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For the October Halloween issue, Editor Tim dug me out of my crypt to write an editorial. It has been a while since Iíve graced the e-pages of Quantum Muse. Itís good to be back, even if the light burns my eyes.
As regular readers of QM know, we donít publish a lot of horror. Weíve always had the ďAlternativeĒ category and the occasional really good story got stuffed in there. A good story is a good story. There are the occasional S/F & Horror or Fantasy/Horror stories so we could just ignore the horror label and publish it.
We donít seek out horror for the same reason we donít publish poetry. Nobody wants to read mountains of bad poetry or horror. Trust me, thereís an awful lot of really bad horror out there. Life is too short and precious to slog through it.
I blame Stephen King. He made a lot of money with horror. Nothing inspires imitation like success. While Iím not much of a fan of horror, I will read the occasional King novel. When heís at the top of his game, heís a pretty good writer. There are so many ways for horror to be just plain horrible. Even King doesnít avoid all the pitfalls.
One of my big complaints is splatter for the sake of splatter. Gore only gets you so far. For editor Mike and I, whoíve seen more than our fair share of gore in real life, reading it doesnít have much shock value. Mikeís a paramedic and Iím a former Firefighter. Blood and gore for us just meant a bad day at work -or maybe in Mikeís case, a good day. Iíve never seen anyone so happy to have have human brains spilling on his boots. Man loves his work.
What really gets me is psychological horror. It gets inside your head. A good writer can slowly build up from the slightly odd, to the uncomfortable, right up to full dread. Go back to the masters to see how it was done. Poe could do it. Lovecraft knew how to kill the hopes and dreams of foolish mortals.
Fritz Leiber is best known as a Sword and Sorcery Fantasy writer, but his Our Lady Of Darkness is a pretty good more recent example of psychological horror. If you go to Amazon and read the reviews, people either love it or hate it. Those who hate it donít get it. Perhaps their senses have been dulled by mindless splatter fiction? My wife thought it was the scariest thing sheís ever read and it gave her nightmares. This from a woman with many years working in the medical field, whoís seen more than her fair share of trauma and death.
It starts with a small thing, a wave from a window. Then Leiber slowly leads you down a road of paranormal dread. The setting isnít some dark Scottish moor, or a deep forest. Itís a modern city. It doesnít matter. The skyscrapers and busy streets start to look like illusions. Normal life begins to feel like a thin veil stretched over a dark core.
A good horror story needs to harness the readerís imagination. It canít be just a transcript of a first person shooter game. Of course, the key to any genre of writing is to have a good story. All manner of sins can be forgiven if you have a good story.
how's about another collection of short stories from the editors of QM?
I Can certainly agree with Mr. Coulombe - especially the part about Stephen King's descent into writing horrible horror. I'm glad someone finally just came out and..(More in Forum)
Ray, good to see you back.
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Give generously to the United Wa - uh, we mean Quantum Muse. It keeps Mike off the streets from scaring small children and the Web Goddess from spray painting Town Hall - again.
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