TNP Members - Joe's Thoughts on Fiction and Horror

When asked to describe my own fiction, or when asked to describe my writing process, I prefer to describe my favorite literature. I believe that good reading helps produce good writing.

Fiction where characters hold deep internal monologues about life and love and relationships does not interest me. I want to read stories that create vivid environments through which unique characters move and exciting situations take place. And as my friends know, there is a special place in my heart for tales of the disturbing and horrific.  

I’m no armchair psychologist, but I know that my obsession with horror is a direct result of my religious upbringing. The King James Bible was the primary literature of my childhood. And I love the Bible not only for its goodness, but also for the sheer terror it contains. The scriptures haunted my dreams and stimulated my imagination as a young boy. I envisioned the angel of death flying over Egypt and sucking the lives out of the first-born, and I imagined David cutting off the foreskins of 200 dead Philistines. I thought about Abraham being told by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac. What could be more horrific than that? I cringed when thinking of the crucifixions on Golgotha.

What I love the most is a good, bleak dystopia, something that would make John the Revelator proud. After all, his book is the progenitor of all apocalyptic literature. But a good horror story, like the Christian Apocalypse, does not simply have to end with ultimate destruction. The blackest clouds are often tinged with the silver foreshadowing of hope for a better future…the biblical yearning for utopia.

Horror is not my only genre. I love beauty in prose and detailed imagery that awakens and colors fantastic settings. I love the writings of Marquez, Bradbury, Miéville, and Bacigalupi. And for this reason, I consider Bradbury’s “Ylla” one of the most beautiful short stories ever written.     

On that note, here is a list of some of the short stories most influential to my writing. There are hundreds more, and this list is ever changing:

  1. “There Will Come Soft Rains,” by Ray Bradbury
  2. “Good Country People,” by Flannery O’Conner
  3. “The Grey Wolf,” by George MacDonald
  4. “Children of the Corn,” by Stephen King
  5. “The Call of Cthulhu,” by H.P. Lovecraft
  6. “The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brian
  7. “By the Waters of Babylon,” by Stephen Vincent Benet
  8. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” by Joyce Carol Oats
  9. “The Frost Giant’s Daughter,” by Robert E. Howard
  10. “The Pedestrian,” by Ray Bradbury

A short story of mine titled “Hunting the Southern Flatlands,” is being published in an anthology this coming October, just in time for Halloween. It is a tale of post-apocalyptic cannibalism that is both a political statement and a tribute to the aesthetics of all the authors listed above. I hope you enjoy it, and I will provide the link to the anthology when it is published.