Kev Harrison, Why Do You Write Horror?
Why I write horror is actually something of a dual purpose. How it infected me in my youth and what it means to me now. I’m sure there’s a link in there, but I’ll try to explain both facets of it here.
I got the bug for making up stories when I was very young. When I was in primary school, there was a ‘news’ segment every Monday. Kids were encouraged to come to the front of the class if and when they had something exciting to share with the group about their weekend. One weekend, one of my cats got into a scrape with another in the neighbourhood and so I went up and relayed what had happened.
Something about the events or perhaps the way I told the story enraptured my classmates, and so I would spend at least one weekend a month coming up with increasingly improbable stories about my cat’s adventures. I suspect my teachers rolled their eyes as my tales metamorphosed into fantasy, but the students lapped it all up.
By the last year of primary school, aged 10, I’d already read The Rats, by James Herbert and a couple of Stephen King novels from my dad’s and uncle’s bookshelves. I’d also seen the first A Nightmare on Elm Street, the Salem’s Lot mini-series, The Thing and the first two films in The Howling series. I’d also been through the brilliant ‘true-to-life’ magazine The Unexplained (which my dad had about 40 issues of). This obviously speaks to some questionable parenting, but it had me firmly entrenched in horror as an area of interest.
So, when we did our end of school camping trip and the talent show reared its head, I knew exactly what I’d do. During that final day, we’d been to the Guildford city museum, and we kids, with the last of our spending money burning holes in our pockets, had pretty much all bought replica Roman coins which represented those minted at the earliest known settlement in the area. I spent the afternoon crafting together a ghost story about dark spirits trapped in those coins.
I performed my story on stage at the campsite with a torch shone up at my face in clichéd style and won second prize (always the bridesmaid, etc). But far more important than victory was what happened after.
Throughout the week of camp, overnight had been fairly tranquil. A few tents full of kids had been awoken by a persistent pissing squirrel who decided to noisily (and stinkily) mark its territory during the hours of darkness. But in the main, from lights out at 10pm until the breakfast bell at 7, we’d all slept soundly. After the talent show, no-one slept. Some of the girls were crying, begging teachers to take the coins away to the locked-up café area. The boys displayed bravado but refused to turn out their lanterns. The teachers were livid.
I was delighted.
Obviously, I wanted more of that. And that hunger to create terror in people only grew as the years went by.
Fast-forwarding to adulthood and what makes horror persist for me is my experience of life itself. I’ve had an easy ride compared to a great many people, but growing up in an entirely dysfunctional family was a great start in sowing seeds of traumas and scars which still present themselves in my waking life today (even if a spell of therapy in my late twenties improved things immeasurably). As I age, too, witnessing one’s own genetic code begin to fray – even in simple ways like errant hair growth, coupled with the greater need for sleep and recovery from exertion and excesses is a striking reminder of mortality and the fragile, insignificant nature of the self.
Looking outwardly at things like the growth of inequality, the wanton destruction of the natural environment, sexism, racism, xenophobia and homophobia, a rising trend towards tyranny in global politics and ‘solutions’ like banning homelessness, being permissive about discrimination if it is born through religion or patriotism, censoring or eroding the media and so on are very real horrors expanding around us as we speak.
Humanity, it seems, is a cyclic species, doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over as though the protagonist in a story from Greek myth.
Horror can be a bit of fun. A way to take the handbrake off and go crazy with violence, gore and chaos which we all hope we can stay far from in our day-to-day realities. I enjoy writing those stories now and then, as much as anyone.
It can also, though, be one of the most powerful ways to ask the ‘what if’ questions we consider in our darkest moments. To consider the essential questions of being.
There are, naturally, other creators out there far better equipped than me to be framing those questions and whose profound understanding of big moral and philosophical concepts dwarfs my own. But much of my horror is my contribution to the debate and it’s for others to decide how and whether it moves them to think.
So, why do I write horror? For the inner child who wants to creep the life out of people and for the rational self who wants to make sense of all of this. The two walk hand in hand and I cannot think of a better medium to satisfy that duo.
KR: If you write horror, published or not, I’d love to hear Why Do You Write Horror? Please get in touch via my email and together let’s promote horror.
Paths Best Left Untrodden
The debut collection from Kev Harrison, author of THE BALANCE, this tome brings together tales of ghosts in the machine, folkloric creatures let loose, abandoned places and dystopian nightmares.
Containing thirteen stories – three of which are previously unpublished, with three others never before available in print, take your first tentative step onto the PATHS BEST LEFT UNTRODDEN.
Kev Harrison is a British writer of horror and dark fiction living in Lisbon, Portugal. His debut collection, Paths Best Left Untrodden is out now through Northern Republic and his debut novella, The Balance, is also available now from Lycan Valley Press Publications. His forthcoming novella, Below, will be released on 17th August through Silver Shamrock Publishing.
You can find out more about Kev by visiting his official website www.kevharrisonfiction.com
You can follow Kev on Twitter @LisboetaIngles