Brain Babies: How are We Supposed to Compete?
Okay, so this is HorrorTree, right? So, I’m going to go out on a limb here, and assume that the majority of the people reading this are, in fact, horror writers. Or at least writers who dabble in horror. Dabbling in horror sounds ridiculous. Like “dabbling in murder.” Which I may have to use somewhere, ’cause I like the sound of it.
Anyway, I, at least, write horror. I write other stuff, too: fantasy, (light) SF, and even kids’ stuff. All under my own name. I catch flak for this once in a while. People are all like, “You write erotic horror (I do) and children’s books under the same name?!? What if someone reads your kids’ books and decides to see what else you write?”
Um, great! As long as they don’t show my erotic horror to their kids, I don’t see a problem. And, even if they do, that is not on me. That’s horrible parenting. Not my fault. I sure as hell don’t show the nasty stuff to my own kids. Hell, I don’t even show the creepy, unsettling stuff to my kids. When they’re older, sure, if they want to read it. But, no way am I going to scar my children for life as they read graphic depictions of torture and dismemberment (along with a joke or two, usually). They can read that stuff when they’re teens, I guess. But, not the erotic stuff. They aren’t reading that until they’re, I don’t know, thirty? Maybe when I’m dead. I don’t want them to have to look at me afterward, to know the kind of sick, evil stuff that goes on in my mind.
My six-year-old, after I said “Hi” to about four total strangers in a row (she and I were walking home from the park), asked me why I did that.
“I’m being friendly,” I said. “I like to be friendly. I think the world would be a better place if more people took the time to say ‘hello’.”
She said, “Okay, yeah, but why are you friendly? You write horror.”
I explained that I write horror to get rid of the ugly, unpleasant things in my mind. To give an outlet to the more disturbing, awful thoughts we all have. And, in a way, this makes it easier for me to be friendly. I’m generally in a pretty good mood most days. I don’t think it’s all because I get the icky stuff out in fiction. I have a lot to be happy about, too. But, you know, I think it helps. Maybe a lot. Most of the horror writers I have met are really nice people. Some of the sickest people on the page are some of the kindest and most supportive friends you could ever want.
Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.
Which brings us back to my original topic for this particular Brain Baby: how are we supposed to compete? What do I mean? I mean the real world, folks. The real, sick, twisted, violent world.
I’m trying to wrap my head around everything that’s going on around me right now, and to tell you the truth, I’m having a hell of a hard time.
Cops are killing people because of the color of their skin. Snipers are shooting cops. Terrorists are blowing up buildings, trains, buses, themselves. The presumptive Republican President of the United States is a bombastic, hate-spewing bigoted Oompa Loompa with a dead mongoose on his head. His opponent damn near went to jail.The potential leaders of the free world, folks! Kids – high school kids – are walking into schools and shooting their classmates. And, most of this is happening right here in America. In the good ol’ U.S. of A. My home. My backyard.
What the unholy hell, world?
In the face of this, I wonder why I even bother. How do I compete with such utter appalling atrocities? And, why should I? I’ve had people tell me, “I don’t read horror. The real world is bad enough.”
They’re right. The real world is bad enough.
But, here’s the thing. I’m gonna keep on writing it. You know why? Because, as I told my daughter, I do this to get the icky stuff out of my system, to make it easier for me to be a happy person, to be friendly.
And, maybe, just maybe, something I write will resonate with a reader. Maybe one of my stories will speak to someone who is on the edge of doing something ugly, something in the real world, something permanent.
I know it’s a long shot. I know my stuff may never do anything more than entertain (I hope it entertains. Or makes your skin crawl. That’s entertaining. For me.) But, what if it works? What if someone reads one of my horror stories and thinks, “I get this! I have all this horrible stuff in my head, too! I need to write it down, maybe get someone to read it. Maybe get it published.”
And, if that happens, ladies and gents (and others), maybe the world will have another horror writer, maybe a damn good one. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll have one less horrible statistic. One less young life lost. One less hate crime.
I don’t know if what we do makes a whole lot of difference, but I hope so. If we, as writers, can make even a little difference, make the world a little less terrible, then it’s worth every rejection. It’s worth all the research, the editing, the self-doubt.
‘Cause, unless something changes, this world is doomed.
Thanks for listening.
- About the Author
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Ken MacGregor writes stuff. Sometimes, he edits stuff too.
He has two story collections: AN ABERRANT MIND, and SEX, GORE & MILLIPEDES, a young adult novella: DEVIL’S BANE (YA winner of the 23rd annual Critters Readers Poll), a co-written (with Kerry Lipp) novel: HEADCASE (available in serialized form), and is a member of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers (GLAHW). He is a somewhat regular contributor to HorrorTree with his column Brain Babies. He has also written TV commercials, sketch comedy, a music video, some mediocre poetry, and a zombie movie. Ken is the Managing Editor of Collections and Anthologies for LVP Publications. He’s curated two anthologies: BURNT FUR for Blood Bound Books, and STITCHED LIPS for Dragon Roost Press..
When not writing, Ken drives the bookmobile for his local library. He lives with his kids, two cats, and the ashes of his wife.
Ken can be found at the staggeringly egocentric-named website kenmacgregor.com.