First, a little writing advice, which I usually hesitate to offer unsolicited – if you want to write horror, write about what scares you. Not what you think might scare someone else, or what is commonly assumed to be scary, but what scares you. It’s the best way to let the fear shine through in your work.
My biggest fear is something catastrophic happening to my children. Death is obviously high on the list of catastrophes, but there is an infinite number of ways in which small children can suffer. Or so my imagination tells me.
I got to thinking about it this week while I was working on a story that ended with a mother committing a heinous act of mutilation on her child in order to save her from an even worse fate. At the conclusion of the piece, my sane and rational self had a little exchange with the lunatic she keeps chained in the dungeon, that went something like this –
Sane and Rational Self: WTF?!?
So I thought I’d go trawling through my work to see how many other examples I could find of this nature.
Pregnancy and birth crop up time and time again. Child birth is ripe for horror – I’ve given birth three times, and in my experience it is long and loud and bloody and agonizing and just plain gross. And that’s with all the advantages of Western medical facilities and without any major complications. It makes a mess of your body and your sheets, and if I were God, I would come up with a much simpler and more pleasant way of getting that child out of there.
In my first Underground Rising contribution, an entire primary school gets immolated. Three kids are orphaned in “Last Chance To See”. In “A Good Trade”, a pair of twin pre-teens is sold to a priestess for the price of a roast suckling pig, with unpleasant consequences all round. A father drops his teenage daughter off a cliff in “Becoming” (but don’t worry, the news for her is not all bad). Baby mermaids are the edible spoils of war in “Baptism”. Murder and possession by malevolent entities feature in both “Marked” and “Trading Up”. Kids have to eat their mother’s flesh in the poem “Tastes Like Chicken” (it’s meant to be metaphorical, but if you want to interpret it literally, feel free). “Dark Wing” sees half-breed children experiencing discrimination of the worst kind. A forthcoming story (I won’t tell you which one) features a young son sacrificed for the greater good. One poor child doesn’t even get to have a whiff of a normal life; she goes straight from being unborn foetus to evil ghost.
And in “Fairy Gothic”, the kids just grow up and leave the nest. This for a mother holds arguably the greatest dread of all, because I know that it’s going to happen, in fact, has to happen, if I am to have done my job properly.