Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What's Your Middle?

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Sometime during my latest residency with Southern New Hampshire University's MFA program, my good friend Rob Greene offered up a writing prompt he uses in his English classes. He gave me a blank page, opening line at the top, closing line at the bottom, and left me to fill in the rest. It's a fun little exercise that can pull the brain out of self-imposed ruts and drop it into different grooves.

Here is the unedited, unrevised, perfectly raw and vulgar flash-fiction (slash-fiction?) piece that spilled out. Remember, the first and last lines are Rob's. And don't forget to check out his excellent blog, Going Greene.

     I reached over and calmly gouged out his left eye.
     He was already dead, of course, so it couldn't have hurt him. Still, when my spoon sunk into the socket as if scooping out a boiled egg yolk, the wet squish made my adam's apple lurch a little.
     "David," Mom said, "would you hurry up already?"
     She hovered over me, a scalpel in one hand, a journal of anatomy open in the other, her Fuck Me, I'm Polish apron a canvass covered in red.
     Mom had been working on him all day, studying from her textbook, committing the colorful directions to memory. She had an exam in the morning. Her final test before earning a nursing license.
     "What are we going to do with the leftovers?" I asked.
     "The same thing we did with your brother," she said, peeling off her rubber gloves and massaging my shoulder. "Stew for dinner. All week."
     My father's name was Stu.
     Then my mom took us out for Sno-Cones.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hail Horror Hail*

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David St. Hubbins, in reference to his band Spinal Tap’s infamous “black” album cover: “It looks like death.”
Ian Faith: “David, every movie in every cinema is about death. Death sells.”

I realized something last night, while working on a particular chapter about 220 pages into my MFA thesis. Even though the story began with a focus on love and relationships and fluttery heartbeats, eventually, someone got their back scratched by a corpse’s hand sticking out of the dirt.

Many, many years ago, reading an old Stephen King interview in Reader’s Digest, one particular quote struck me. King said, “I was built with a love of the night and the unquiet coffin.” We are what we are, and we love what we love. Some might call it “narrow-minded.” Others might condemn it as “limited vision.” After all, even Stephen King has written stories that aren’t creepy, right? But he always comes back to that hand sticking out of the dirt. Why? Because that’s who he is.

There was a short period of time when I was almost apologetic about the type of stories I wrote. I somehow became convinced that “serious” writers looked down on the horror genre, or even dark fiction in general. But, really, do readers care about that blurry, oftentimes imaginary line between “literary” and “genre” writing? Do they care if a novel is in one section of the bookstore rather than another? I don’t think so. I think they care about good stories, compelling and interesting characters, and exciting, original situations that force those characters to change, for better or for worse.

I write horror. That’s who I am. It doesn’t mean that my stories won’t ever contain love or passion or romance, but in one way or another, I’ll always return to the unquiet coffin. Because that’s who I am.
So, consider this entry my informal love letter, and my formal apology to you, Horror, for that brief period when I was ashamed of you.

We good?

*A round of applause to anyone who gets the reference in this blog title without Googling it.