the dark side

In a recent rejection the editor noted that the story under consideration was a little too dark for the publication.

I had pegged the story as a modern fantasy, you see, but when I thought about it, yes, there was a horror ethos at play in the story.

I’ve been mulling upon this recently: I lean towards horror in everything I write. So even if I’m working within another genre, such as science fiction, there is often a strong horror element running throughout the story.

It’s not a bad thing, but it’s something I need to remember. A number of speculative fiction markets have a “no horror” policy, for instance. I can only assume that they’re trying to weed out the ugly gratuitous pieces that revel in intestines and eyeballs. While I’m not afraid of inserting gory sections in my stories, they usually serve a purpose. I don’t want to gross the reader out necessarily, but sometimes you want the reader to shiver, or maybe to glance over at the closet door that’s ajar and consider closing it.

A friend of mine, who writes horror, recently posited to me that horror is the ghetto of speculative fiction. It’s the shabby run-down area where nasty ne’er-do-wells loiter, and the shadows are hungry. It’s where the science fiction and fantasy writers point, and say, “Well, at least we don’t write that.”

I had never considered this before, but a couple of people have informed me that this is their experience.

Personally, I feel no such prejudice towards the genre, which is why this observation took me by surprise. I’ve always loved the horror films and novels. I want to be scared, and that doesn’t happen often. (I don’t particularly like slasher flicks, however. Violence and gore without a reason bores me.)

I have many friends (men and women) who cannot watch or read horror. Some of them dislike this trait, while others consider the genre not worthy of their attention. So, I’ve encountered a prejudice against horror before, but I didn’t realise that it might be a factor within speculative fiction too.

I’ve no interest in fostering some kind of marginalised mentality. If my inclination is towards horror so be it. I know enough at this point to realise that it’s best to write what you love, and hope your passion for the work will translate to an audience.

A recent re-write of mine was pure science fiction of the near-future variety, and it didn’t contain a drop of horror in the conventional sense. It did include violence and profanity, but that was part of the world of the characters. I realised after I sent the story out that even though the story didn’t have a horrific side, it incorporated elements that some prose markets frown upon too.

Perhaps my only hope is to write my cussing, high-kicking monsters very very well so the reader forgets about the genre and is carried away by the story.

Note to self: Write better.