WIHM: Horror: A Love Story

Horror: A Love Story

There are two things that will always be constants in my life: frizzy hair that looks unbrushed no matter what I do, and an all-consuming love of the horror genre. I love watching, reading and writing horror stories of all stripes, and I don’t think that’ll ever change. I certainly hope not.

I’ve often wondered what makes one person run screaming from a scary story yet fascinates others. There are many theories out there; one I’ve read a lot is the idea of the vicarious thrill – it’s a way of experiencing fear in a “safe” environment, rendering the very real terrors of the world easier to deal with. A good horror book or film, this theory goes, is like a good rollercoaster.

On a personal level, I’m not sure why horror resonates so strongly. All I know is that it always has, and it’s helped me get through some less-than-stellar times in my life. I graduated from university into the aftermath of the recession and got through months of tedious, increasingly desperate job hunting by deep diving into an obsession with old Vincent Price films. I’d reward myself for a day of applications and interview preparation with one of his retro classics (check out Masque of the Red Death and Theatre of Blood if you haven’t seen them; do it now, I’ll wait). Years on – and with those new grad career woes in the distant past, thankfully – I sometimes get a nostalgic thrill out of revisiting them. For books, I devoured every Goosebumps I could find as a kid, before moving on to the immortal Stephen King. There was something wonderful about reading IT on a rainy evening, tucked up safe and warm in bed.

Yet people who know me always seem surprised when I tell them I like horror. Perhaps it’s partly a gender thing: despite horror being the most welcoming fan community I’ve come across and great initiatives like Women in Horror Month, it still seems to be a primarily male domain to a lot of the general population. Beyond that, I think it’s because – I hope! – I’m generally quite a gentle, friendly person. Maybe if you meet someone mild-mannered, you don’t really expect them to be spending their evenings and weekends watching 1980s slashers about teenagers being chopped to pieces. When put like that, it’s not difficult to imagine non-horror fans being unnerved – it must seem like a bizarre enthusiasm from the outside.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. I’ve attended a few horror conventions over the years, most recently HorrorCon UK 2017 at the Magna Science Adventure Centre in Sheffield, where I met Heather Langenkamp from the Nightmare on Elm Street films. I’m always struck by the friendliness of the atmosphere, how wonderfully welcoming these events are, and how “at home” I feel there. The gender balance seems fairly even. At HorrorCon, I spoke to a supplier who sold film memorabilia at all sorts of conventions. He told me, totally unprompted, that horror conventions were the most friendly. I didn’t get the impression he was saying so just because he was at one!

Writing was my childhood and teenage passion but in my 20s, life intervened and I hadn’t written a word in years until last summer. Resolving to take up my old hobby again was like returning to your home town after a long break: at once familiar and comforting, but also exciting. I’m submitting short stories to a few publications and websites and have enjoyed some success, which is something I’m determined to build on this year. I’ve also been invited into a community of indie horror writers who publish anthologies together and always seem to have a project or two on the go, so I’m excited about what the next few months will hold. I encourage any horror fans to try their hand at writing: somehow the best of the genre will have reached your brain through osmosis, through years of watching those gory films and reading those gruesome books, and with discipline it’ll come easier than you think.

I’ve given up on the frizzy hair, though.

Charlotte O’Farrell

Charlotte O’Farrell writes horror, sci-fi, and all things weird and wonderful. She has stories in the Drabble, Horror Tree’s Trembling with Fear, Paragraph Planet, Retreat West and Awkward Mermaid. Find her on Twitter @ChaOFarrell.

Charlotte lives in the East Midlands, works in marketing and enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter and cat. She travels abroad whenever she gets the chance; her top destinations so far are Thailand and Cuba.

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