I'll be appearing on two panels next Friday and Saturday. I don't know whose idea it was to let me out of my cage, but I'm sure they'll regret it come Sunday.
I would like to sound intelligent. I could really use your help doing it.
Here's what the panels are:
Breaking taboos in horror fiction: By its nature, horror pushes the boundaries of what we're comfortable with. But how far is too far? Does shock trump story? At what point do the boundaries break, rather than merely bend?
Blurring the lines of genre: Urban fantasy is a catch all for everything from modern day high fantasy to a mix of horror and noir. What other crossovers are possible? Do some genres lend themselves to intersections more than others?Neat, huh?
Now here's what I've been thinking about.
Much as it may seem that horror stories and films have no boundaries (Grace, anybody? Human Centipede? Deadgirl?) they actually exist because of them. Without taboos to challenge there would be nothing in them to make us uncomfortable, and uncomfortable is horror's stock in trade.
So the question is how far is too far? Above we've got demonic vampire babies, people surgically attached to each other ass to mouth, a zombie rape puppet in a basement vault repeatedly violated by teenage boys. Children, sex, death. Three things that really hammer on our buttons for good or ill.
I think it comes down to why the writer is trying to press those buttons. It's easy to dismiss films like these as nothing more than bloodbaths, torture porn, misogynistic hate fests. And if they're doing it for no other reason than to shock and sicken then I'd agree.
But if you look deeper in some of them (some, not all - I mean, come on. Human Centipede?) you can find meaning, sickening though it might be. Deadgirl is about a couple of teenage boys who find this zombie girl strapped to a table in a sealed vault in an old hospital and pretty quickly come to the conclusion that they've got their own sex slave.
This isn't porn. It's not designed to titillate. It's a metaphor for how teenage boys are acclimated to brutalizing women. It shows how easy it is for misogyny to become the norm.
And even if there isn't a deeper metaphor, disturbing and shocking images don't necessarily detract from the story. Clive Barker's Sex, Death And Starshine is great story and full of graphic undead fucking. Midnight Meat Train uses an almost erotic imagery to describe the corpses of men and women hung from hooks
But when it comes down to it, taboos and limits are subjective. It really comes down to what each one of us thinks and how we react.
But what about crossing genres? Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides mixes magic and Caribbean pirates long before Johnny Depp was even on 21 Jump Street. Joe Lansdale does a superb job... well, with anything. Steampunk, urban fantasy, paranormal romance.
What works? What doesn't? Personally, I think any genre can mix with any other. You just have to do it right. I'd love to see a vampire version of Permanent Midnight.
So, my questions to y'all:
What genre crossovers would you like to see? What kind work best?
How far is too far in horror? Hurting children? Graphic violence? Rape? Clowns? Scratching fingernails down a chalkboard? The word "moist"?
Tell me, O Readers Three, what do you think?