Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
zette@sff.net

Why Do You Write that Crap?
The Necessity of Horror

By Carter Nipper
2004, Carter Nipper


Life on Earth has always been a struggle against incredible odds for humans.  We possess no built-in weapons, no innate defensive systems.  Our senses are all weak, and we don't run very fast compared to the predators that hunt us.  Our skin is soft, and our muscles weak.  Many carnivores consider us tasty.  The fact that humans have survived so long and advanced so far in knowledge and technology is truly miraculous.  How did this happen?  What gave us our edge?

We survived and advanced because we dream.  We dream of possibilities and work to make them real.  Every human culture has its own set of dreams, its own theories to explain the mysteries of the universe.  These dreams and theories make up a culture's mythology, a culture's attempt to explain the unexplainable in terms that everyone can understand.

A culture tells its dreams through its art.  Its artists have the courage to articulate the dreams that everyone shares.  Some dream in stone or wood or metal, some in colors and shapes.  Some dream in sound or movement.  Writers dream in words.  Our words carry our readers to far-off times and places, to the past, to the future.  Our words give life to our mythologies.

Many of our dreams are lovely, many are great ways to escape from ordinary life -- but we also have bad dreams.  We need writers who have the courage to dredge up our most fearful nightmares and expose them.  We need writers who can show us that we are not bad or broken or crazy when these dreams intrude on our thoughts, only human.  We need writers who can show us how we can fight our monsters.  We need horror.

Ultimately, horror is about the struggle between good and evil.  By casting this struggle in the form of a story, we gain a little necessary distance from our fears and can regard them more objectively.  We find out that the monster we can see is vastly less threatening than the one we only imagine.  In the same way that light shrivels up the monsters under the bed, the light that we cast upon our fears through horror fiction helps us see that they are not as frightening as we had thought.

By being able to stand apart from the struggle between good and evil, we can also find ways to understand this struggle better.  When we look at it from outside, we can see and understand that the victory of good is difficult and not without cost, sometimes a terrible cost.  We also can understand that good does not always win.  This is reality.  We see it around us every day.  Horror helps us unleash our imaginations to find ways to cope with harsh realities.

Many have contended that all literature is ultimately about good versus evil, and I won't argue with that.  What, then, sets horror apart as a genre unto itself?  It is the ability of horror to look deeply into us and pull out our most primal feelings.  Horror holds a mirror in front of us and forces us to look.  It is shock therapy for the soul.  Horror forces us to face the fact that all of us contain a little bit of the vampire, the werewolf, the unnameable monster within ourselves.

 

Many people don't like that and won't look, and that's okay.  I, though, like to keep my demons and monsters out in the light where I can see them and fight them.  I don't like things that sneak up behind me and bite me on the butt.  That's why I write that crap.