You Write that Crap?
The Necessity of Horror
By Carter Nipper
Life on Earth has always been a struggle
against incredible odds for humans. We possess no built-in weapons, no innate
defensive systems. Our senses are all weak, and we don't run very fast compared
to the predators that hunt us. Our skin is soft, and our muscles weak. Many
carnivores consider us tasty. The fact that humans have survived so long and
advanced so far in knowledge and technology is truly miraculous. How did this
happen? What gave us our edge?
We survived and advanced because we dream.
We dream of possibilities and work to make them real. Every human culture has
its own set of dreams, its own theories to explain the mysteries of the
universe. These dreams and theories make up a culture's mythology, a culture's
attempt to explain the unexplainable in terms that everyone can understand.
A culture tells its dreams through its art.
Its artists have the courage to articulate the dreams that everyone shares.
Some dream in stone or wood or metal, some in colors and shapes. Some dream in
sound or movement. Writers dream in words. Our words carry our readers to
far-off times and places, to the past, to the future. Our words give life to
Many of our dreams are lovely, many are great
ways to escape from ordinary life -- but we also have bad dreams. We need
writers who have the courage to dredge up our most fearful nightmares and expose
them. We need writers who can show us that we are not bad or broken or crazy
when these dreams intrude on our thoughts, only human. We need writers who can
show us how we can fight our monsters. We need horror.
Ultimately, horror is about the struggle
between good and evil. By casting this struggle in the form of a story, we gain
a little necessary distance from our fears and can regard them more
objectively. We find out that the monster we can see is vastly less threatening
than the one we only imagine. In the same way that light shrivels up the
monsters under the bed, the light that we cast upon our fears through horror
fiction helps us see that they are not as frightening as we had thought.
By being able to stand apart from the
struggle between good and evil, we can also find ways to understand this
struggle better. When we look at it from outside, we can see and understand
that the victory of good is difficult and not without cost, sometimes a terrible
cost. We also can understand that good does not always win. This is reality.
We see it around us every day. Horror helps us unleash our imaginations to find
ways to cope with harsh realities.
Many have contended that all
literature is ultimately about good versus evil, and I won't argue with that.
What, then, sets horror apart as a genre unto itself? It is the ability of
horror to look deeply into us and pull out our most primal feelings. Horror
holds a mirror in front of us and forces us to look. It is shock therapy for
the soul. Horror forces us to face the fact that all of us contain a little bit
of the vampire, the werewolf, the unnameable monster within ourselves.
Many people don't like that and won't look,
and that's okay. I, though, like to keep my demons and monsters out in the
light where I can see them and fight them. I don't like things that sneak up
behind me and bite me on the butt. That's why I write that crap.