I toyed with several different titles and just decided to just leave it there.
First one update, the jaw thing I mentioned? Talked to the doctor on Monday, I dislocated my own jaw by eating a cracker. Sorry, I don’t mean to be one of those people always on about health stuff, but seriously? Who does that? Anyway, I’m on muscle relaxers and soft food for a week or so. Just in time to go to AmberconNW, land of chewy bread, and loads of food I already can’t eat. UGH.
So, last night, Wednesday, was a bad one for Insomnia. I dozed for about fifteen minutes and then my brain and body decided that we were awake and that was that. So, I stayed up reading The Humanity of Monsters, edited by Michael Matheson (Amazon Affiliates link, because my book habit is expensive…) I’m about halfway through, and it’s mostly a fantastic read. The stories I’ve read have all been good to excellent, even the one I’m going to complain about to you as a symptom of the problem I have with the horror genre and a lot of horror fans is well-written, I just don’t think it’s horror.
The standout story of the book so far is “Ghostweight” by Yoon Ha Lee. If this book is supposed to be full of stories that examine the humanity of monsters, and the monstrosity of humans, this story is superlative. It’s fantastic. It’s conceptually new (to me at least) with its Origami space battleships called Kites, which can be seen as both a play on the fighting kites of Asia, and the predatory bird species. This story made me say, “Wow.” It was that good.
This anthology also includes Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur,” which was nominated for a Hugo and won a Nebula. It also includes “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” by Neil Gaiman, which while I’m a little over Gaiman, this story is a treasure. “The Bread We Eat in Dreams,” by Cathryn Valente, “Muo-Ka’s Child,” by Indrapramit Das, and many other fantastic stories.
“The Things,” by Peter Watts, which retells the story of the movie The Thing, from the Thing’s point of view is fantastic. And “A Handful of Earth,” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia tells the story of the three brides from Dracula, from the point of view of one of them.
The story I want to talk about here, though, is “Night They Missed the Horror Show,” by Joe R. Lansdale. I like Mr. Lansdale’s writing. I’ve read several of his other works, including several of his runs with both DC and Marvel, “On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks,” and a lot of his short stories. But this particular story rubbed me the wrong way, especially in this collection.
So, the story is a couple of bored redneck teenagers in the 1960s, who are racist AF, and who in the spirit of bored ass teenagers in shitty small towns the country over, do something stupid, like tying a dead dog to the rear bumper of the one dude’s car, and dragging it to see what happens. In the course of this they happen upon a bunch of white guys from a neighboring town beating the shit out of the black quarter back of the original racist redneck teenagers’ high school football team. So they rescue him. And of course the black kid was out joy riding in a stolen car, because sure. Any way, they get caught by a couple of good ol’ boys who screen and apparently make snuff films, who wind up killing everybody for reasons.
This story did not shock me. I guess in that those acts are horrific, that might be why some might consider it horror, but really, it just made me tired.
This is where I get into internet fights with other horror fans. People being shitty to other people is not horror, it’s Wednesday. Especially in this day and age where cops are shooting unarmed black people, unarmed black CHILDREN, with little to no repercussion.
Racists kill POC. This is, depressingly, distressingly common.
And when you infer heavily that casual racists are not so bad, because they aren’t shooting people in the face or making snuff films, (shrug), that’s a problem. Because the casual racists embolden the violent ones, not the other way around. We would not have had Charlottesville without Trump stirring up the white supremacists. Hell, there are still people who KNOW he’s committed treason, and is tanking things, but still support him because he hates brown people, faggots and women.
Sorry, I really do try to leave the politics off this blog for the most part. It’s my blog away from that bullshit, but man…
Look, I don’t think that Mr. Lansdale meant to say that with his story.
But it does come through loud and clear.
And like I said, I couldn’t even be mad.
And it felt so out of place with all of these other stories. I’m not entirely sure of the motivation for including it.
It’s not badly written. I just questioned why it needed to be included or even written at all.
And that is a lot of my problem with torture porn like the Saw or Hostel series of movies. I don’t think they’re horror as I understand the genre.
Are they horrific? Oh, yes. But they share far more with the films of Russ Meyers than they do with even the Friday the Thirteenth or Halloween franchises.
And it takes more than your lead character being a shitty human being to make horror.
Take “Silence of the Lambs,” the book and novel. It isn’t billed as Horror. I believe the term Psychological Thriller is the label usually attached to it. The biggest, and often only, difference between Manhunter or Silence of the Lambs and this story is the scope of gore. Mr. Lansdale gets down and rolls around in the gore, while Mr. Harris uses it as careful punctuation, like normal people use exclamation points. I use exclamation points like Mr. Lansdale uses gratuitous violence and over the top gore.
And I’m not afraid of gore. I like gory movies. I used to co-host an annual Hellraiser cookout. We’d grill and eat rare meat while watching all of the Hellraiser movies. I adore Clive Barker, James A. Moore, and other horror authors who tend to splash gore around like beige paint in a shitty apartment complex.
But again, people being awful to other people is just… banal. It’s the news. It’s every day of this fucking presidency.
Can we just let horror be scary again? I don’t want to read about the banal evil of man’s inhumanity to man. I have the news for that. I could pick up any paper, turn on any news channel.
It just makes me tired.
Honestly, this story is probably catching some shrapnel because of my annoyance with the genre for the better part of the past two decades. Mr. Lansdale is a fine writer. I’ve enjoyed much of his work.
Just not this.
It wasn’t shocking.
It was supremely banal, particularly when included with many of these other stories.
But do yourself a favor and read “Ghostweight.” It’s incredible.
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