To date – my favorite classical horror story
This past Thursday through Saturday I was at LTUE – The Life, The Universe, and Everything Symposium. Friday night I wrote this on my Facebook wall:
“I was changed today in an amazing, uplifting way. I figured out something about myself that I never knew… or I guess I knew but was ashamed of. How exciting to find out that I may not be normal, but that thing that I was ashamed of, is really something to celebrate.”
I thought folks would leave it at that, but I was asked to expound. Since it was writing related, I thought it would be appropriate to explain here.
I had a much different experience this conference than the others in the past few years. I went to some of the “how to” panels, but for the most part I went simply for the sake of keeping my head in the game. I went to a Tolkien/Lewis panel where I learned even more reasons to be in awe of the masters. I went to a two-hour class hosted by the Wasatch Paranormal Investigators with the hubs and got to hear several EVPs and learned how to honor the dead we come in contact with and even why it’s important not to get tied to our own lives so we can move on when it’s time. However, the panel that changed a paradigm – the one that prompted the above Facebook status – was the panel, Why We Love Horror.
I can’t say why I went to that one. I didn’t plan to. Somehow at the end of Friday I looked down at my schedule and had the thought, “You know, there might be something in here that will help you amp up the tension.” I kinda argued with myself and moved toward a different class… and found myself taking a seat in the back of the horror panel’s classroom. Huh.
The longer I listened the more I realized I was surrounded by people who hate slasher films and those kinds of books, which is always how I usually define horror. Another huh. They began to describe how they liked the genre because to get to the brightest light you had to go super dark. That horror books were some of the most uplifting they had ever read. My thoughts flew to my favorite books – the majority of them had an element of horror. Whether it was the horrors of war, psychological horror, fantastical horror, paranormal horror, etc. As I clicked them off in my head I could see that they were right. It is the opposition – the passing from dark to light that I find stimulating and leaving me with higher thoughts.
When I left the class my mind shifted to why I have resisted my “dark side” – both in reading and in writing. I thought of my associations with people who look down their noses at anything that they deem “unworthy.” It is difficult enough to hang out with those who think you’re a loony for liking Harry Potter. But admit that you love to scare yourself… Case in point, a few months ago I read The Portrait of Dorian Gray for the first time. I was profoundly impacted by that book and wanted to share it with my friends. There is a book group I was attending at the time and thought maybe we could read and discuss that one. I described it to one of the leaders of the group and before I could even finish she said to me, “You’ve convinced me to never read this book. That’s horrible!”
Not only did that shock me, but left me feeling embarrassed. I felt like I had this terrible dark side of me that should be tucked away. It wasn’t just her – I’d had other experiences similar to this one. For instance, when I read to my daughter a part of my Son of Asgard manuscript I experienced a similar feeling. In the scene a wraith envelops the mother of my protagonist like a shawl. Wispy fingers hook into her skin controlling her movements and every time she speaks the wraith’s paper-thin lips move over its teeth a fraction of a second before hers do. It is obvious Mom’s words and actions are not her own. My daughter stopped me before the scene was over and said, “Okay Mom. Now that we know you’re seriously demented…” That surprised me too… but not really, because I live in my head and know she has no clue.
While I sat in that classroom I was with people who had thoughts like me. I am not demented. I have dark thoughts so I can have super light ones. I have a natural gift that will help me tell awesome stories if I discipline myself to write them out. I shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed of the darkness. Instead, I should be grateful and celebrate it – because the dark always gives way to the light. I’m glad I followed my feet into that classroom to learn it’s desirable to have a hint of horror.
And that’s why I wrote that status update on Facebook. 🙂
Stay tuned because I have much more to share about LTUE, including a link to a podcast of the keynote address given by James A. Owen, author and illustrator of The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica Series and the Starchild comic. He was AMAZING.
Wow. That is indeed interesting. I have never thought about horror in that way… the brightest light comes from the darkest dark. Thanks for sharing!
Amber M said:
opposition in all fiction, hear, hear!
I completely agree with you. I have long thought that about horror. Most of the really ‘light’ people I know are very much in touch with their dark side. I think it strengthens the writing. Good for you, Aine!