NIGHTMARE ROYALE # 2: SO WHAT THE HELL KIND OF SICKO HORROR FREAK ARE YOU, ANYWAY? (A CHEERFUL QUESTIONNAIRE!)Columns,John Skipp's Nightmare Royale (On Making Horror Better),News John Skipp
Lemme ask you this. What’s the greatest horror novel ever written? How ’bout the greatest horror film ever filmed?
You may already have an answer handy, with bullet-pointed irrefutable proof at every step. Or you may be one of the many who love so many it’s impossible to choose. Perhaps you’re even one of those who’s hoping that someone will point you to the Holy Grail, so we can end this discussion once and for all.
GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!
Fact is, we horror enthusiasts argue a lot, in case you hadn’t noticed. We argue hard for the ones we love, and often even harder against the ones we hate. We debate the qualities that constitute good horror, great horror, half-ass horror, unspeakably shitty horror, and everything in between.
That’s because we’re a passionate breed. We’ve had to stick up for ourselves from the moment we decided we love the genre, because so many people frown or look down upon it, consider it morally suspect at its core.
This tends to make us fairly feisty individuals. Fierce in our opinions, defiant in our defense of the dark art-o-tainment we hold dear.
Past that, though, we’re all over the fucking place. The very qualities that make something a masterpiece in my eyes may be the very ones that make you wanna smash something (most likely that same something) hard.
Which means we’re never gonna come up with the ultimate answer, because we’re all INCREDIBLY DIFFERENT PEOPLE, with our own incredibly different reasons for loving what we love, liking what we like, tolerating what we have to, and helplessly despising the rest.
Which brings me to the following questionnaire.
I’m gonna rattle off a series of seemingly-random multiple choice statements, in survey form.. The question is: do you agree or disagree?
You don’t have to pick just one per category. In fact, PLEASE DON’T! Chances are you’ll fall on one side or the other with each and every statement made.
And because there is no right answer – this may be the single least scientific survey ever conducted outside the pages of Cosmo – don’t worry about trying to game the results. It’s just a brain puzzle. And the only goal is to help pinpoint what your tastes are made of. Poke at the corners of your perspective.
And maybe understand why other people love the stuff they love, hate the stuff they hate, NO MATTER HOW MUCH WE DISAGREE,
So that maybe – just maybe – we’ll get to the place where “agreeing to disagree “ isn’t just an act of politeness, but a point of genuine insight into what makes us all tick. Which, to me, is the whole point of conversation..
Plus, it’ll be fun! Ready? HERE WE GO!
I believe in God.
The thing I’m most scared of is
f) other people
g) sparkly vampires
h) the Mole People
The elements that most attract me in horror stories are
a) mood and atmosphere, conveyed by evocative language in fiction, and the camerawork, lighting, production design, sound design and music of film
b) the story itself, in its cleverness, its surprises, its narrative cohesion, and (hopefully) its point
c) a strong narrative voice and cohesive feel (writing in fiction, writing and directing in film)
d) engaging characters to root for or against
e) pacing, be it slow and mounting or rapid-fire
f) powerful scenes with exciting payoffs, be they physical, emotional, or conceptual
g) the sexing
h) the violencing
i) the special fx
j) redeeming social value
k) no redeeming social value
l) will to entertain
I like my horror mixed with
a) hard science fiction (robots, spaceships, gizmos)
b) soft science fiction (human response to creepy scientific advancement)
c) mythic fantasy (other realms, or fanciful pasts)
d) modern fantasy (happening here and now)
g) action thrillers
i) epic tragedy
j) domestic drama
k) anatomy of a small town/big city/suburban/rural/outland area
l) political thriller
m) conspiracy theory
q) spiritual quest
r) deep investigation of abnormal psychology
s) magic (or magick) realism
t) blistering social satire
u) Bizarro weirdness
v) slice-of-life realism
w) rich artistic symbolism
x) shit that fits no genre whatsoever
y) a PG rating
z) more horror, straight, no chaser.
When asshole characters horribly die, I think
a) “Yay! Go fuck yourself!”
b) “Aw. See? Don’t you wish you’d been a nicer person?”
c) “What a senseless waste of human life.”
d) “What a senseless waste of my time.”
e) “I really like how their face caved in.”
