Sunday, July 24, 2016
I really don’t. I’ve found the most shocking thing about being a horror writer is how many people think I do simply because I’ve written novels about werewolves.
For the last two decades, I’ve been denouncing a book I wrote called In a Dark Place, which was initially published as “the story of a true haunting.” I’ve been denouncing it because the book and the two “demonologists” who "investigated" the "case," Ed and Lorraine Warren, were frauds. (I made all of those quotation marks in the air with my fingers.) I made every effort to make the book entertaining and scary and I encourage people to read it for that, but it's certainly not a "true story." (It has been reprinted without those claims at my insistence.) In the process of denouncing the book and the Warrens, I’ve also expressed my feelings about the entire paranormal industry, which are no different. And yet, people are still appalled to learn that I don’t believe in ghosts because I wrote a ghost story called The Loveliest Dead. Or that I don’t believe in vampires because I wrote about them in three novels.
Others seem to think that writers condone everything they write about. My father believed that if I wrote about violence, then I condoned it, and if I didn’t condone it, I wouldn’t write about it. Of course, my dad left school for good in the sixth grade. But that particular excuse is not always available.
I once approached a respected, well-educated horror writer for a blurb for one of my werewolf novels, both of which include brutal rapes committed by werewolves. She explained, quite haughtily, that she had heard my books depicted violence toward women and she could not endorse that. (I wonder what she would have thought had she actually read them. We'll never know.) This suggests to me that because I’ve depicted violence against women in my fiction, she believes that I condone violence against women. She gave me no reason to come to any other conclusion. Of course, it doesn’t matter what her reasoning was because I cannot take seriously anyone who judges books not by merit but by agenda—including books she hasn’t read.
Things like rape and other violent acts do exist, they do occur, they are part of life on planet earth. If fiction cannot reflect that, then it is useless and has no purpose. If art cannot hold a mirror up to the entire scope of the human experience, then it has no other reason to exist. And if you can’t endorse horror fiction that depicts violence toward women and only because it depicts violence toward women, what the hell are you doing in the genre?
For those who have not read my fiction, I have always made a great effort to portray violence of any kind, including rape, as horrifically as possible. I don’t want it to appear on the pages of my work as anything but what it is, one of the many horrible things we humans have been doing to each other for ages now and show no signs of stopping.
Rape is an act of violence, although I have seen it depicted in fiction as a kind of rough foreplay, which I personally find disgusting. That is not how I depict rape in my fiction. I do not, for the record, condone rape. I do not condone rape by werewolves. Nor do I condone rape by any other fictional, nonexistent creatures like vampires, lizard men, interdimensional monsters, or honest, decent human beings who are successful politicians—none of which I believe in, by the way.
We as a species seem to be having an increasingly difficult time differentiating between fiction and fact, fantasy and reality. I blame video games and binge-watching.