Creative Writing PhD

I need your help

Today I’d love to get your opinions on something.

I’m on the cusp of making a rather large decision regarding a piece of work/project that could result in a six-year commitment.

I’m super excited but this has been living in my head for some time and I’m struggling because of this. I can’t get the distance to see things as objectively as I would like so I would very much appreciate your thoughts on the below.

2 thoughts on “I need your help”

  1. Hi, Katie. I can’t exactly explain why but mental health issues through Horror is psychological Horror which to me isn’t really Horror at all or at least not what I enjoy. There’s a few exceptions but I like Horror that is re-readable like King’s IT or Simmons Summer of Night. They both have psychological Horror elements but there is a real supernatural presence of Horror. Same could be said of Lovecraft, Ligotti and most of Poe. As far as disabilities in Horror go, I’m disabled somewhat so, to me, it doesn’t work as well. I think it’s why Dreamcatcher was one of King’s worst. And why, though I loved it as a teen, I’m put off by The Stand nowadays and would never read it again though it was without a doubt a greatly written novel otherwise. But obvious to me King hasn’t an f’ing clue about mentally retarded or Down’s Syndrome persons. Like I do. My brother was both. So, unless you know the ins and outs of the particular disabilty you’re thinking of having your character afflicted with, it can be very offensive to those that know if you get it wrong. Which is also why I absolutely hate Of Mice and Men. I don’t care what anybody says, Steinbeck didn’t have a clue about the mentally retarded and it was a disgrace which I think affected people’s overall understanding of those who are mentally retarded and saddened those that knew better. Disabilities work better in Science fiction to me. A brilliant example is Corinne Duyvis On the Edge of Gone and the companion short story, as well as most if not all of the other authors stories, in the wonderful Defying Doomsday anthology edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench. This anthology was composed of writers who seriously know their disabilities and the people who have them. I think disabilities work better in SF because it’s Speculative fiction and not tending towards being offensive if it’s not 100% perfectly conceived. Horror tends to be about people of today or some other earlier decade and the non-supernatural elements are expected to reflect reality as well as can be understood or described. SF & Speculative fiction should hit close to home but the parameters of reality can be blurred somewhat and some liberties taken on where things have progressed or changed as far as disabilities or their treatment is concerned. Now, fear of the other is an entirely different thing. First and foremost that could mean a lot of things. However, regardless of what ‘other’ we’re talking about, invention and imagination are the key and ‘anything goes’ so to say. Fear of the other also implies it is a real thing, not psychological nor subject matter that can be misunderstood or offensive because it ‘doesn’t get it right’ like a lot of Horror with characters who have disabilities is. I’m sure there are some fine examples of the two working well together but if anyone tries to mention the books above I loathed to death or found off-the-mark I will know that they have no clue what they are talking about. However, I am sure there needs to be more disabled characters in all fiction including Horror but unless they are written by someone with very relatable experience with the exact-type of disabled character they are writing about, it’s just my opinion of course but, it’s better to steer clear and write about things you know or have at least researched to great extent. I chose Fear of the Other because something pschological, meaning, mostly in one’s mind, or something with disabilities as a character focus in a Horror can be misunderstood or even offensive because it is so, is not nearly as re-readable. Or as scary the second time around.

    1. Your comment tie in well to what I’m trying to do, effectively I’m putting together an application to a university to become a PhD candidate and I want to research into the effect of negative or poor portrayals of disability and mental health in the horror genre have on society and how changes in society are then reflected in literature. So hearing about how upsetting it is to see poor portrayals of disability certainly backs up my thesis.

      I think it’s extremely important to research what you’re writing about, regardless of if it’s a disability you don’t have experience of, a race you are not a part of, a gender different to your own etc etc. Even if you have experience of a topic research should still be a part of it as your own experience is just that, your own, it’s going to differ from person to person. It’s a shame when writers fail at this and fall back on stereotypes and cliches.

      When I’m reading for fun, I’m a fan of horror where the supernatural element can represent something else, like the Babadook, where the monster was symbolic of grief. Hence my novella A Man in Winter looks at dementia via ghosts.

      Thank you for taking the time to give such a detailed response.

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