Jul 20, 2017

How Fear Drove Me to Write

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If I had to explain my relationship with the Horror genre, it would be like this:
Horror drove me to write; fantasy gave me the power to do so.
My favourite genre as a kid was horror. I wasn't articulate enough at the time to understand why, but I felt driven to write horror. Looking back, it's because  at its core, Horror is about helplessness. 
Whether the villain is a monster or just a particularly dangerous human being, whatever way the story or setting are dressed up, one thing is constant in horror: People are helpless against it. At times, you will see the mentor or expert, the Van Helsing, step up and claim knowledge over the villain, or represent some level of authority or competency. But inevitably, this figure is either killed off, or otherwise unable to affect the villain.
In the end, it's up to the hero.
And yet more often than not the hero in horror can only survive by accepting their lack of power and enduring long enough to seize a desperate opportunity to outwit the villain. In Alien, Ripley survives through willpower and sacrifice, giving up the ship and their payload, until she finds herself, literally stripped-down to nothing, but in a position to kill the xenomorph by using her knowledge of the environment against it.
Sacrifice is all too common a theme in horror. The idea that we cannot survive such awful things without a mark being left on us. Horror forces us to face the unknown, to be scarred so that we can survive. It strips our resolve and shreds our defences. To experience horror is to lay yourself bare.
Sometimes, however, I'd see a hero decide that they weren't going to let themselves be helpless anymore. Sometimes, the hero would take a stand and face the villain head-on. In Scream, following the revelation that it was Billy and Stu behind the Ghostface killings, Sidney hides and burst out of a closet, herself having donned the Ghostface costume. In this, the hero took on the villain's persona, narratively claiming that power for herself, and turning it on those who had murdered her friends.
And for years, I craved that power in stories. Growing up as I did, I understood the feeling of helplessness and fear, what it was like to be powerless against those who wanted to hurt me.
I wanted to feel the power to fight back.
Eventually I realised that I was not going to find that power in horror. The kinds of books I wanted to write were not the same. The stories that came to me were about heroes who could stand and fight the monsters on their own terms.
That's when I discovered urban fantasy. And I knew I'd found my home.
Those were the stories I wanted to tell. I wanted epic villains brought down by determined and empowered heroes. I wanted to show that the things we're afraid of can be confronted and overcome.
I wanted to show that monsters can be beaten.