Friday, August 19, 2005

I tell myself I will not read them, even as I buy one

Maybe because I grew up getting thrilled by the tales of Lovecraft and King, I keep hoping that horror genre has something to offer. Book after book, I give it a shot. What I can’t seem to accept is that these books are best read when many of your conversations begin with “Dude, remember that time we were fucked up?”

My latest attempt was John Shirley’s Demons. It got blurbed by the likes of William Gibson and Tim Powers, which I know means nothing, but still I was taken. What you get is a tale of how man’s inhumanity and cruelty becomes manifest in the forms of demons who kill special ed kids and do other nasty things. The problem is that it is not scary and the writing is weak. At the John Shirley school of fiction, a few key rules are taught

Never ever have characters speak like humans. Instead, have them narrate long paragraphs or talk idiosyncratically. That makes them really cool.

Make sure to replace all simple words with complicated ones and be sure to use them inexactly. Burn is nice, but what about coruscate, that’s better isn’t it?

Instead of being scary or disturbing, go for the gross-out. Terror is hard to evoke, so let’s strangle the President with a demon’s johnson!

Some cultural theorist I read once noted that “scary” is a social construct and what is scary changes based on society’s changing fears. So maybe we (non-millenarians) are no longer afraid of the Apocalypse. There is some truth here, but the Exorcist still scares the hell out of me. So I think really it is just hard to evoke feelings of dread, unease and fear, so people take the easy route.

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