I’ve heard that question for years. When I was actively serving in the pulpit the question came up a lot (though I served one church that thought having a minister who was also a “spooky writer” was the coolest thing in the world). And now that I write full time, the question still hasn’t gone away. And that’s OK. I don’t mind the question. People who write romance, science fiction, Amish stories, etc. get the same question.
So, let’s start with the basics. Horror is an emotion as is love, joy, fear, elation, confusion and jazzed. As I said in a previous post, horror (and many other emotions) became a genre when publishing marketing departments realized they could make money that way. Fair enough. If they don’t make a profit, we don’t get published. So … back to the question at hand. Why horror?
The simple answer is I like to read it. I don’t care for splattering guts all over the page and spilling buckets of blood just for the sake of adding a little more gore. But a good horror tale is like a jolt of adrenaline … a roller coaster for cowards. But a horror tale also does something a little more practical. It provides a natural vehicle for examining the battle between good and evil, and our lives depend on the outcome of that battle. Not just the Biblical battle. If you skip to the book of Revelation you’ll see who wins. But there is a similar battle that ages in the human heart.
Understand, I’m not talking about badness. We’re talking about evil. Too many people equate evil with badness, and the two aren’t the same. Badness includes things like gossiping about your friends, saying hurtful things, lying about a coworker in order to get ahead, gambling away the house payment, using illegal drugs.
Evil includes things like killing and dismembering a child; killing and eating another human being; raping another human being; enslaving and torturing another human being for the thrill of it; making a concerted effort to turn others away from Christ; sexually enslaving another human being; reprehensible acts that go beyond being “bad.”
Sociologist Fred Katz defines evil as “…behavior that deliberately deprives innocent people of their humanity, from small scale assaults on their dignity to outright murder.” That’s a good place to start. But on a more Biblical level, evil is allowed by God so that we can each use our free will to choose between good (i.e., God) or evil (the absence of God). And don’t be fooled. Within each one of us lies the capacity for great good and for unfathomable evil.
That’s why I write horror. To examine the struggle, show the reality of the consequences of our choices, and illustrate the idea that even in our brokenness, there is one greater than all of us who has the power to restore us. There is redemption. There is the love of God.
Even in the face of absolute evil, the love of God transcends and transforms.