|No Friend in the Moviehouse, No Saints Bleeding on the Page
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|Author:||Grymmscape [ Mon Jun 18, 2012 5:28 pm ]|
|Post subject:||No Friend in the Moviehouse, No Saints Bleeding on the Page|
After a trio of really busy months at work and dealing with "adult-stuff" (read that: Real Life), I spent part of this past weekend reading and catching up on movies I've meant to watch, movies whose titles I've heard bandied about in various horror forum threads...
For the most part, this did not make me happy. Most of this stuff was so dim-witted as to be painfully embarrassing. And that which wasn't dim-witted was pandering to the grubbiest goon-mentality available. For real. The anthology I read -- No, I'm not going to name the antho nor its editor, but it IS a fairly popular big publishing house product -- was predominantly peppered with what I felt were unfocused, gimmick-happy and slightly snarky insider "riffs" on horror tropes. Not real stories with any kind of an emotional or psychological center, though I do admit they all were modestly well-written from a technical viewpoint. Meanwhile, the movies were just wastes of celluloid that I could not believe actually got green-lit by any self-respecting studio with an actual expectation of a monetary return on their investment. They were lowest common denominator crap, pure and simple, with little to no artistic merit. Shit, man, they weren't even good torture porn and that ain't asking for much.
This reminded me of a blog entry I wrote nearly three years ago bemoaning the state of my chosen genre. I re-post this essay here because I still think the points I made are absolutely valid, maybe even more so now than then... the posting follows immediately:
Horror doesn't have to be dumb.
Yeah, for real, that's what a lot of rather supercilious literary afficianados think of the horror-suspense genre and of its readers: that they are visceral-thrill addicts hooked on dim-witted gorefests that basically repeat/recycle the same old plot/story tropes ad nauseum. These readers are seen to be a not terribly discerning, semi-literate audience for storylines centered around hack-n-slash/haunted house/possessed children/vampire-werewolf-mummy-zombie/quasi-biblical devil-amok-on-earth plotlines and they couldn't begin to care about characterization or quality of storytelling.
And to a certain extent they're right. There I said it. Not taking it back, either.
Great fiction, regardless of genre, should aspire to be more than just a fictional romp between contesting characters in popularized, easily-digested depictions of battles between "Good" and "Evil". There are shades of gray. There are morality tales within the action. There are evolutions depicting the growth of the characters because of, or in spite of, the action putting them through their paces. There's Love and Betrayal and Honor and Duty and Hate and Greed and Madness, not portrayed in broad cartoonish strokes, but in reasonable representations of how people behave. There's a dollop of The Real amidst the swashbuckling stew cooked in the melodrama.
I've looked at the bookshelves over the decades at various brick 'n' mortar booksellers and I've seen many so-called novels pandering to the lowest common denominator amongst their intended readership: "cool" (DEFINITELY in quotes!) and ingenious ways to kill people, graphic descriptions of torture and dismemberment rendered simply for shock value's sakes, and an oddly paradoxical reactionary moral center that somehow doesn't really jibe with the story's presentation. Those books in no way sought to reflect on the times in which the characters populating them lived nor sought to present the reader with a window onto his or her own world or place in the world. Truthfully, more often than not, I'd read better comic books. That's NOT intended as a put down of comic books, either. This takes into consideration the fact that many comic books are entering their fourth and fifth decades of publication and are being turned into cinematic entertainment, whereupon their ideas, concepts and characters are presented pretty successfully to a larger NON-GENRE audience, while a lot of those horror novels that cluttered the bookshelves in the '70s, '80s, and mid-1990s were forgotten and eventually became landfill never truly sparked anyone's interest except for a rabid, misanthropic, cloistered, cliquish, self-aggrandizing few.
I'm a reader as well as a writer and let me tell you: gore for gore's sakes is utter crap unless you can present it with intelligence and/or within a thought-provoking framework. It has to serve the narrative. And writing the same vampire story or werewolf or zombie story over and over, using stereotyped tropes presented in the most shallow manner so as not to offend or confuse the most conservative genre-fan diehards is utter crap, as well. An utter waste of time and material, too, is writing an "in-jokey", ego-thumping "underground" novel strictly for the edification of conventioneering fandom.
You can be creepy, eerie, snide and even bloody, but you can be smart, as well. You know what I mean: Simple it ain't.
Make your novel ABOUT something. Horror writing is ripe to do that, to delve into areas normally left shunned in the dark and to bring interpretations and ideas about human nature under extreme duress into the light.
Horror needs to take up that banner science fiction was waving from a couple decades past. Horror needs to step into the space vacated by that movement, where the "New Wave" of mid-Seventies and early-Eighties science fiction left off. One needn't risk the visceral thrill and electricity of an occult-oriented, monster-populated, chase-and-pursuit plotline for "big concept" ideas or social commentary. The two are not mutually exclusive. You can write for thinking adults and STILL kick serious ass.
Reliance on and overuse of cliches will kill the popularity, and legitimacy, of a genre faster than you can say "Friday the 13th, Part XX" (and Yes, I realize the "Friday the 13th" series were movies, not books -- do try to keep up and stop being so literal-minded). Even allowing for the fact that a fair amount of the horror genre reading audience are also members of the Bad Film viewing audience, there's no reason that a bloody story can't have some depth. And inbred, self-referential works for the vanity of a closed community are a sure-fire indicator that the cadaver has stopped twitching and that the damned thing is dead.
I guess work of that stripe is often presented because perhaps the writers who create such flimsy work see themselves as entertainers first and writers second. Or maybe they're just in love with the thrill of presenting The Big Shock to their readership and getting some buzz in the community for that. Or maybe they don't really understand just what it is a "novel" is supposed to be.
By definition, a novel is a literary exercise of a desire to depict and interpret human character. Readers are intended to be both entertained and provided a deeper perception or interpretation of human life and it's problems. The novel deals with the interactions and permutations of a human (or human-like) characters in a social framework, man as a global, social being -- fiction in some way mirroring reality, even when the literary conventions lie in the realm of the fantastical.
It's not centered around one-note gimmicks. Or, at least, it's not supposed to be.
Horror doesn't have to be dumb.
Thank God for Bradbury, Jackson, Matheson, King, Koontz, Barker, Straub, Grant and their apprentices. They write novels ... well. The fans of so-called "hardcore" horror may not enjoy their work (and honestly, I find that hard to imagine), but these authors, and those who emulate them, strive to consistently up the genre's literary ante. They may not be the most inventive authors, but they are among the most visible of those who try to keep the genre from becoming a literary ghetto. They aim high, and even when they fail, the genre is better for it.
So why am I writing this?
Because I really, really enjoy and care about this genre and I know it can do better, be better, that it can evolve into something that surprises and delights a new, larger generation of readers. People fondly remember the most memorable stories they encounter in this genre and they enthusiastically share their opinions and recollections about those stories with other readers and fans. This is, of course, a very good thing for us writers. It keeps our market-base interested. It makes them want our new work. Our best work is still ahead of us, new genre-redefining visions are as yet unpublished. And as a writer, I want to be a part of that.
Hell, I HAVE to be a part of that. Don't you?
I don't want to intentionally make my work disposable.
There I said it. Not taking it back, either.
|Author:||ttzuma [ Fri Jun 29, 2012 9:07 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: No Friend in the Moviehouse, No Saints Bleeding on the P|
GERRRAAATTTTEEEE post Joe!
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