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North Carolina: State of Horrorl
is a time for ghosts and goblins, but the creatures
dont just rise up from the ground
unbiddenthey are first born in the imaginations of
writers and artists.
North Carolina is home to a number of dark creators, a
tradition dating back to front-porch ghost stories and
extending to comics, films, books, and haunted
attractions. Several North Carolina writers shared their
thoughts on the continuing popularity of the
much-maligned horror genre.
John Parker of Canton is one of the organizers of the
Southern Horror Writers Association and is also founder
of the independent publisher Post Mortem Comic Studios.
Hes developing several horror titles to be released
later this year, including The Cursed and the
Damned, Fever and Project
Dorthy. His series INK will be about a
living tattoo, and Shovel will be an
anthology comic that features an ongoing series of horror
stories in the Tales from the Crypt
Right now the horror scene is the best I have seen
it in a long time, Parker said. In the 1980s,
it ruled the scene with the slasher movies, but now we
are seeing an even darker side of the horror genre come
to life. Steve Niles (30 Days of Night), for one,
has hit the scene and helped bring horror back to the
Parker said todays young people are in the mood for
darker fare, whether watching it, hearing it or reading
it. They are into more of the hardcore scene in
music, art and reading, he said. Even the
ones you would never think would be into the whole horror
scene are eating it up. It is a good time for us as
writers, artists and film makers. I hope it stays
as strong for a long time to come.
Alexandra Sokoloff, a Raleigh novelist and
screenwriter, said, A lot of people love the
adrenaline rush of being scared or
unnervedits exhilarating, like riding a
roller coaster or going whitewater rafting. But I think
on a deeper level supernatural fiction explores real
issues of good and evil, and questions of the nature of
existence itself. Its a very spiritual genre.
Sokoloffs novels include The Harrowing,
in which five isolated college students play with an
ouija board, and The price, in which she
explores the sacrifices of love and the mysteries of
faith. To me, a good horror novel is cathartic
because it bluntly acknowledges that there is evil in the
world, but it also shows that evil can be defeated, at
least one battle at a time, by good people. Thats
the real catharsis for me to see good win out over
Scott Nicholson, a Boone author of seven supernatural
thrillers, agrees that horror fiction and movies are a
great battleground for faith issues. I like to go
beyond the normal boundaries, Nicholson said.
And once you play with the boundary between the
living and the dead, youre free to really explore
what it means to be human and alive.
Nicholsons novels are inspired by Appalachian
legends and ghost stories, and hes also developing
the comic book series Grave Conditions for
Post Mortem Comic Studios, featuring a character called
The Digger that introduces short tales
with surprise twists and good, old-fashioned scares.
Im not all that interested in gore and
violence, Nicholson said. Ill do it if
the scene requires it, but I enjoy the quiet mysteries
more. But the great thing about horror is that it works
for all kinds of audiences, from Scooby-Doo
for kids to teen torture for fans of the Saw
franchise. Its getting harder to shock modern
audiences that are numbed by headlines and war, but I
think there are other ways to affect people emotionally
and perhaps more subtly and spiritually.
John Kenneth Muir of Pineville, whos
written numerous books on horror television shows and
movies, said horror is simultaneously the most subversive
and most moral of genres but is ripe for a change.
Because horror often operates at the fringe or the
periphery of the mainstream popular culture, it is
uniquely placed to comment on that culture, Muir
said. That has been the history of horror.
Theres an edict I havebad times make good
horrorand were certainly living in some bad
times now, between a failing economy and a quagmire in
Iraq. But horror today, both literary and
cinematic, seems to be playing it safe.
Muir believes horror as a product has become too
commercial to really be subversive. Unfortunately,
the corporate nature of publishers and studios today is
responsible for a lot of dreck that doesnt really
acknowledge the reality of the trouble we find ourselves
in. Too often, the horror we see today is a
watered-down remake or PG-13 (so as not to offend).
Id like to see horror today becoming a little
sharper; a little nastier, a little smarter, and a little
more pointed. Basically, we should be seeing a
whole new generation of original films like Last House on
the Left or Straw Dogs...but were mostly getting
remakes of 80s slashers that play on brand names, like
Richard Danksy, novelist and game
designer, said, "I think horror - and things which
come from horror - are actually doing very well right
now. It's just that things that used to be classified as
horror are now 'dark fantasy' or 'psychological
thrillers' or whatnot, and elements of horror have been
adapted to genres like paranormal romance. But in games
and movies in particular, we're seeing some really
interesting and novel stuff, and I think that's going to
continue as the technology we have to tell those stories
gets better and more accessible."
Authors like Stephen Mark Rainey, Dale Bailey and David
Niall Wilson help add to the states literary
tradition, and a number of new writers are breaking into
the horror field. With horror no longer on
the spines of books, though, the audience sometimes has
to work harder to find fresh takes on age-old terrors.
Where is the new George Romero? Muir asked
rhetorically. The new Wes Craven? The new
Tobe Hooper? Those are the folks Im
looking for today, and I dont see them. Those
are the voices that I want to hear, if horror is to have
a future equal to its past.
If North Carolina has anything to say about it, then
maybe the future of horror is almost here.
--copyright 2008 by Scott Nicholson.
No use without permission.
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