bITS 'N CHUNKS
I don't really remember what my first encounter with body horror was. I know it was a movie. It was more than likely Alien or probably Nightmare on Elm St II. Yeah, I think it was that. Anyways, other than being thoroughly grossed out and creeped right the hell out, I right away appreciated the transformative nature of body horror. Of becoming something greater and bigger than yourself and of course terrible and scary.
Do I think body horror is the scariest subgenre? Nah, it's just my preferred one. It couples well with so many things, most notably psychological horror. The feeling of wrongness out of your control to fix it. Being helpless in your own body and in your own head is something I can relate to as someone that frequently goes through suicidal periods thanks to depression. I also frequently draw on my own bodily pain because I'm way too familiar with that.
The Fly ('50s with all due respect to Cronenberg) made me want to write sci-fi but Clive Barker made me want to write horror. Weird shit, unpublishable "what the hell?" type material. It wouldn't be fair to say Clive is my favorite author -- I can admit he has his short comings. Sometimes he's a little too out there when he drifts away from the splatterpunk and into dark fantasy. I don't dislike dark fantasy, mind you! I quite enjoy it. Sometimes, though, Clive is trippin'. I remember how emotionally exhausted I was after reading Imajica. The mark of a good author that has gone too damn far.
But yeah, my first exposure to Clive was of course Hellraiser. Pinhead was so damn blasphemous and so over the line it wasn't even funny. I wore the first two movies out and I actually like the third and fourth movies too. The creature design and most importantly the storytelling have stayed with me forever. When I found out that it was based off a book, I used the online library search tool to find it and immediately rent it. From there, I read quite a bit more of his work but my favorites are the Books of Blood series and Cabal. Nightbreed!!
When I decide to get flippin' weird there's a lot of elements of grotesque body horror in my work to the point where I am kind of scared that I'm a sociopath. I love bodies splitting in half to reveal something that shouldn't be there. I love tears of blood. I love painful horns growing out of the forehead. I love the revelation. Like I said, it's the transformative aspect. Body horror is also often dystopic and sleazy, kind of a left over from my B-movie days. Think Cronenberg. There are forces beyond your control using your body to commit unspeakable acts and when they're done with you they will discard you in the most ugly ways. Look what they've done to you!
The history of body horror is neat, too. Arguably it's been around since folklore in the form of shapeshifters like vampires and werewolves. Stories of people dying unclean or the devil using your corpse to spread evil. Even worse if you voluntarily gave up your soul. Body horror exists in nature as well in the form of parasites and fungus and invasive plant species. It's something we've seen and we're familiar with, so when it happens large scale it makes us a little uneasy.
I'm reminded of an interview with Dario Argento in which he explains his philosophy towards murder scenes -- he goes for things that the audience is familiar with, like scalding hot water. They say write what you know, right? I can definitely relate to you the experience of someone or something hijacking you consciousness & putting you through some shit. Not too many people know what it feels like to be shot with a bullet but just about all of us have been burned by something. Similarly, not too many of us have borne host to a parasitic alien but a lot of us have been sick, had a mysterious virus, or maybe even experienced a troubled pregnancy.
So I've started becoming more sensitive about where I take inspiration from and why. I've admitted several times out loud, to myself, workshop guests, my cats my writing is a little overly theatrical sometimes. Like I'm just begging for a movie adaptation one of these days.
It sucks because it makes things hard to transcribe from a very lucid visual point to a very literary point. Simply put, you're not going to see exactly what I see nor am I interested in you having the exact same interpretation.
Now, there's things we have to agree on. When I say a character is a black female, she is. When I say someone has red hair, they do unless I forget continuity and suddenly they don't. What I'm saying is this…
In my fiction class in college one year, I introduced myself with stating I'm a film student and I hadn't read a book in a long time. That was pretentious but it was correct -- up to that point I hadn't really read any books, much of my college course material was books I'd already read and did not need/want to read again, and I'd taken more to watching a lot of Japanese cyberpunk and New Wave.
I think what happened was I needed a new template. At some point literally all I did was read, read two to three books at a time to the point where I was literally getting behind on my coursework because I was too busy doing other things (this became a thread of my life). When I decided to write, until I figured out my own style I realized I needed a template. The books I was reading served as that template, but it was a weird time because I was reading a mix of Victorian literature, Russian modernism, and the young adult assignments I had to read in class. So looking back, of course I was finding my way but I don't really feel like I was writing as a real person. I was inhabiting various historical figures and writing as they would. A myna bird, basically.
Then what happened was I got mighty pretentious about it. I was shy in real life but on the internet I definitely got the big head. At this point I was writing almost exclusively fanfiction and people were praising my work and I was getting massive views. It was hear I learned to…monitor my activity. That's right folks, writing fanfiction will teach you a few things. While keeping my dashed together "style" I also started catering to my audience. But instead of making connections I was snickering at other people's writing because I didn't think they were as good as me. Look, I'm classically trained! These other punks sounded like amateurs.
I got humbled when I started branching out to original fiction and I realized nobody was really following me there. I was reading other people's works and wondering why they were so much more successful. Well, there's a few reasons young me -- being able to put together a cohesive story, good dialogue, character development, plotting and pacing…I had to sit down and figure it out. It wasn't just enough to copy Alexandre Dumas but the point was to learn from him.
At some point in my wayward youth, I drifted into something pretty hardcore: the underground movie scene. Now, I've been watching b-movies my whole damn life but I didn't realize there was an actual internet community for them until I was like maybe thirteen or fourteen. Then I was obsessed. I was in a place where biker babes were good and you said "feelm" with as much irony or gusto as you dared. Also, the people were funny and had a similar sense of humor. At that point I was Misfits horrorpunk trash. I read a ton of reviews and I wanted to write my own, too. In doing this, I made new friends, gained some damn people skills, and more importantly found a new template.
Yes, I started copying schlock movies. Except better this time because now I understood the principles of writing.
As I watched more underground movies, that became my template for writing. It kind of worked for a while because at least I was new and fresh again, but it got a little stale and I started struggling again. I couldn't figure out what was wrong.
Recently, I did a little comparison on myself. I compared what was essentially a songfic to something I'd written channeling a movie more or less. The songfic flowed so much easier without revealing it's obvious influences, it was subtle and dare I say kind of good. The other piece…well, it was trying but it was too wordy. Too emotive. I had a hard time getting to the point. You know what that means…
I need to get out of my own head and stop overanalyzing.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...