It's a fair question. I look at my bookshelf, and it's overflowing with books that sport titles, colors and pictures designed to evoke fear. The Shining, The Excorcist, City of the Dead, Stir of Echoes, Dracula, it's one book after another of horror, and my writing follows the same bent. I have written straight fiction, and enjoy reading it. Some of my favorite books have nary a ghost or ghoul to speak of. The works of James Clavell, for instance. I've read almost all of the books of China and Japan, and absolutely love them. I've read books by "hard" sci-fi writers such as Ben Bova and Greg Bear, as well as fantasy by Tolkien, Robert Jordan, and the entire Dragon Gate series by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, and I am currently reading the Game of Thrones series. To make up for my admittedly narrow focus in reading, I have, over the last few years, been going through the classics, one by one. A Clockwork Orange, 1984, The Grapes of Wrath, Farenheit 451, The Great Gatsby, you know, stuff I should have read before I got out of high school, but somehow managed to avoid. And truthfully, it's been no chore. I have loved every word on every page. And yet, what gets my juices flowing, are books that deal with the supernatural. I anticipate each new work by Stephen King or Dean Koontz, Douglas Clegg, Bentley Little, Tim Lebbon, Tom Piccirilli, and others. I don't consider myself a morose person. I was once called a human party favor, and I took that for the compliment that it was. And though I recognize death as a part of life, I don't dwell on it. Who needs that kind of crap weighing you down? And while I hate being cut off in traffic, and can't stand it when people in public places spend the entire time there on their cell phones, I don't fly into a rage, or wish death upon the offending party. In other words, I think I'm a pretty balanced, mentally healthy guy. But Pinhead looking into the camera and saying "Time to play!" gives me goosebumps, okay? I love that shit!
Which brings me back to my original question. What the hell is it that causes some people to gravitate towards reading and writing literature that deals with such dark and often gruesome subjects as ghosts, vampires, haunted houses, zombies, etc.? My favorite explanation comes from Stephen King in his forward to his collection The Night Shift. First of all, he questions the assumption that horror writers have a choice in what we write at all. Then he likens the process of writing to sifting through the filters on the floors of our minds. What catches in my mind - horror - may pass right through the sci-fi writer's filter, and vice versa. I can't help that. Nor do I want to. In the immortal words of Popeye: "I yam what I yam. And that's all that I yam."
So, if you're a horror writer, take heart. Resist the urge to defend yourself when someone at a party asks you what it is you write. There's nothing wrong with you. Just hold your head up, stick out your chest, and proudly announce: "I'm a horror writer!"
Chris Collins is a reader and writer of horror. Anything that sends a shiver crawling up your spine has a home in Harrowscape. He has recently made a deal for his first novel, "The Raggedy Man," due out on shelves in 2017