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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

31 Days of Horror: Day 9-- Why I Love Horror by Jeremy C. Shipp

Today I want to begin the "Why I Love Horror" series with Jeremy C. Shipp. I recently reviewed Shipp's new book Bedfellow in Booklist Magazine here.

Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker nominated author of Cursed, Vacation, and Sheep and Wolves. His shorter tales have appeared or are forthcoming in over 50 publications, the likes of Cemetery Dance, ChiZine, Apex Magazine, Pseudopod, and Rosebud. While preparing for the forthcoming collapse of civilization, Jeremy enjoys living in Southern California in a moderately haunted Victorian farmhouse with a legion of yard gnomes.

I like the way bestselling author Jeff VanderMeer described Shipp here:
"I'm convinced Jeremy Shipp is a little bit crazy, in the best possible way." -- Jeff VanderMeer 
Here is why Shipp loves horror in his own words. 
☠ ☠ ☠ ☠☠☠☠☠☠☠☠☠☠☠☠☠

Why I Love Horror 
By Jeremy C. Shipp 

One of the reasons I love horror is that life can be horrifying. 

My father once told me that he read H. P. Lovecraft and William Peter Blatty quite often in his younger years, because his childhood was sometimes hell. The horror stories helped him cope, the same way someone might listen to sad songs after a breakup. At that time, my father didn’t read lighter, happier fiction, because those stories felt like a lie. 

After my grandparents passed away, I too found some solace in darker stories. In the realm of fiction, I explored haunted houses and chased after ghosts. I touched the ectoplasm dripping down the walls. I trapped the grim reaper in a bell jar. Horror, for me, was a safe way to think about and process death. 

As a writer, I have received numerous emails (and letters, back when people sent letters) from readers, telling me that my books helped them through difficult experiences in their lives. It seems almost paradoxical, that a horror novel could provide someone with a sense of comfort, but I have witnessed this phenomenon time and time again. Of course, people deal with death and fear and the darker aspects of our reality in different ways, and everyone’s process is valid. But for those of us who gravitate towards horror, perhaps there is something special about connecting with characters who are living the worst days of the lives. Perhaps there is something meaningful about entering a world where death and pain are not taboo subjects. In horror, there is nothing hidden in the shadows, because the shadows are alive, and they are hungry for human flesh. 

So far, I have spoken of suffering and death and ravenous shadows, but is that all there is to the genre? Do horror books and movies merely tell us that life is tough and then we die? Sometimes, perhaps. But personally, I find the genre most compelling not merely because of the monsters and the terror, but because of the sparks of hope and the moments of compassion and strength that occasionally burn bright within that darkness. In Rosemary’s Baby, Rosemary looks upon her baby, and instead of dismissing him as evil incarnate, she sees the potential for goodness in him, because of the goodness in her own heart. In The Shining, Danny is able to escape the hedge maze, because he played there with his mother earlier, and now he knows where to go. Wendy’s willingness to spend quality time with her son helps to save him. The Exorcist is as much about Chris’s interminable love for her daughter, and Father Damien’s capacity for self-sacrifice, as it is about demonic forces. 

In my favorite horror books and movies, you’re allowed access to the hearts and souls and psyches of the characters. You connect with the protagonists. You feel what they feel, as they hope and struggle and love and face the darkness. And for many readers and viewers of horror, this journey can be cathartic and even empowering. One of the reasons I love horror is because life can be horrifying. 

Life can feel like a haunted house, or a daunting hedge maze, or a conversation with the grim reaper. And sometimes it helps to connect with some imaginary people, and face the worst together, and hope for the best.

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