I am drawn to horrific stories because
a) I am fundamentally haunted
b) I find beauty in the macabre
c) I feel the need to confront my demons
d) I am fascinated by the psychology of evil
e) I am trying to make sense of the dark side of existence
f) they totally crack me up
g) they say the things other stories won’t touch
h) I find them exciting
i) I’m afraid to die
j) they make me think
k) they make me feel
l) I get off on the violence
m) it’s cathartic
n) none of your goddam business
o) they make me glad to be alive
p) in the right hands, they’re astonishing pieces of art
q) I love a squalid wallow in senseless atrocity
r) I hate the world, and wish it would die screaming
s) I believe in good and evil
t) I want good to win
u) I want evil to win
v) I wish we could get past this whole good-and-evil thing, and tell more stories that bust down the barriers, bring in not just the gray areas, but all the incredible colors in between, showing life and death as a continuum of meaning, in which everyone and everything has a part
w) the simple fact that I love them annoys other people
x) I have no idea, I just do
y) I love all kinds of stories
z) horror stories are the best
Rape scenes make me
a) incredibly upset
b) stick my hand in my pants
c) want to beat the shit out of whoever made me watch or read them
d) face the genuine horror of the act
When a character I really love is killed, I am
b) ready for narrative vengeance
c) blown away by the balls on this story
d) already posting my rage on Facebook
When I see a nice suburban family threatened by mayhem, I think
a) “Yay! Fuck you guys!”
b) “Wow. That’s a lot like me and my family.”
c) “Is anybody else incredibly tired of this story?”
I think horror is best when it’s
a) brilliantly presented by genuine artists, working at the top of their craft
b) so incompetent and stupid that I can’t stop laughing
g) enjoyed with friends
h) absorbed thoughtfully, alone or with a loved one who gets it
i) provoking me, and fucking with my head big-time
j) providing comfort food for my insatiable lust to be entertained
I am offended by
a) stupid horror
b) graphic horror
c) boring horror
d) insensitive horror
e) cowardly horror
f) homogenized corporate horror
g) horror in which people like me are suddenly, somehow, the bad guys
h) horror presented by cynical people who think we’re too stupid to know how bad this story sucks
Monsters make me
c) wish they really exist
d) really glad they don’t really exist
I believe in ghosts, and the paranormal in general
a) a little
b) a lot
c) not even a little
d) I’m a ghost!
Watching or reading incredibly violent mayhem makes me
a) extremely uncomfortable
b) incredibly happy
c) want to do something else instead
d) want to kill somebody or thing
e) really glad that I’m not a violent person
f) really glad that it’s not happening to me
g) really glad it isn’t happening to someone I love
h) stick my hand in my pants
If I were a monster, I’d want to be a
a) sexy vampire
b) parasitic worm-thing
c) sexy werewolf
d) slavering cannibal redneck mutant
e) sexy ghost
f) alien creature with a huge, pulsating brain
g) sexy zombie (yes, they make those now)
h) enormous blob that melts and absorbs all life
i) sexy psychotic kill freak
j) Lovecraftian terror from beyond space
l) Killer Klown From Outer Space
m) enormous insect
n) possessed household appliance
o) sexy demon
q) Q, the Winged Serpent
r) sexy Cenobite
s) haunted house
t) creepy-ass doll
u) cuddly Frankenstein who’s nice to kids
v) unstoppable killing machine
w) sexy witch or warlock
x) dancing skeleton, playing a xylophone also made of bones
y) nature spirit, defending the earth from our mindless destruction
z) genuinely terrifying vampire, werewolf, ghost, zombie, demon, psychotic kill freak, etcetera, with all the candy-ass niceties stripped away, so that we remember how scary this shit’s supposed to be
This concludes our exciting quiz! CONGRATULATIONS! Hope it helped put things in perspective, increased your understanding of others, and in the process made you a kinder, better, wiser, more compassionate and well-adjusted sicko horror freak. (Speaking personally, I feel like a saint right now, just having written that fucking thing!)
Please feel free to post your responses here in the comments, on Facebook, your blog, somebody else’s blog, your message board of choice, a rumpled piece of stolen hotel stationary you wedge into your mattress, or wherever your deepest thoughts are best held dear.
And THANKS FOR PLAYING!
Yer pal in the trenches,
P.S. – For those of you who have no idea who I am, or why you should be listening to a single word I say, I’d like to recommend my first novel, THE LIGHT AT THE END (http://www.amazon.com/The-Light-at-End-ebook/dp/B0049P23PW/ref=tmm_kin_title_0). This is the punk-vampire-in-the-subways-of-New York City horror novel that helped define “splatterpunk” as a subversive hardcore horror phenomenon in the 80s, selling a million copies, freaking out a bunch of people, and blah-dee-blah.
But if it helps inspire you to check out my long, weird body of work, then I say GO FOR IT! And I hope you have fun! Horrible, horrible fun.
And for those of you who are writers, hoping to craft the crazy shit that horror fans will be arguing about for generations a-comin’, I’m teaching a class on “The Choreography of Violence” at noted writing website LitReactor, starting May 9th. Open to screenwriters and prose writers alike, it’s a two-week crash course on how to make your atrocities count, with power and concision and meaning. I’ll teach you every trick I know, and probably make some up on the spot, so that your work can kick precisely as much ass as it set out to.
There’s an art to this, you know. JUST SAYIN’!
INFO ON THE COURSE HERE: http://litreactor.com/classes/the-choreography-of-violence-with-john-skipp