January 14, 2015

Why Horror?: a guest post by Duncan McGeary, author of "Tuskers"

Duncan McGeary has owned Pegasus Books in downtown Bend, Oregon for the last 30 years.  He met his wife, Linda, in a local writer's group, and they've been side-by-side writers ever since.  He's the author of several fantasies, Star Axe, Snowcastles, and Icetowers, published by Tower Books, as well as two historical horror novels, Led to the Slaughter: The Donner Party Werewolves and The Dead Spend No Gold: Bigfoot and the California Gold Rush, as well as the Vampire Evolution Trilogy: Death of an Immortal; Rule of Vampire; and Blood of Gold, all published by Books of the Dead Press.

 So, the question remains ...

by Duncan McGeary

No one was more surprised than me that when I came back to writing I started writing in the 'horror' genre.  Even more surprising, that I kept writing in the horror genre.  I see no sign of stopping anytime soon.

My natural inclination is to write fantasy.  That's what I wrote in my first career, that's the first impulse I have whenever I sit down to write.  But somewhere between finishing my last book in 1984 and restarting a couple years ago, my focus shifted.  I quit reading most fantasy over those years, for one.  Heroic fantasy seemed played out.  Still is, I think -- except that we just happen to have some excellent practitioners of the genre; George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Lois McMasters Bujold.

There are new kinds of fantasy: Urban and Dark and so on, and those are more interesting, for sure.
But the first thing that popped up out of my head was a story about Cthulhu.  Cthulhu to me is the darkest, worst parts of the squirmiest parts of my brain.  Sure there is a crossover with "faery" but it this is faeryland that isn't like anything else, really.  Lots of made up creatures.  I'm still working on that book, Faerylander, and the followups, Wolflander and Ghostlander.

Then one morning I woke up with an idea for a vampire book, The Death of an Immortal, and I was dragged kicking and screaming into writing it.  Because the subconscious is boss this time around.  It overrules the thinking part of my brain.  I wrote it even though I knew there were a million other vampire books out there.
Historical horror?  That was even more of a surprise.
So why is this happening?

I think mostly because to me Horror is open-ended.  You aren't constrained by formulas.  You can write pretty much anything at all: any time or place.  You don't have to know science, as in science fiction; you don't have to do a complete world build, as in fantasy; you don't have to know procedures, as in mystery. 
But even more importantly, I think that any subject can be addressed through horror.  Anything that worries us or scares us or just concerns us can be done with this genre.  It addresses the deeper underlying issues that affects all of us. 

Most importantly, it addresses the subconscious.  Like I said, the subconscious is boss this time around.  Everytime I've even thought to put conscious effort into my stories, they seemed to veer off. 

I'm not saying that I don't apply conscious effort into how the books turn out.  But the idea generation is completely given over to whatever it is that seems to be worrying me.

Don't get me wrong -- I write to be entertaining.  A good story is what I thrive for.  But what gives a story any depth is dredging up what's in the subconscious and letting it out. I'm not sure what a story about a Wild Pig Apocalypse, Tuskers, represents, but it feels resonant.

Here's the thing.  I've always been a little naive about things.  Purposely, because that's the only way I could see the world and still be content.

So I've reached my age thinking that most of the world and most people are OK, and that only a small part is destructive or corrupt or dysfunctional.

It's a little late maybe to come the the realization that maybe it's the other way around: most of the world is corrupt or thoughtless or destructive, and only a small part is OK.

So the proper way to address that suspicion, that concern, is to write in the horror genre and let my fears and worries manifest themselves, and let that small part -- the heroes -- emerge and survive and even conquer.

About TUSKERSBarry had created a little piece of paradise in his southern Arizona backyard—until the javelinas came.

His battle to rid his property of the wild pigs soon escalated into war. Too late, he realized these weren't ordinary animals. They were something new, something meaner and smarter. These pigs weren't just at war with him; they were at war with the human race.

And the humans were losing.

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