Friday, 6 April 2012

An Introduction to Terror Scribes, Part One

My own forays into horror have been patchy. I’ve always written work that could be considered transgressive and gory. I used to write a lot of horror, in fact. But I’ve always felt most comfortable flitting between the genres like a cyborg butterfly with a mouth full of narcotic offal.

I attended my first Terror Scribes meeting in 2009. At the time, my novella Troglodyte Rose had just been published by a local publisher of young writers: Cadaverine Publications. It certainly had horrific elements. It was inspired by film noir, cyberpunk, B-movies, the kind of science fiction-horror of Alien, and lots of roleplaying games (although whereas my friends always preferred Vampire: The Masquerade and Mage: The Ascension, I always preferred the darker games Wraith: The Oblivion and Kult). I’ve always been fascinated, I guess, by the intersections between the grotesque and the beautiful. The aesthetics of horror, you might say. Clive Barker’s sado-masochistic horror in Hellraiser appeals to me, for example, with its chains and leather and beautifully disgusting angels of wrath.

The monstrous has always fascinated me. I like to confront the terrifying. But still, I was scared about that initial meeting in Bradford. I had never been in a room with that many horror writers before. How monstrous would they be? Would they snarl and bite? Would they carry skulls and write with quills? Would they sign their autographs in blood?

I anticipated nerves (an unrealistic fear, those who know me might say), and wondered whether I would be welcomed into this circle of writers. I wondered if there would be room at the table.

And there was.

What I remember from that first meeting was how laidback it all was. There was no hierarchy. This clearly wasn’t a society or an association. It certainly wasn’t a guild or a union either. It was just a gathering of friends—some of them old friends, and some of them, like me, new.

Sometime later, Sue Phillips indicated she wanted to step away from her role as group admin for the online hub of the Terror Scribes on Facebook. Something of a social media whore myself, and never a man to say no, I enthusiastically jumped at the challenge. This, as my friends will tell you, is one of my most endearing traits. It is also, I’m well aware, my biggest weakness. Because no sooner had I been promoted to an admin on the group than I suggested I compile a Terror Scribes anthology. Forget that I also had to finish my own novel (the full-length version of that same novella I carried with me those three years ago in Bradford), that I am co-writing another, that I still haven’t finished my gore-fest musical Nero High School Slaughterhouse, and that I also had a publishing schedule so packed I’d been working pretty much every day since 2008 . . . No, I was excited. I wanted to publish a Terror Scribes book. I wanted to see all these wonderful writers of the grim and macabre in all their perfect bound glory. And then, you see, we’d have an excuse to throw a party. (Parties being another thing I’m famous for that also occasionally manifest as a flaw.)

Then there came another suggestion: perhaps we could bring the book to Alt.Fiction for a ‘soft launch’? Well, I mean, I do like a challenge after all. And I wanted an excuse to party, didn’t I? Didn’t I? All I needed was a co-editor as young and eager as I was. In stepped Chris Kelso, and the race began.

So it was that I battled the gnashing hordes of the Impending Deadline Army, and slogged away through the dead of the night. So it was that I became estranged to my friends and howled insults at the computer monitor as InDesign CS3 thwarted my evil plans. So it was that I made lots of semi-hysterical posts on Facebook, fully expecting my own collapse from exhaustion and madness. And yet, to those who bore witness to this spectacle (which is, I’m afraid, a pretty regular thing whenever a deadline approaches), one thing was clear: I loved it. Perhaps I’m a masochist. Perhaps that’s the real reason I’m drawn to the horrific. But whatever. I have. I’ve enjoyed every moment of exquisite suffering to put together this book in what was an amazingly compressed period of time.

So here it is. Hopefully in time for Alt.Fiction. And what delights me most is that I get to re-read all these deliciously dark confections again. At my own leisure. Without any deadlines. And now, so can you!

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