I first met Tim Deal at a Shroud Party at Context in August of 2009. I’ve been fortunate enough for us to keep in contact since then. In fact, one of my short stories will appear in Shroud Magazine #9 later this year. But, that’s a tale for another day. As for the May column entry, Tim was actually one of the first people I asked to write a guest article. He’s not only a hell of a guy, doing some amazing things over at Shroud but also knows what is what when it comes to talking about the horror genre. I feel much honored to have formed a friendship with Tim and for him to be part of my ever-growing column.
Below is a special peek at Tim’s Introduction for Shroud #8.
The Unnecessary Defense of Our Genre by Tim Deal
I haven’t seen or read the Twilight Saga so I wouldn’t know if it’s good or not. I do know that I clearly don’t fall within the obvious demographic of the publisher/studio’s target market – Abercrombie & Fitch doesn’t even make clothes in my size. I also know that Stephen King had some choice words to say about Stephenie Meyer’s writing ability, and I’m sure Meyer thought a lot about those words on her way to the bank.
I shared a link to King’s statement about Meyer on Facebook, which spawned a long list of comments from my Internet friends and acquaintances. Though the reactions were divided as to the perceived benefit of reading crap versus not reading at all. There was little argument about the classification of Meyer’s writing as ‘horror.’
If you watched the Academy Awards this year, then you saw the dreamy young stars of Twilight introduce an Oscar homage to ‘horror movies.’ Lumped among The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Exorcist, were movies like The Sixth Sense, Jaws, and astoundingly, Twilight.
I’m probably splitting hairs here, but I think the Academy was using the word ‘horror’ to mean any movie that features ‘dead people’ that are premortem, postmortem, reanimated, transmogrified, eviscerated, digested, apparitional, or – in the case of Twilight – sculpted, styled and superficial. I don¹t know. I’m just guessing.
I realized that the more important discussion was not the Academy’s classification of horror, but more my overreaction to it. It felt as if Hollywood was trying to take something away from me, and I needed to ‘set the record straight.’ I wasn’t alone. From my extremely horror-centric Facebook crew, to message boards all over the Web, my overreaction was shared by thousands of horror fans. It made me feel better. I was being validated. I was right.
In my ‘rightness’ I was confident that the horror community as a whole would circle around the genre and shore up the walls to our private little bastion of darkness, and prevent interlopers from setting foot within. We would be safe again from corporate interests who subjugate and assimilate the most marketable aspects of our beloved genre and then exploit them for commercial gain. No more would Big Horror step on Little Horror and make money off of us.
Plus, hell, vampires weren’t sexy! No sir! Vampires were dreadful bald creatures like Nosferatu, or like those cool super vampires in 30 Days of Night. We would not tolerate sexy vampires, and certainly not sexy teen vampires. Not to mention that vampires weren’t even the ‘IN’ thing right now. Zombies were still the hot commodity, and stupid Stephenie Meyer and Hollywood couldn’t even figure that out. Friggin’ posers.
All of this made me think about 1988. At that time I fancied myself ‘alternative.’ Bleached hair, tattoos, Doc Martens, and even black eyeliner. At the time, The Cure was pretty obscure. The only way you could hear The Cure, is if you somehow knew about them and knew where to buy their albums. It felt good to be part of the hidden elite. I was a counterculture revolutionary – cool for not being cool. My little cabal of freaks made a solemn vow that if The Cure were EVER played on the radio; we would no longer be fans. Clearly, if the The Cure got air time, then it meant that they sold out. More importantly, we would lose exclusivity. We felt like we owned The Cure, and we most assuredly did not want to share them.
It all comes down to this for me – this silliness about genres, subcultures, and exclusivity: we want so desperately to be unique and special that we carry around our interests and vocations like a banner. We can’t just enjoy horror, we have to OWN horror. Because we identify so strongly with the genre, we want others to understand the depths of our commitment and passion. Merely reading, writing, or watching it is not enough. We have to establish ourselves as its True Guardians and in doing so we prove to the world that we Know What We’re Talking About. We then endeavor to defend it against anyone or anything that we perceive does not fit the bill.
The thing is; these genres and classifications are constructs. They are simply a means to organize, commercialize, or categorize. A good story and good execution – in books or film – transcend genre. We don’t have to like horror for being horror, any more than we should dislike the Twilight Saga just for not fitting our classification of horror. We don’t have to prove our level of commitment and passion to anyone. Our obligation as writers and readers is to only insist upon excellence – it is the best service we can provide in support of our genre.
In 2010, I can’t turn on the radio without hearing The Cure, and I’ll be damned if I don’t still enjoy them as much as I did 22 years ago.
Tim Deal is the Editor & Publisher of Shroud Magazine. You can check out all the great things he’s doing over there by visiting: Shroud Magazine
Ty is an author in the horror genre. To learn more about his work, you can visit his website at: Ty Schwamberger