Ginger Nuts of Horror
Has anyone ever asked you why you choose to read, write or watch horror? Perhaps it's because I'm a woman, or maybe people are just nosy and judgmental, but it seems like every time I tell someone my preferred reading or film genre, this question comes up, and usually not in a nice way. Not that I feel it is anyone's business why I choose to read and watch the things I do, but I'm here to answer the question, “Why horror?”
I believe my childhood has a lot to do with my love of horror, despite the fact that my parents rarely ever read or watched horror. My first horror-related memory is when I was around four-years old. My dad was lying on the sofa watching a rerun of the old Bela Lugosi film, Dracula. I remember lying in the space between his legs and the back of the sofa, hiding my eyes and feeling absolutely terrified. It's odd, because I remember the experience being very exciting too. Other than that, until I reached middle school, horror was a non-existent part of my life. In middle school, however, everything changed.
By year 7, I was a horrible kid. I lied, stole, and lazed my way through middle school. I had few friends and never felt like I got the attention I needed. I also possessed a ton of energy I didn't know what to do with, so I constantly got in trouble as my grades took a nosedive. Eventually my parents had enough. My dad's answer to my bad behavior was to beat the shit out of me whenever I screwed up. I'm not just talking about spankings. I'm talking about beatings with a thick, leather horse strap. I'm talking about having my head pushed into the garage walls. I'm talking about being thrown around the room. That kind of beating. My dad worked for the federal government here in the US and he was gone a lot. Yet, the phrase my mother used on me, and one many mothers still use today, “Wait until your father gets home,” took on a whole new meaning in my house.
One day in year 8, I came across Stephen King's Carrie in the school library. I checked it out because it had a cool cover and we had to check out at least one book every two weeks for English class. I took the book home and promptly forgot about it until I got in trouble for something stupid I did. Instead of getting a physical punishment, I lost things like my TV, video games and phone, so reading was about all that was left for me to do. I opened that Stephen King novel and never looked back. I was hooked. Carrie took me away from my life and told me a story of empowerment, and although the story was more than a little fucked up, Carrie had the last laugh.
After Carrie, I devoured other horror books as fast as I could. Stephen King, Dean Koontz and other horror authors kept me company when I had nothing else to do and The Amityville Horror, The Shining, Cujo , Frankenstein and Bram Stoker's Dracula played vital roles in keeping me sane through my school career. Soon on I moved to horror films. The Exorcist became my favourite, despite the fact that it was old news by the time I got around to watching it, and it is still my favourite today. I also loved the Friday the 13th films, the Halloween franchise, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and a ton of other films I can't recall right now.
Time went on as it tends to do, and I finally got my shit together, got married at the age of 18, and started college. I got pregnant with my first child at 18 and my infatuation with horror took a backseat to life. My husband hated everything having to do with horror (I think he was scared, although he'd never admit it) and I was too busy popping out babies (four in three years) to have time to read or watch movies.
As my kids grew, I had more time on my hands, but instead of horror, I read more fantasy. As my marriage fell apart, I stayed glued to the pages of books by Terry Brooks, Melanie Rawn, Piers Anthony, Terry Pratchett and a few others to help me escape my life for a while.
I've slowly made my way back to horror over the last few years and along the way, I've come to realize what horror has that other genres fail to deliver. Romance and erotica, for example, often tell stories of happy endings; endings many of us have come to realize don't exist or don't come as easily as they do in these types of stories. Horror shows us that often, we have to work like hell for our happy ending, but in the end, it's worth the fight.
Fantasy and sci-fi are fun and if I didn't have horror readily available, fantasy would be my genre of choice. However, I'd much rather read a story that could easily take place in my city, home, or back garden than one that happens in a make-believe world or distant galaxy. Horror offers a realism other genres cannot duplicate.
Another thing I realised is that the horror community is filled with people who genuinely care about one another, and I've never seen that type of camaraderie anywhere else. Authors constantly promoting the work of others, reviewers selflessly giving their time to read and review books, fans singing the praises of their favourite authors, hoping to get others to hop on the bandwagon – these are all things I love about being a minute part of something so special.
Horror shows us that no matter how bad things get, we can survive. It tells stories of abuse victims who overcome their situations to become better people. It shows us that people can survive against insurmountable odds. Horror doesn't care if you're black, white, rich, poor, gay or straight. If you find yourself up against Michael Meyers or Jason Voorhees, you're fucked no matter what you look like.
Horror makes us face our fears. It helps to harden us against the ugliness that seems to permeate today's world and more importantly, it brings people together. Cuddling with someone you love whilst watching horror is one of the best experiences in the world, and when one of your friend loves the horror novel you recommend, and you can talk for hours about how scary or disgusting it was, well, can you think of a better feeling?
Watching a horror film or reading a particularly nasty scene in a horror novel satisfies the morbid curiosity that lies within each one of us, and some studies have shown that watching horror movies may keep us from acting out our violent tendencies. (So that's why I didn't slap customers whilst I ran a retail store. Fascinating.)
Let me leave you with one final story.
A little over a year ago, that damned black dog came to visit and no matter what I did, I couldn't chase it away. I was more depressed than I had been in a long time and I couldn't come up with a reason to live, much less to get out of bed and function like a normal human being. That was when I found the High Moor series. I can't tell you how I discovered those books because everything back then is a bit of a blur to me now, but the characters and story line Graeme Reynolds created gave me something to look forward to when I had little else. When I started and became completely enthralled in the first book, I promised myself that if I could just make it to the end of every day, I could spend a little time in the High Moor universe and forget my pathetic life. When I got to book 2 in the series, Moonstruck, I found the audio books which to me are simply amazing and I firmly believe that this series kept me from doing something stupid. Little do Graeme and Chris know, but I owe them more than they could ever imagine.
And that, folks, is why I love horror.
When John Simpson hears of a bizarre animal attack in his old home town of High Moor, it stirs memories of a long forgotten horror. John knows the truth. A werewolf stalks the town once more, and on the night of the next full moon, the killing will begin again. He should know. He survived a werewolf attack in 1986, during the worst year of his life. It's 1986 and the town is gripped in terror after the mutilated corpse of a young boy is found in the woods. When Sergeant Steven Wilkinson begins an investigation, with the help of a specialist hunter, he soon realises that this is no ordinary animal attack. Werewolves are real, and the trail of bodies is just beginning, with young John and his friends smack in the middle of it. Twenty years later, John returns to High Moor. The latest attack involved one of his childhood enemies, but there's more going on than meets the eye. The consequences of his past actions, the reappearance of an old flame and a dying man who will either save or damn him, are the least of his problems. The night of the full moon is approaching and time is running out. But how can he hope to stop a werewolf, when every full moon he transforms into a bloodthirsty monster himself?
Purchase a copy here