Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Defining Horror, News, & Links

Well, hello! Apparently, I'm going to take a couple weeks off, retroactively. Who knew?

I'm deep in edits for the novel I want to pitch at the upcoming Pikes Peak Writers Conference, with a goal of pitching then getting that sucker out into the world. Whether I get a "send it" or not, I'll be submitting to agents following the conference in April. Exciting!

At the same time, I'm working on writing the next novel, plus finishing a bunch of short stories I started recently.

I was notified today that the paper issue of Cheapjack Pulp is now available on Amazon, and the ebook will be available there this Friday, but can be pre-ordered now. You can find both available formats HERE.


While I was working on getting that added to my Amazon Author Central account, I happened across the Audible version of my short memoir piece, "Grandma's Leather Sofa." I didn't realize it was available! For those of you who don't enjoy horror, this is one of my few published pieces that isn't horror. It's available for purchase HERE. It's read by Hallie Ricardo, who has quite a few audio books under her belt (I was scanning through her credits.) It's so cool to hear my story read by someone else like this. And the person who designed the cover did a great job! I need to see if I can find out who it was in order to give them proper credit, but for now I'm not sure. Also, this is the first thing that's only under my name, rather than a magazine or anthology where it's a bunch of us, so if you're so inclined, a review would be lovely.

Speaking of reviews, I just found one on one of the magazines I'm in that specifically calls out my story. Yay!

I was recently involved in a conversation on Facebook about horror movies. The question was whether a horror movie that's PG-13 can be a good film. As conversations do, this one metamorphosed into other related topics, and I noticed that different people define horror differently. Given, I've noticed this before (and also...duh). A few examples: 1. People disagree on whether Aliens is horror or adventure sci-fi (I believe it's both), 2. I've been told by several folks (all male) that The Handmaid's Tale isn't horror (it sure is if you're a woman.)

I tend to define horror more broadly than some. For example, I consider many dystopians to be a form of horror. Handmaid's Tale is more appropriately a dystopian, but the ramifications are terrifying. Atwood doesn't just show a different world, she tells us how it happened and makes it look so easy. There is a feeling of helplessness inherent to the story, and I think women aren't so far removed from the days they couldn't bank or own property or vote that the possibility of being put back in that place isn't scary.

When exploring whether something is horror, or can be treated as such, one of the first questions to ask is what you get from the story. Horror doesn't just exist to provide jump scares (which exist as a release valve in many cases, much like comic relief does, a bleeding off of pressure/tension). There's a place for jump scares, just as there's a place for gore, but often horror exists to cross lines its creators can't cross otherwise. I don't mean fantasy fulfillment, but rather a means to address issues that are hard to talk about. Metaphor is used heavily in horror to represent other things, whether fears or current issues/affairs. Horror tends to be timely, even if it's not obvious that this is so.

Despite what I said above, there can also be an element of fantasy or wish fulfillment. Why else would "revenge porn" exist? I Spit On Your Grave and The Last House on the Left are extreme examples, but there's often a more discreet usage of it. What about the character in horror films or books who "gets theirs," even though they're technically also victims of the Big Bad? Who doesn't cheer when Paul Reiser's character gets his in Aliens? We shouldn't be rooting for the bad guy, yet we do when the not-so-good guy is a jerk who we feel has earned it. This one's easy to trace. How many times in a week does someone do something to you that you wish they'd pay for? That guy who cut you off on the freeway. The woman who stole your parking spot. The dude yammering away on his cell phone during the movie. We deal with minor irritations like these on an almost daily basis, and it feels good to see karma visit someone, even if they didn't do anything to you personally.

This is an example of horror letting you enjoy the dark within yourself. We all have something dark or inappropriate, possibly even shameful (though much of what we feel this shame over is something others might not see as wrong at all). Exploring it through story is as freeing as seeing someone pay for their wrongs.

Horror blurs the lines, pushes back, tests society. It takes norms and dashes them on the ground. It scares us, but if it's really good, it makes us think, to evaluate ourselves and those around us. The good stuff sticks with us long after our initial experience with it. It creeps around our synapses and randomly nudges them.

