Why Do I Write Horror?
By Jim Horlock
When I was a child, I was afraid of everything.
I knew that the creaking of the house meant there were monsters in the attic. I knew that trees would reach down and grab you when adults weren’t looking. I knew that if I looked out of the window at night, there would be a pale and horrifying face looking back in at me.
I’ve had terrible nightmares for as long as I can remember, something that continues to this day, so maybe that’s where the fear crept in from. Or perhaps it was the fact our home was in the grounds of a Victorian asylum, complete with creepy gothic architecture and the threat of strangers who weren’t quite right.
Whatever the cause was, fear took up a good chunk of my mental real estate, both consciously and subconsciously. I think this was the driving force behind my curiosity for the morbid, the macabre and the monstrous – I wanted to understand fear, I wanted to know what made other people afraid.
Horror movies seemed a good place to start and, despite the fact that I woke up screaming several nights in a row after seeing “Alien” at the tender age of six, and was afraid to sleep at all after I learned who Freddy Krueger was, I kept coming back for more. There was something fascinating about these boogeymen.
As I grew older, it became almost a dare – a test of wills. Everyone had heard of “The Exorcist”, a film that terrified my parent’s generation. Could I pluck up the courage to watch it? Could I get all the way through “Friday the 13th”? Or “Event Horizon”? Or “The Thing”? By the time I was fourteen, I’d sought out all of these and more, trawling the TV channels after my parents had gone to bed, looking for something to terrify me.
The writing side of things was something that grew independently, gestating in a different section of my brain. I knew I had a vivid imagination, I’d been inventing stories and characters as long as I could remember. These stories were almost exclusively high fantasy, however – heroes and magic and dragons and evil wizards. It wasn’t until later that I started to write about horror and even then, it wasn’t to scare people.
By the time I went to university, I was very familiar with horror movies. The tropes and clichés were so well known to me, after my excessive binging, that it was no longer a surprise when Michael Myers loomed out of the darkness or when the body of the person who disappeared earlier turned up again to startle the clueless protagonists. I had started to subvert these expectations in my writing, though. I turned out early drafts of stories like “The Zombie in my Office” (recently published in a short story collection “A Sharp Stick in the Eye” by Books and Boos Press), where there was a horror element but it was mostly there to be lovingly mocked for the purpose of humour. There was neat synchronicity there, I discovered. A joke and a scare, after all, both build in a similar way – the increase of tension until the punchline/jump relieves it again.
It was only when people started to point out that the horror parts in my stories were just as strong as the humour ones, that I started to realise how much I had enjoyed writing them. After years of nightmares and horror movies, I’d actually gained a talent for the grim and the gross. My first real success with a story that was all horror and no humour was a short story called “Limbs”, published in Hinnom 003 by Gehenna & Hinnom Books. Interestingly enough, “Limbs” is full of things that scare me personally: body-horror and the twisting of loved ones into unrecognizable monsters.
I came to realise, I enjoyed the reaction that these grizzly scenes got from the people reading them. After so long being afraid, it was kind of nice to be the one causing the fear for a change. I realise saying that makes me sound like a super-villain and I’m fine with that. I’m saving up for a moon-base with a giant laser as we speak. Mwahahaha, etc.
I think you can learn a lot about a person by what they fear and, as I started to experiment more with writing horror, I became more and more interested in what made other people afraid. When you get right down to it, the bogeymen or horror are only really scary because they represent something deeper. Ghosts invade the home and threaten our personal security. Vampires challenge us by revealing our darkest desires and temptations. Zombies swarm, a deadly plague of consumers. The Lovecraftian monsters beyond our realm threaten who we are at the core of ourselves, unhinging us from reality and driving us insane.
Without knowing it or intending it, I’d studied these things pretty much my whole life, starting with the monsters from my nightmares.
So, why do I write horror? Well, I guess you could say I’ve got years of fear to share and I’ve chosen to share it with you. You’re welcome.
A Sharp Stick In The Eye
Do funerals make you chuckle?
Is Hannibal Lecter a really funny guy?
Do friends and family keep on telling you “That’s nothing to laugh at”?
Is the dark side of humor your thing?
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That’s nothing to laugh at?
Oh, we disagree.
Jim Horlock is a strange bloke by all accounts. He lives in Cardiff, Wales amongst the detritus of his nerdiness – comic books, video games and dozens of half-filled notebooks of scribbled story ideas. A graduate of the University of Glamorgan, Jim has been writing stories for almost as long as he can remember and considers himself a seasoned deception enthusiast.
So far he has had work published in a number of anthologies including Eclectically Heroic (Inklings Publishing), A Sharp Stick in the Eye (Books & Boos Press), Tales from the Boiler Room (Mighty Quill Books) as well as Hinnom Magazine 003 (Gehenna & Hinnom Books). A short story of his was also recently performed on stage by Cast Iron Theatre in Brighton.
You can follow Jim on Twitter @HorlockWarlock
You can follow Jim on Instagram jim_horlock_writes
You can visit Jim’s Amazon page here