Why Do I Write Horror?
By R.A. Busby
Why do I write horror? Throughout its history from Ann Radcliffe to Anne Rice and beyond, horror fiction has held a unique appeal for women writers. For me, it’s easy to see why. To paraphrase Emily Dickinson, horror fiction allows authors to “tell all the truth, but tell it slant.”
Truth matters. In “straight” unslanted fiction, as in life, women are not always encouraged to tell uncomfortable truths about their own experience. Here are a few. Menstruation can be horrifying, especially the first time. During pregnancy, a whole different human being inhabits your body while you’re still using it. Postpartum depression is a lot more common than you think. Most female murder victims are killed by their partners. Other less-savory topics include women’s rage and women’s age, both notorious room-clearers at a party.
The slanted truths of horror allow writers of all genders to broach these issues with a frankness we don’t often allow ourselves otherwise. “The Yellow Wallpaper,” The Babadook, The Exorcist, and Rosemary’s Baby provide more disturbing and frank insights about pregnancy, postpartum depression, and parenting than all five seasons of The Brady Bunch ever did, while We Have Always Lived in the Castle, “The Fall River Axe Murders,” Rebecca, Jane Eyre, Hereditary, and Carrie put angry women at the center of the action and then refuse to look away or write them off. It’s dark in the depths, but it’s often where the real truths hang out longest, in those unexplored Mariana Trenches of the mind.
For me personally, I write horror because it is a vehicle for truth, for facing my worst personal fears–fears of losing those I love, fears of dissolution, of entrapment, of isolation. Those are universal fears, of course, but I particularly love that horror invites its audience to take its female characters’ fears seriously and not write them off dismissively as hysteria. When we read horror, we know the woman isn’t crazy; the house really is haunted and the neighbors really are in league with the Devil.
The other reason is a personal one. As Jordan Peele observed, horror is comedy without the punchline. In the case of horror, though, its deep bones and basic structure are fundamentally comic a good part of the time. The Devil is exorcised from Regan; Thomasin finds new life with the witches, Jamie Lee Curtis lives to fight another day. There are obviously many notable exceptions, but even in those texts with less-sunny endings, we are left with a deeper understanding of the truth, a greater knowledge of the world around us. We, the audience, have survived. We are all the Final Girl. And that, for me, is possibly the best reason of all.
KR: You can find the Kendall Review for Bits and an Interview with R.A. Busby right here on the blog.
An award-winning literature teacher and die-hard horror fan, R. A. Busby is also the author of a modern English translation of Shakespeare and a recently-completed horror novel. “I was always instructed to write about what I know,” she states, “and I know what scares me.” In her spare time, R.A. Busby watches cheesy Gothic movies and goes running in the desert with her dog.
For more information on R.A please visit her official website www.rabusbybooks.weebly.com
You can follow R.A. on Twitter @RABusby1
Elementary schoolteacher Nadie Denneby is having a terrible day. Not only has her car been wrecked on the way to work, but she feels like she’s falling apart―literally.
At first it’s just a tooth.
Then a finger.
How many bits of herself can she lose?