Today’s guest post comes from horror author Greg Chapman, who recently released Pandemonium through the incredible Bloodshot Books. Greg’s essay deals with why his work may considered bleak or depressing and the importance of the truth when it comes to horror fiction. This is an insightful piece that gives readers a look at Chapman’s work and what he puts into his own unique brand of horror. I found myself nodding in agreement more than once and I think horror fans will enjoy this essay quite a bit and learning about Greg’s style. If you haven’t checked out Greg’s work before, pick up a copy of Pandemonium or his excellent novel Hollow House. You won’t regret it.
HORROR FICTION: A BLEAK AND DEPRESSING LOOK AT TRUTH
By Greg Chapman
My writing has often been described as “bleak”, “depressing”, with “unlikeable characters”. I take these comments as compliments because after all, aren’t I writing horror?
I’m not sure what readers are expecting when they pick up a horror novel. If you read one of mine, I can guarantee that you’ll more than likely discover a series of “unlikeable characters” trapped in a “bleak” or “depressing” setting. I’m only holding a mirror up to reality. Sure my stories have a heady dose of the supernatural too, but in the end I’m fascinated by the human condition and just how fucked up people were well before the monsters arrived.
The latest “bleak”, “depressing” thing I’ve had published is Pandemonium, the next chapter in my mythos, based upon The Noctuary. When I first wrote the original novella way back in 2009 I was trying to answer the question of where my story ideas came from. I took this literally and created a hellish muse who forces a writer to rewrite history. The follow up, Pandemonium was me trying to answer the question: where does evil come from? Is it all in our minds? Did we ignite the spark ourselves, or was it put there?
The thing is I’m not really a bleak or unlikeable person. I’m probably a cynic, heavily influenced by my years as a newspaper reporter, covering things murders, and traffic accidents, scandals and the occasional morning tea fundraiser. Thing is the media is all about bad news; taking the bleak and depressing and ramming it down our throats (I no longer work in the media obviously). It’s hard not to be affected by that day in and day out. So yeah, my writing is going to be a reflection of the world as I see it.
My Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel Hollow House was about the horrible secrets people hide behind closed doors. My novella The Eschatologist was about the “faithful” taking their faith to the extreme after the end of the world. Bleak and depressing, right? Sure, but there’s an element of truth as well. Domestic abuse is real and “faith” is sending the world mad – so of course I’m going to use these themes in my stories.
If anything, I’m hoping that after reading my stories, readers will ask themselves the same questions. Seek their own truths. What kind of world are we living in? What kind of person am I? What can I do to try and change these things?
Good horror should always pose these questions and go beyond the blood and gore, or at least use it to paint a picture of humanity. If you’re a writer, or aspire to be one, be bleak and depressing, make your characters unlikeable, but most of all tell the truth.
Greg Chapman is a horror author from Australia. He penned the Bram Stoker Award®-nominated and Australian Shadows Award-nominated novel Hollow House, the novel The Noctuary: Pandemonium and the novellas: Torment, Vaudeville, The Last Night of October and The Eschatologist. He is also an artist and illustrated the Bram Stoker Award®-winning graphic novel Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times, written by Rocky Wood and Lisa Morton. Visit www.darkscrybe.com