Can I read real horror, daddy?
Believe it or not, in addition to writing I also have a full-time job. I know? Bizarre eh? My role involves a hell of a lot of travel on the road, so I have taken to listening to audiobooks and podcasts to get the daily required dose of fiction to inspire and to keep my own shitty writing relevant. Moreover, It’s pretty hard to read hardback Stephen King whilst doing 80mph.
Some of the pro and semi-pro markets have their very own podcasts these days, and honestly it is a fairly useful tool to get an idea of what type of story they have in mind before submitting to them.
There is one specific publication (which will remain nameless), that famously gets back to reject you in record time. I swear to God that I am telling the honest truth when I say that I was once rejected ten minutes after submitting a piece of fiction to them. That takes pain and degradation to a whole new level. How did they even read it in ten minutes?
Anyway, I digress- they also have their very own podcast and a couple of times a month they’ll get a top notch voice actor to read their latest wares and then whack it up on iTunes. By the time I discovered this I had probably had around ten stories rejected by them (top tip: keep a spreadsheet of your submissions.) I thought to myself, “Maybe if I listen to a handful of their stories I’ll unlock the secret behind their 0.001% acceptance ratio?”
I was taking a shower, with my smartphone sat in the dry safety of a disused soap dish, listening to the third or fourth episode of this podcast when the realisation dawned on me (or it might have just been shampoo in my eye.) These guys like pretentious bollocks! The horror that isn’t really horror; safe mainstream stuff that mummy and daddy would just love to sit and listen to by the fire whilst thumbing through an issue of the Financial Times. A metaphor within a simile within a metaphor.
I’m sorry, but that just isn’t horror to me. It is well written and in some cases quite entertaining, it might be too clever for its own good, but it isn’t horror. Not in my humble opinion.
Horror is all about empathy. Identifying with their fears and concerns at a human level that haunts you for just a little while after you’ve finished. It is really hard to empathise when you barely understand what the writer is trying to convey because they’re using the story as a vehicle to show how tremendously smart they are.
I haven’t submitted to that particular outlet since. It feels like I’m letting myself down trying to write in that way. Like I’m not being truthful to myself. That’s why I feel so at home amongst the awesome authors at DT- no pretentiousness just good old fashioned horror, and long may it stay that way.