Sometimes I feel caught between horror and that ill-defined land of “literary fiction.” I’m not interested in a “versus” argument or any sort of pretension here. I love both equally, I read both equally, I mash them into a ball together, and, most importantly, I don’t think there’s much of a difference between them, anyway, outside of degrees of intent. As far as what I want my work to be, they do the same things.
These two modes (along with others) are bleeding into one another more and more, at least in the realm of film and television. In the publishing world, if you write half-horror or two-thirds-horror, you can live in Horror Land, hug horror peers at conventions, get misty-eyed over horror peers’ words and accomplishments. Meanwhile, most of the literary world will scream and shove a cross in your face if you try to sidle up to their crowd, because you’re not one of them, you’ll never be one of them, you monster. There’s a reason why I feel a part of both worlds but am only known in one.
I do as well as I could dream with readers of horror (substitute “weird fiction” every time you see “horror” and this blog post can function just the same). I am not complaining. I love it. But I admit that sometimes I feel the horror community doesn’t fully embrace me as they do others. It can feel like infidelity at times. It can feel like Macaulay Culkin’s mom trying to decide between him and Elijah Wood in The Good Son. What if I have a built-in “branding” issue? What if I’m called “halfie” behind my back?? So since I never want to be no-horror, it feels like it would be easier to just let a wolf bite me and go full-horror.
It comes down to me doing what I want to do, yes, but it also comes down to identity as well as audience. What I truly am vs. the slices of the reader pie. Which slices one aims the knife at can be crucial. This has been particularly on my mind lately since the novel wants to sow itself in both of these pastures, and while certain grazers in the “mainstream” pasture might enjoy it for this reason, those grazers on the horror side might complain that there’s not enough blood on my grass…to stretch a metaphor. It could conceivably become lost in the overlap of the Venn diagram. And when I think about novel #2, there’s a very mild panic regarding this.
As I move forward, novels will very much dictate how I am classified, but it’s a wait-and-see situation. For now, I am a fulfilled writer, I write myself full, I write what I feel. For now, I will only aim the knife at myself. For now, I will keep trying to do both, because I love both.
But even so I will quote the Southern Gothic poets The Oak Ridge Boys from their song “Trying to Love Two Women”:
“Sometimes the pleasure ain’t worth the strain/It’s a long old grind, and it tires your mind.”