mentally transmute these aspects into effective ventilations of their own angst and anxiety—often at real-life negativity—in the form of the writers’ very own expressions of horror in literature.
One of my favorite TV shows to watch in reruns, years ago, was HBO’s “Tales From The Crypt.” Okay, it was the heavily chopped-up-for-basic-cable version, but even so, it still entertained mightily. I saw, in this adapted form, the stories and their surprise resolutions of the slick and powerful caliber that kids in the early 1950s undoubtedly experienced when they were first run in the EC comic books. In “Crypt,” on television, I saw the basic paradigm for the great American short horror story.
The maniacally cackling Crypt-Keeper, with his literally grave-level puns, was also a hoot. And yet, here I look deep enough to see the bad side of horror, somehow: the Keeper puppet was created by Kevin Yeagher, the creature-effects designer who was also behind doll-of-doom Chucky, who happened to be an unbearable icon of dire terror to me while growing up. Chucky seemed to press the exact wrong button of horror in me all these years; this was one horror icon whose invocation in culture always left me not only scared but sad at the same time.
Here we have exposed the horror aficionado’s weak spot. Being scared stops feeling good; the line is crossed between, if you will, “scary (fun) place to go” and “safe (restful-from-motion) place to go.” When this happens, for just an instant it’s two of the “scary (fun) places to go,” at the same time, and then, forever, it’s one, big, “sad (not-fun-at-all) place to be.” This may sound a bit remedial, but one has to factor in the risk of horror violating the mentality of childhood, in particular during adolescence, which can potentially taint adulthood. With the possible exception of tainted adulthood, this is what happened to me with Chucky: his movies were popular during my adolescence. The timing could not have been worse. The suffering was excruciating.
Still, I’ve parlayed whatever traumas I’ve been handed by horror culture into my own horror work, thus not suffering a total defeat, as I can take expressive chance on displaying to all, in my written endeavors of fright, the worst fear I’ve held in very many years, that I’ve held it for very many years, and which is very real: people.
I’ve believed for the longest time that people are foul, dishonest, lying creatures, never making it clear what they want or what their problem is. Worse yet, everything there is—good, bad, having to do with me, or having to do with them—they blame me for, and only me. I can at least use horrific gods, entities, monsters and supernatural forces as an allegory for the basic essence of people as we know them, if I can’t socialize, and if I’m not allowed by people to express my point of view on certain things. Atrociously enough, despite what our Constitution says, they bar me even from that.
I know that to have the horror culture we do—which is there to entertain in such a way that the horror of real life, in most forms, is more readily approachable—is a blessing to horror authors like me. We all give a lot of original ideas a lot of the time, yet that’s as a result of having horror on the wing. In the culture of fright, there are about equal parts good and bad. In the lives of those like me, there’s a major subject—but only one—of negativity. And then, once one gets around all the horror, there’s only the good stuff. When you get back to being scared for kicks, there’s also a good time.