Why Do I Write Horror?
By Tracy Fahey
For me, true horror has always resided close at hand. Horror that moves me is always horror I can relate to. It’s rooted in the dark side of our nature that lies on the cusp of fear; our frail hopes, our secret worries, our anxiety that one day everything sure and certain in our lives will disappear into an abyss. And so I write of horrors that lurk just under the surface of our lives; of horrors that disrupt our sense of identity.
My first collection, The Unheimlich Manoeuvre, deals with a fear of home; of home as a Gothic, liminal space. It asks what could happen when all that is dear, familiar and known suddenly takes on new and awful forms. Through it, I examine the home as a precarious, vulnerable space. The stories explore what can happen when our sense of security becomes subverted; when that precious space of safety becomes permeable. And underneath all, it asks what might happen when our very identity is called into question. As the protagonist of the first story, ‘Coming Back’ asks repeatedly – Who am I?
This question of identity also pervades my second collection, New Music For Old Rituals. These folk horror stories set out to look at the inevitability of inheritance, the grim recurrence of the past in the present. I took my own heritage of Irish myths and legends and wrote of what the survival and repetition of themes within them continues to tell us; how old stories of death, cruelty, betrayal and loss rehoused in contemporary narratives still act as cautionary tales. Yet again, in this collection the security of cultural knowledge and family inheritance proves illusionary in the face of a quiet horror that drags the protagonists back into the inevitable cycle of darkness.
For my next collection, I Spit Myself Out, the question of identity remains core to my central tenet; that horror resides in the familiar. This time, I’m writing the body. If the home is where we feel safe, and our culture is where we feel rooted, the body is the most important place that we inhabit on a permanent basis. What is more core to our sense of being than the bodies we live in? Of course, many of us are uncomfortable in our bodies as we are. We may struggle variously with illness, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical intimacy, ageing, changing, and societal body ideals. But this collection delves below that and asks what happens when our bodies betray us? What happens when they mutate and transform? When they’re invaded by disease or pregnancy? When they become a site of trauma? What happens to us then? To our very identity? Our bodies, those fleshy homes we reside in, are, above all, a memento mori. We carry with us the seeds of our own mortality. Every hospital visit, every symptom of sickness, every new wrinkle, remind us we live in a meat machine ticking inexorably towards a final silence. And out of all of this experience a real, shared, human horror emerges.
This collection explores these ideas, transmuted through narratives that explore skin as a boundary between what is us and what is not us, of treacherous bodies and unstable minds, of the muteness of loss, the anger of illness, genetic inheritance, being the subject of the harrowing medical gaze, the womb as unwilling vessel, and the body as a site of religious rituals, sexual abuse and fluctuating identities. Writing the body, for me, comes from a place of autoethnography; I write from the starting point of my own body and the sets of identities that come from it, the moments of revelation that having a body brings. And, so, at the moment I’m writing about the horror that resides just beneath the surface of our skin…
So why do I write horror? It comes from my core, from precisely who I am. I write it to funnel the real anxieties I feel, and that I think we all feel in the lives we live. Through writing horror I return again and again to that eternal question of who we are, and of what strange things might happen if that clear, sure sense of self becomes subverted.
True horror for me doesn’t reside in unbelievable monsters or faraway catastrophes.
True horror for me lies in the mundane. It’s part of our everyday rituals. It’s written into our culture. It’s in our homes. It’s latent in our bodies. It’s inside.
Tracy Fahey is an Irish writer of Gothic fiction. In 2017, her debut collection The Unheimlich Manoeuvre was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award. Two of her short stories were long listed by Ellen Datlow for Honourable Mentions in The Best Horror of the Year Volume 8. She is published in over twenty Irish, US and UK anthologies and her work has been reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement. Her first novel, The Girl in the Fort, was released by Fox Spirit Press in 2017. Her second collection, the folk horror New Music For Old Rituals, was published in 2018 by Black Shuck Books. New and upcoming publications include stories in Supernatural Tales Volume 40 and Nightscript V. She is currently working on a new collection, I Spit Myself Out.
You can find out more about Tracy by visiting her official website www.tracyfahey.com
You can follow Rami on Twitter @TracyFahey
New Music For Old Rituals
New Music For Old Rituals brings together a selection of stories that illustrate the pervasive power of the past in the present. Together they present a strange yet familiar country where cautionary tales still serve a purpose; where sacred sites of sea, forest, valley and forts hold power, where old legends live, and where new myths are born. Within the pages of New Music for Old Rituals, bog bodies sleep, contagion rages, ancient rituals are enacted, battles are fought, ghosts linger, and time stutters, fails and turns back on itself.
The Unheimlich Manoeuvre
The Unheimlich Manoeuvre explores the psychological horror that occurs when home is subverted as a place of safety, when it becomes surreal, changes and even disappears…
In these stories, a coma patient wakes to find herself replaced by a doppelgänger, a ghost state reflects doubles of both houses and inhabitants, a suburban enclave takes control of its trespassers, and a beaten woman exacts revenge.
Just as the Heimlich Manoeuvre restores order, health and well-being, The Unheimlich Manoeuvre does quite the opposite.