So you can read my books

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Why are we drawn to horror? Why are good girls drawn to bad boys?

1.) The allure of the forbidden.

That is one of the reasons horror beckons to us from out of the shadows.

Why is that boy, that deserted mansion, forbidden?

It is as old as the blood which pulsed cold and tingling through Eve's veins as she reached for that forbidden fruit on that hauntingly lovely tree.

2.) Curiosity.

It is human nature to want to know what lies over the horizon. It's what drove the pioneers across wild, hostile lands.

What does that locked door conceal? That chained chest. Why those heavy links, that rusted lock?

Is this all there is? Or is there more beyond mere line of sight? We know there is more.

Science tells of us of dark matter piercing the cosmos with light-years long strands of matter invisible to the human eye. We are likewise blind to the world of germs. What other worlds are we blind to?

Give a nugget of uranium, a tiny stone really, to an aborigine. Tell him it is a good luck charm. Tell him to drop it in the village well.

What harm could one tiny stone do? Visit his village two months later. View the many corpses laying strewn like dead dreams all across the ground.

3.) Identification.

We watch and imagine what we would do in like situations. The world dissolves into chaos as random individuals descend slowly into madness.

You are picked up by the local sheriff as you are doing your morning walk with your dog. He orders you and your dog into the back of the car. He presses his gun to your dog's head and rambles on about brains looking like wet oysters. Do you want to see?

What would you do? What could you do?

Life is frightening. Global warming. Diseases that eat the very flesh of your body. We watch horor on the screen to encapsulate the horror of real life. It is not us up there.

We would be smarter, faster, more in control of our emotions.

We like the adrenaline rush sudden scares give us. Safer than driving fast, dating inappropriate guys or gals, and with the thrill of saying mentally, "It's not real; I'm still safe."

4.) The Darkness Within.

Terror versus Horror. Is one more physical; the other more mental? Does revulsion and squriming terror pierce through our mental barriers to stab deep into our unconscious fears ... and desires?

(Take the public fascination with the trilogy of the girl with the dragon tattoo :

she is repeatedly brutalized, raped, shot, and beaten. The books and movies are bestsellers. Is there a darkness in us that wants to roll around in sadism like a cat does catnip?)

You are horrified by the news of the floods in Pakistan. You are terrorized when you wake up one New Orleans morning to the news that the dams have burst, and you look out your front door to see rushing waters swallow your neighbor's home ... then your very own.

Horror is realizing the monsters are real and are out there to get you. Terror is looking into the mirror, seeing yourself becoming one -- but still enough you to scream silently at the sight.

Stephen King said horror literature is a means for us to take out the monster, play with it for a while, and put it back.

But who is the monster?

Is he some squirming presence waiting on the other side of the dimensional wall waiting for a crack to appear? Is he the beloved president whose wife is slowly going insane at the awful reality of who he truly is?

Or does his/her eyes stare back at you from the mirror?

Carl Jung :

"Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions."

Why do you think we read horror? Why are we so drawn to dressing up as monsters or as our secret identities? Why do you write the genres you do? And what role does "control" or "lack of control" play in horror/scary movies and literature?


  1. I do not write horror, but I believe the description 'lack of control' defines it perfectly.

  2. Alex : Thanks. Control is so important in our mental health. It may be an illusion but the lack of a sense of control contributes to our mental and emotional breakdown.

  3. I can only answer for myself. I read horror because it defies the logic of my every day world. It presents an evil that can be destroyed.

  4. Mary : Yes, exactly one of my reasons, too. Though in the Frankenstein movies, the villagers with the torches appeared to the boy I was to be the true monsters.

  5. I think another reason would be the same reason would be the same reason people watch an episode of Jerry Springer - after you have finished, no matter how bad your day has been, you breathe a sigh of relief and be thankful that you don't have the problems of the people in the story, except in a book you get to live much more vicariously because it is not just actions on a screen, but your imagination that brings the horror to life while you are reading. No movie, no matter how well acted and executed, will ever compare to a well written book.

  6. You nailed why people read horror, myself included. It really has a lot to do with curiosity and the darker parts of ourselves we can see reflected back at us.

  7. Very interesting. I tend to read sci-fi on my lunch break at work. Anything to give the mind a break from reality.

  8. I do wish those who would flirt with horrible deeds, and those who look to carry them out, would only do as Stephen King said. I wish all the evil doers could find some benign way of taking it out and playing with it, then putting it away without having to hurt others.

    Now that is wishful thinking, isn't it?

  9. i have found lot of answers in this post of yours... thanks for sharing your thoughts....

  10. I, too, like the Stephen King approach. Take it out, look at it, put it back.

    I haven't watched a horror movie since Psycho in 1960 (I'm that old). Scared me to a nightmare, of a huge figure standing at the foot of my bed. Horror is my least favorite genre, but I do agree with all the "psychological" interpretations everyone has mentioned here. Strange stuff lurks in our sub-conscious! (I read a lot of Freud and Jung when I was a teenager.)

    A most thought provoking post. Thank you!

  11. Great post. Well said. Horror is also another (safe and vicarious) method in which to exercise the old primal fear reflexes (ducking behind the sofa etc...)

  12. Interesting post. And all very good ponts. I don't write horror and I don't read much of it. I write urban/dark fantasy. I am a very critical author/reader/person, I disect and think about everything. (Thank you Dr. Bailey).

    You asked a lot of the same questions I think about when I read and write. What does this piece say about me? About the audience reading it? About the human condition in general? Why am I attracted to and write about very broken characters?

    I used to say I wrote fantasy because I live in reality. I think I was lying. To my self mostly. I live more in my head than not. Every character I connect with and write about is an extension of me- my mind, my thoughts, how I view the world.

    I've read authors who deny that their writing says anything about them as individuals. How can that be? It came out of your head. You built the world. The people who live in it. You decided their struggles. You lived in their heads long enough to know them as well as you know yourself. And if you didn't do all that you couldn't have written a book.

    Thanks for the post.


  13. Awesome Stephen King quote and an illuminating post. Thank you!

  14. Very cool points indeed. I constantly as myself my motivations for reading/writing what I do.

    Good post to keep in mind.


  15. Consider: people who suffer great mental and/or emotional anguish cut themselves. They say it helps them to feel.

    Emotional pain, stark terror-causes the surrounding reality to come into ultra sharp focus. Sounds are clearer, smells are richer, the slightest touch brings exquisite pleasure or pain....

    I think this is part of why people like horror-the adrenalin rush...

  16. Great post! I linked it over at Kate's Library for the Friday Five!