This may be blasphemy to the Horror genre, but I hate what it is anymore. The classical horror of the Victorian era let the imagination of the reader fill in the blanks allowing for more “horror” than bombarding people with gore. Yes, I know, death is a part of the genre, but in recent decades, death and gore isn’t a consequence, but the point of the story instead. In fact, story takes a back seat to gore and death for much of horror. I would like to challenge people to see the beauty in classical horror.
The setting is a rarely traveled part of the world, perhaps the woods, and there is either a killer or monster lurking. Unfortunately, a group of stupid college students go in that region and get picked off one by one in terrible and gruesome ways. This is the sort of thing that passes as horror anymore, with few exceptions. I enjoy tales of werewolves, in fact my upcoming book will include them, but gaining inspiration was pretty challenging because there are very few quality werewolf stories out there.
I enjoy stories that are based around suspense and unknown with supernatural elements. This is what horror used to be. It isn’t just horror that has changed, fantasy has grown darker and grittier. Dark and gritty isn’t inherently, bad but both modern fantasy and horror have grown incredibly cynical in their messages. In horror most of the time everyone dies brutally, life is cheep, and it seems fantasy is adopting that approach as well. Why is that? Storytelling tends to follow cultural trends, have some genre fiction stories gotten darker, horror much earlier than others, due to an increasingly cynical outlook on life? Is it due to changing tastes that accompany an evolving culture? What if storytellers focused on plot and character development over pushing boundaries instead? At this point it is hard to imagine any boundary that hasn’t been pushed anyway, perhaps all of us who craft stories need to examine why we write them and what is their purpose.
Characters are meant to be living entities in and of themselves. They can act in ways both better and worse than the writer crafting their stories.
A writer may not be for thievery but may write about a thief, and the same can be said about any sort of immoral or deviant behavior. The behavior of characters does not necessarily reflect the author’s own morality. We live in a world where there are evil, careless, and self-centered people, and people simply have bad days and do things they regret.
My books are generally “clean” and family oriented because that is my target audience. I also don’t believe in having over the top content for the sake of shock and awe. With that said, I do see adding contented for the sake of being true to the character that might be unsavory.
As a writer and an artist, I don’t believe in censorship and stand firm that the author should be true to the character’s personality. That may even include things that make the author or audience uncomfortable. That said, the creator should also place some boundaries, there are certain things that are best left out of entertainment. If there is a gory death, it is best to left it to the imagination instead, or implying it rather than directly giving an overly detailed description. I have read scenes in books or movie descriptions out of curiosity that were stomach churning, the author should limit him or herself because there are certain things that are unnecessary.
Now, with that painfully obvious disclaimer out of the way, author’s including immoral behavior in a story doesn’t reflect the writer’s personal beliefs, at least not in a well-crafted storyline. Within the context of being sensitive to our audience, a writer is obligated to be true to the character.
What is evil? That is something wise men have discussed for ages. Some find it hard to define, or even deny its existence all together. Yet it is obvious that there is a measurable standard of what is evil, human history points to that, despite what some may say. Things such as murder, cannibalism, stealing, etc. have been condemned throughout most cultures. In fiction, like in the real world, those who are evil often see themselves as good, but making hard decisions for the greater good.Few people who are evil see themselves as evil, in fact the most monstrous people still carried on typical lives. Well I’m not sure about some such as Elizabeth Bathory, but I’ve seen videos of Nazi SS men talking with their families and having what looked like a normal day. These men of course took part in the holocaust, that is what’s so chilling. Evil can be subtle, not all monsters always appear to be monsters. In a time when morality is often seen as relative by the masses, how will they identify someone who is evil? Will the evil person be ignored by someone or something that is seen as a greater threat?
This is something that has been seen in fiction. One notable example, the rise of Palpatine to power in Star Wars. While everyone thought the Separatists were the main threat, all the while their own leader was plotting to seize power.
I have said before, good fiction mirrors reality and speaks deep truths, even harsh truths. It seems like so many people are married to ideology and incapable of empathizing with other perspectives. When things get to that point how will they recognize evil? In Star Wars they didn’t, the same goes for countless other works of speculative fiction. Maybe we need to be able to discuss things better, understand one another better, before fiction becomes reality. We don’t have to agree, but empathy breeds understanding. Without understanding we are opening the door for evil to come in unseen.
Let us learn from fiction.
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Aron, an Archris Knight of the Republics, returns home from the battlefield only to find himself plunged back into the war. A new darkness threatens to upset the fragile peace of Goandria. The world’s hope lies in a small band’s ability to unite, despite their differing races and beliefs, to protect their homelands against the rising monster, Zontose, who now declares himself god-king of Goandria.
Powerless to aid the warriors, a young girl’s visions of possible futures bring both hope and despair. The fate of Goandria might depend on what she sees, but she doesn’t know who to trust.