The Challenge of Horror: The Fragility of Existence

 

“When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs as you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind, you draw large and startling figures.”1

Flannery O’Connor was neither subtle nor officious in her statements regarding literature, instead she said plainly and with acumen exactly what she felt about the deep seated beliefs she held regarding both writing and her faith. In many ways this is the challenge that horror writers face in our time. Most readers are complacently satisfied in their own opinions about life, assuming an optimistic cast of mind that if we work hard enough, do the right things, keep our nose clean, vote for the right leader, protest against the powerful and rich and ugly forces that seek to control us, make the right friends, teach our children the right ethics, go out for an evening or holiday, take in a movie or some other diversion of entertainment, etc. that somehow, someway things in the end will turn out for the best. That after all we live in the best of all possible worlds, right? Wrong.

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Bone Turned Stone

There is nothing forgiving here
but stones and wind,
and they have no prayers;
just the bleak truth of emptiness
and a great void.

People bypass this strange mass
of stone, unknowing of its past,
when oceans massed the great heights,
and sands beached the whales dark plight;
for this is the place of the nameless dead,
mighty sea-wanderers who long fled
below these dark skies, now exposed
on this bright peak like white bleeders
on the run, their white-capped runners
spewing foam.

This is no children’s tale, no human gazed
upon this marred gnarl of twisted pain:
formlessness displayed, and living flesh calcified.
Time, the giver and taker who never blinks,
always sees fraught this bare scene in dark days.
I’d come here with a friend, unbelieving
in such things, till gaze shot home —
bones turned stone in these snarled-toothed ghosts.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2019 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.