Why Do I Write Horror?
By John F.D. Taff
When Gavin first put out the call for this series, I thought I’d just pass. I mean, who really wants to hear from me anyway? Perhaps six people, one of whom is definitely not my mother. But the more I thought about this question—Why Do I Write Horror?—I found myself really, really thinking about it. I mean, why do I write horror? So, this piece is at least as much a reasoning out of this essential question for myself as it is for any of you.
I grew up a reader in a family of readers. My mother, brother, sister and even my dad were all readers. Dad enjoyed cop books—Joseph Wambaugh is still is favorite writer, but he also likes Lawrence Sanders and Tom Clancy. My mother, brother and sister and I all veered toward parapsychology, cryptology and xenobiology. In other words, we liked reading about ghosts and monsters and Yeti and Loch Ness and UFOs. Throw in true-crime stuff, and that was reading in the Taff household.
As I grew older, I added more and more fiction to the mix—lots of Asimov and Clarke and Heinlein and Poul Anderson. Then I segued into fantasy via Lord of the Rings, reading a lot of Tolkien, Zelazny, Vance, Donaldson and Silverberg. From, there horror. My first horror read—other than Poe—was King. Night Shift was the book, and I was hooked for good.
So, I guess the easiest reason, the simplest response to Why Do I Write Horror? is, well, I was a reader and when I made the decision to try my hand at writing, horror was what I was reading. That is, at least, the answer I’ve given before to this question.
Why do I write horror? I mean, just because I was reading it at the time isn’t an answer with any real weight behind it.
I contemplate this question sitting in my office, staring at not only a pretty good collection of hardcover books (which I will hopefully never, ever have to move again), but also other memorabilia representing other interests of mine. Dozens of little ships from Star Trek—various incarnations of the Enterprise, as well as other Starfleet and enemy ships. Ships from the new (and rather blah) Star Trek Discovery. Captain America’s Shield is in my office several forms; once behind my desk in backpack form, the other mounted on the inside of my door, this one made of metal (not vibranium, sadly). Superhero figures (what my wife calls my “dolls”) occupy some of the upper shelves—everything from Dr. Strange to the Vision…with more coming.
Why do I like any of this stuff, much less horror?
For that matter, why do I like fall days or hot tea or The Alan Parsons Project or fried chicken? (Okay, that last one is probably because I’m fat.)
Why do I write horror?
It wasn’t just that my particular bus stopped at Horror Street long ago, it’s that the long, interesting trip I was on led to Horror. I got off the bus there and decided to write because my passion fed on horror in a way that few other things (mostly Star Trek and Marvel) did. Or they fed on my passion, on that point I’m not quite clear.
I found that reading horror made me feel something…actually somethings. Not just fear and dread and tension and all of those wonderful frames of mind, but other things, too. Emotions, the entire range of them. Remember feeling the love between the members of the Loser’s Club down in the Barrens? The hope you felt in The Talisman? The shame in Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door? The lust in Garton’s Live Girls? The sorrow at Jake’s death in The Dark Tower?
Horror is the main flame of my passion precisely because it excites so many of my emotions when it is well done. And it is well done so very, very often. We live in a veritable Golden Age of Horror, did you realize that? There’s a gush, a wealth, a tremendous fount of talent producing some wonderful, awful (and I mean that in the sense of full of awe) work that you should be reading—Paul Tremblay and Josh Malerman and Laird Barron and John Langan, yes, but also John Foster, Alan Baxter, Lisa Morton, Erik T. Johnson, J. Daniel Stone, Annie Neugebauer, Bracken MacLeod, Lisa Mannetti, Brian Kirk, Rena Mason, Richard Thomas, Stephen Graham Jones, Philip Fricassi, Priya Sharma, Jonathan Janz, Damien Angelica Walters, Caroline Kepnes, Amber Fallon, Gabino Iglesias, Todd Keisling, James Chambers, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Lucy Snyder and this list could (and does) go on and on and on.
All different shades of horror from splatterpunk to literary, from cosmic to body. Every kind of variation and every emotion. And the recent explosion of diversity in the genre only expands its seemingly endless reach.
All of this out there to read, and all of this infinite, boundless canvas known as horror to work in.
The question isn’t Why do I Write Horror?
The question really is Why Would I Write Anything Else?
Little Black Spots
Fifteen stories of dark horror fiction gathered together for the first time, exposing the delicate blemishes and sinister blots that tarnish the human condition.
A man stumbles on a cult that glorifies spontaneous human combustion…
A disgraced nature photographer applies his skills for a vile outcome…
A darkened city parking structure becomes dangerously and malevolently alive…
An innocent Halloween costume has a husband seeing his wife in a disturbing new light…
A ruined man sees far too much of himself in his broken family…
A young boy finds a mysterious bottle of liquid containing a deadly secret…
And many more.
John F.D. Taff
John F.D. Taff is a Bram Stoker Award®-Nominated author with more than 30 years experience, 90+ short stories and five novels in print. His first fiction collection, Little Deaths, was named the best horror collection of 2012 by HorrorTalk. Jack Ketchum called his novella collection, The End in All Beginnings, “one of the best novella collections I’ve read.” His new fiction collection, Little Black Spots, will be available from Grey Matter Press in the Spring of 2018. Look for more of his work in anthologies such as Cutting Block Book’s Single Slices, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, The Beauty of Death, Shadows Over Main Street 2 and Behold: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders. Taff lives in the wilds of Illinois with three pugs, two cats and one long-suffering wife.
You can follow John on Twitter @johnfdtaff
Please visit John at his official website http://www.johnfdtaff.com