So what is horror? Horror is psychological. Or it's gory. Or it's tense. Or it speaks to a frightening future. Or. Or. Or. All in all, horror is what scares you, even if that scare doesn't involve one monster. Horror is what makes you think about the things you'd rather not. Horror is a claw reaching out from under the bed, the neighbor down the street, the twisted future, a sick man, a vengeful woman, a ghost, a harmless clown (or a harmful one), history, a mystery. What scares me won't scare you, and vice versa.

In short? Horror is what you define it as, even if your definition is different than mine. That's clear as mud, right?

How about some links?

Accepting Submissions:

Blackbird is accepting poetry, short fiction, personal essays, and plays. Up to 8000 words. Pays after publication, but doesn't specify pay amount. Deadline April 15.

Helios is accepting fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art. Current theme is Redux and Progression. Word count varies per type of submission, as does pay. Next submission period is April 1 to April 15.

Third Flatiron is accepting short fiction and flash humor pieces in the theme of Cat's Breakfast (sci-fi and satire). This is intended as a tribute to Vonnegut. 1500 to 3000 words. Deadline April 15.

18th Wall is accepting short stories and novellas for Their Coats All Red. Strange fiction set in the high Victorian era. 4000 to 16,000 words. Pays royalties. Deadline April 15.

Hashtag Queer is accepting short stories for an LGBTQ anthology. I couldn't get their submission guidelines page to come up, so have no further information other than the current deadline of April 30.

The Timberline Review is accepting short stories, creative nonfiction, essays, poetry, and flash fiction. Up to 5000 words preferred. Pays $25. Deadline April 30.

Cohesion Press is accepting short fiction for SNAFU Judgement Day, an anthology of post-apocalyptic military horror. 2000 to 10,000 words. Pays $.05AUD/word. Deadline April 30.

Afrocentric Books is accepting short fiction for Afromyth, a mythical fantasy anthology. Main character must be of indigenous African descent. 1000 to 7500 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline April 30.

How do you define horror? Have you ever had a story come out and not known it right away? Any good reviews or news? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

10 comments:

  1. Well done on all the writing work! Good luck with the pitch at the conference! Fingers crossed for you.... :)

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  2. I like your take on horror. And I loved when Burke got his.

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  3. Wow! Things have sure come up roses for you - good for you! Looking forward to Grandma's Leather Sofa - as well as several others I see on your side panel ;-)
    The links are rather inspiring in that I want to sit down, finish and submit.
    I'll be thinking about "enjoy the dark within yourself" for some time to come - Best wishes!

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  4. Aliens is more science fiction, Alien is both.
    There are some good PG13 horror films out there - The Ring.
    Torture porn - no idea what it is. Reality. Although I think reality can be scarier.

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  5. Hi Shannon - well done on getting so much done and getting organised with preparation for the conference and submission. Just not happy with horror and try and avoid it ... but good luck and cheers Hilary

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  6. Good luck getting your next book into the world. Seems like you're plenty busy though!

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  7. Fantastic! Surprises like that are the good ones. :) I agree with you about horror and Alien. Thanks for the links! I wrote a flash piece for one of the earlier venues you posted earlier this month. I just have to polish it up and send it out. :)

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  8. I'm excited to finally see a post about horror! One thing that really depresses me about this genre is how many people write it off as schlock or crap. They think about torture porn or gore rather than The Handmaid's Tale, (Rita Hayworth &) The Shawshank Redemption, or Gone Girl.

    It's really frustrating. A good percentage of mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels are horror, but because mainstream publishers insist that "horror doesn't sell," we all have to call it something else. Grrr....

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  9. Ooo, good luck pitching your novel!

    The comeuppance element of Horror can be very fun. I can't think of many books where it works for me, but it's a staple of film, whether it's waiting for a mean character to get killed by the villain, or detesting the villain so much that I can't wait for them to get it, as in Get Out.

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  10. I love surprises like yours! Congratulations on all of the publications, Shannon. That wonderful. I've been cutting back (you read my post about the rotten shoulder) so I'm visiting blogs, but not like I used to. Hoping I'll be back up to speed soon. Keep on writing!!!!!

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