I’m Still Me
Anyone who knows me knows that I love anything horror related. Give me a werewolf novel, zombie movie, or an end of the world story, and I’m a happy girl. Over the last year or so, I’ve found a new love – extreme horror. The darker, more disgusting, and more disturbing it is, the better. I want to cringe, I want to feel sick, and I want to be shocked. Does that make me weird? According to some, yes it does. I used to hide the fact that I love a genre associated with monsters and psychopaths, but I’ve learned to embrace it and will talk about it with anyone who will listen, although it’s still an uncomfortable subject for some.
I recently changed my profile picture on my Facebook account. I used an app on my phone called Zombify and turned myself into a zombie. This disturbed a friend of mine so much she messaged me that night.
Friend: “Why is that your profile picture?”
Me: “Why not?”
Friend: “It’s disgusting! You should get rid of it.”
Me: “I think I’ll keep it for a while. I like it.”
Friend: “I think there is something wrong with you. If you keep reading that horror crap, it will change you. You’ll turn into a serial killer or something.”
From there, the conversation took an ugly turn, but after I calmed down, I started thinking. Is this how others see people who love horror? Do they see us as odd, or somehow unbalanced? People can read and write horror and be perfectly lovely individuals.
Let’s begin by looking at a few of the people who write this stuff.
Over the last couple of years, I have made some amazing friends on Facebook, many of whom are horror authors. They are the kindest, most caring and humble people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, but they write some of the sickest shit I have ever read. Matt Shaw, for example, writes a compelling tale about a family who believes they lived through the apocalypse and now, they resort to cannibalism and incest to survive in the Sick B*stards series. In Stuck on You, Jasper Bark writes about two people who are literally stuck together in a gruesome way, and Ian Woodhead is currently writing his darkest, most extreme book to date and it features cannibalism and other dark elements. Mr. Gingernuts himself, although not an author, loves horror more than all of us combined, so if anyone here is fucked up, it must be him, right?
If the people who think there is something wrong with us, the readers and writers of horror, were to be believed, Shaw eats people in his spare time, Woodhead is a mean, sadistic bastard, and Bark probably hates people in general, finding interesting ways of eliminating the scum of the world.
In real life, Matt Shaw meets his readers, goes to their hen do parties and takes them out for a meal to thank them for their support. Ian Woodhead is always around to give virtual hugs and kind words for anyone who might be having a bad day, and Jasper Bark loves talking to those who support him and his work. The man who runs the website you are reading right now is kind, patient, and has a tremendous sense of humour. I would be thrilled and honoured to meet any of these men in “real life.”
I’d call all of them pretty damn normal.
Now that we’ve established the authors are not insane killers, let’s look at the readers. I will readily admit that there are some sick, twisted, and depraved people in this world. For example:
In 1907, Joseph Conrad published a book called The Secret Agent Man. This was supposedly the inspiration for the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski.
In 1901, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published The Hounds of the Baskervilles, which caused John Thomas Smith to go out and conceal murders by burning kangaroo carcasses over the corpses of those he killed – which was exactly what happened in the book.
However, reading horror, or even mild crime thrillers didn’t make these people this way. They were born with “a screw loose” and although the books may have given them ideas, books are not to blame for this kind of behaviour.
I didn’t read Graeme Reynolds’ High Moor and think, “Wow, I would love to go out and gut people like that!” and Jack Kilborn’s Trapped didn’t turn me into a psychopath.
I’m still me.
I still love animals and do what I can to fight for their rights, crying when I hear of almost any act of animal cruelty. I still get angry when I see a child being bullied, neglected or abused, and I still want to be the best mother I can be to my kids. I don’t have an incessant need to go out and kill something, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love reading about characters who do.
Throughout school, I was teased a lot. I was quiet, wore black all the time, always had my head in a book, and didn’t hang around with the “cool kids.” My parents bought me some horrifically ugly boots, made me wear them to school and they were a cause of a great amount of torment for me for an entire school year. I guess today, that kind of teasing is called bullying.
Because of the crap I dealt with in school, books like Stephen King’s Carrie and Matt Shaw’s The 8th gave me with a kind of power and satisfaction that I didn’t have then, and I still don’t have today, in real life. In both of these books, the bullies get what’s coming to them. I can make the antagonists in these books anyone I want them to be, and I love the fact that I can get my revenge through the pages of a book.
Does that mean I could do to them what the characters in these books do? Of course not. Do I enjoy the bad things that happen to them? Absolutely.
It doesn’t matter if I get chastised for liking horror. It doesn’t matter that I get strange looks from people when I gush about the latest extreme horror book or movie I’ve fallen in love with. To all my “friends” who question my choice of reading materials or the movies I watch, I don’t care if you like it or not, and I certainly could not care less that you think this genre will change me somehow.
I’m still me.