I think just about everybody has faced the “Why Write Horror” question.  Stephen King sort-of tackled it in his National Book Award speech.  Sarah Langan wrote a superb essay about for an academic journal.    I think of it all the time, as if I’m ever going to make it out of adjunct hell, there’s going to be a day where I’m sitting in front of a search committee, with English Department representatives staring at me and and my CV, and going “What gives?”  So, it’s a question that I take great interest in, especially when other writers tackle it.

Which brings me to Wrath James White.  To anybody who’s read his work — Succulent Prey and Sloppy Seconds come to mind — he’s up there with Ed Lee.  The guy is extreme, and his fiction is graphic, disturbing, and very literate.  Read the guy’s blog, and you’ll find that he’s a thoughtful, intelligent man.  I had the pleasure of reading two of his poems for my forthcoming Death in Common anthology (I took one of them).  And, something he blogged recently not only spoke to the Why Horror question, but the reason why I rejected a number of poems from DIC.  First, here’s Wrath (scroll the 11/18/08 entry):

Fiction must be about extraordinary things, extraordinary people, and extraordinary depths of emotion, more emotional highs and lows than our work-a-day lives can provide. Horror gives us a look at the extraordinary. We see the horrible and the heroic. We see life intensified, magnified, and set free to tear shit up!

That paragraph does not come from an exploitative torture pornographer.  “Extraordinary people” and “extraordinary depths of emotion.”  He’s got an excellent point — one I agreed with before I ever read that specific blog entry.   When I rejected poems in the past, my refrain often came as, “I’m not looking for poems about the killer.  I’m looking for poems about extraordinary lives lived, and extraordinary lives lost.”   By coincidence, Wrath and I both gravitated towards “extraordinary.”   But there’s one more thing.  Horror is about people.  It’s not about monsters, zombies, big mutant cocks with chompy teeth — people.   True, the people maybe fending off hoards of monster dicks with pointy fangs, but their own understand and reactions to the world around them is largely what provides the horror.  I firmly believe this:   The only way one can truly measure the terrible heights of inhumanity is to, by default, have a keen sense of humanity.  One cannot exist without the other.  And if when I have to sit in front of an academic search committee, that’s one of the things I would say.