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Friday, October 15, 2021

31 Days of Horror: Day 15-- Why I Love Horror by Damian Serbu

Back on Day 5, I had a link to a recording of me talking with some of my own local horror authors.  One of the biggest hits, with the audience, of that presentation was Damian Serbu. I am not exaggerating. The second the panel ended, I had multiple emails and messages from people wanting to know more about him, so I asked him to share Why he loves Horror with all of you. 

But before we get there though, Serbu is a part of the Chicagoland Chapter of the Horror Writers Association. You can not only find Serbu's bio on our homepage [and below], but also the bios and information about all of our members:

Damian Serbu lives in the Chicago area with his husband and two dogs, Akasha and Chewbacca. The dogs control his life, tell him what to write, and threaten to eat him in the middle of the night if he disobeys. He writes queer speculative fiction/horror and has published The Vampire’s Angel, The Vampire’s Quest, The Bachmann Family Secret, The Vampire’s Witch, and The Vampire’s ProtΓ©gΓ©, as well as Santa’s Kinky Elf, Simon and Santa Is a Vampire with NineStar Press. Keep up to date with him on FacebookTwitter, or at www.DamianSerbu.com.

Finally, I will be appearing with Serbu and a few other members of our chapter at Wizard World Chicago-- live, in person this Saturday at 12:30 pm-- on a panel entitled, "Creating Horror." Should be fun.

Now here is Damian Serbu on "Why I Love Horror" with bonus reading suggestions. 

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The Emotion of Horror
By Damian Serbu


I anticipated an easy task when I sat down to write about why I love horror. After all, as an author who identifies as a horror writer and as a fan of the genre in all its manifestations – movies, books, television, you name it – I could chat or write for hours about the topic.


A moment of contemplation later, I realized that I was undertaking a more difficult assignment than I had assumed. I could write a novel about the reasons I love horror! Alas, a word count restriction prohibited that plan. Instead, I considered the various aspects I enjoy and picked one to share.


I chose the topic of how emotion plays a unique role in my writing about horror because I think a lot of people overlook this element.


One emotion stands out to everyone when thinking about horror, regardless of whether you like or detest the genre. Of course people think of terror. Fear. The chill running down your spine when a main character faces a horrific threat, in the form of a monster, alien, plague, or evil fellow human. Many people would therefore describe a sensation of thrill seeking in horror. You can safely watch a horror movie and have fun with the threat, all while knowing you are safe and will survive. This sentiment mimics the experience of riding a roller coaster or mountain climbing with a safety harness.


But I mean to delve into emotions beyond the obvious thrill. For viewers, readers, and writers, horror offers a distinctive world in which to explore human emotion.


Facing death, a character strips away a multitude of distractions to ponder what life really means for them. No one staring at a human eating alien contemplates what to have for dinner or dwells on the eye roll one of their colleagues gave them at work the previous day. Fight or flight kicks in, but so do emotions. As I writer, I decide what images race through a character’s mind in the final moments. Does the character regret something? The raw truth of possible death brings to the forefront the deepest feelings for the author to reveal. A character faces mortality, and the audience gets a glimpse into what that means for them.


Regarding the people who flash through a person’s thoughts when faced with terror, loved ones come to mind. The truest depth of love flourishes when a character hopes to see a person in the afterlife or desperately prays their loved one remains alive and safe. In real-life circumstances we see this manifestation when people call loved ones from a doomed flight or death bed. A horror story allows me to reveal who means the most to my character, and therefore readers experience a profound depth of feeling. A child, family member, partner, or friend becomes the last person the character thinks about before death. Even if the character survives afterward, the memory of those individuals lingers once they return to safety. These emotions center on love, caring, and the human connectedness of life. The feelings run deep in a horror novel, well beyond the mere fear otherwise front and center.


In a similar way, writing horror allows me to consider a character’s ability to trust. When faced with the gravest of danger, to whom does that person reach out for help? Who do they know will drop everything to save them, or die trying? Or, in contrast, does the character’s trust in someone lead them in the opposite direction, to leave the cherished person out of the mess with the hope they survive the calamity. I can also generate the motivation for characters who know their loved one faces the threat. On the outside looking in, this person is propelled toward the peril to save someone instead of fleeing for their own life. The feeling becomes one of a willingness to die rather than stay in a world without the other person.


Horror mirrors the moment of dying for a person with a different kind of purity than what other forms of literature create. No matter the ups and downs of the character’s life, the pure villainy of the nemesis/monster renders the endangered character’s flaws as human, neither godlike in purity or dark as night. A horror writer gives a view of the average person staring at mortality and able to define themselves against the worst of the worst. Faced with absolute evil, a complexity of emotions surfaces for the character.


As a horror author, I decide what motivates people to live. The power of the pen means instead of seeing someone confront a monster and just fight to defeat it, I glimpse the ideas and impulses swimming through a character’s mind. Hope, fear, love – I could list a thousand emotions – they all play a role in the horror story.


As I wrote at the beginning of this blog, taking on these feelings is but one example for why I love writing in the horror genre. I could never reduce my love for horror to one idea. But emotion plays an enormous part in what I see as essential aspects of my writing. I see the same situation in other people’s writing, so doubt I am alone in knowing the power of horror to reveal raw feelings.


Speaking of other authors, here are a few writers I’ve been enjoying of late! I hope you’ll check them out, too.


David R. Slayton has a great speculative fiction series with a gay main character! Unique and fun, check out White Trash Warlock and Trailer Park Trickster.


Looking for something young adult with a strong female lead character? I love love love Laurie Forest’s Black Witch series!!!


Tried and true gay authors who have horror novels out there include Rick R. Reed and Greg Herren. You’re always safe in their hands.


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