New fields, old land

I tweeted a month or so back that I’d shoved all other writing projects aside (and that has included this blog, dear reader) because I’d started work on a Folk Horror story. This new work is now at around 9,000 words* and going well.

I feel a twinge of guilt at abandoning (for now) the fantasy story that I’d been writing for three-and-a-half years. That’s a long time – too long a time – to have one work living in your head. I hope I can return to it in the future. In the meantime the new work (of course) feels fresh and exciting. Occurring as it does in “the real world”, rather than a sub-created one, it makes the writing – or at least the thinking behind it – that much easier. There’s much more a writer can take for granted that a reader will know. Obviously a good writer will try to make the familiar seem unfamiliar, but at least you don’t have to describe everything as if encountered for the first time.

Also, writing in the horror mode feels a lot more like home. I’m sure (and if it’s ever published, you can find out and tell me) that I was committing unpardonable errors and cliches in the fantasy novel, but I was enjoying it, and it felt true to me**. But slipping into horror is like putting on an old, worn, but comfortable piece of clothing. It just fits.

I’m currently reading Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley (author of The Loney), and a few pages in I began to be concerned that the work I’ve just begun shares a similar conceit. Neil Gaiman has previously spoken (vis-a-vis the Sandman volume A Game of You, which shared a plot with Jonathan Carroll’s Bones of the Moon) about works that are “tuned to the same channel”***. I hope my work is just mining the same vein, and not stealing from Hurley’s haul. I swithered over whether or not to keep reading, in case of unwitting theft, but decided to continue. I’d like to think I’m honest enough not to steal from another writer, and wise enough to realise if I was doing so unconsciously. Hopefully you can be the judge, in time.

I’m not superstitious but I don’t generally like to give too much away about what I’m writing until it’s advanced enough to be capable of standing on its own. Otherwise (to mix metaphors) it lets all the air out of it. You’ll just have to wait, and hopefully it won’t take me three years to write.

Howard Ingham makes a very good point about the difference between a film being “accidentally” folk horror (the quintessential The Wicker Man, made years before the term was coined), and a film being intentionally designed as Folk Horror (Wake Wood, capitalising on the resurgence of interest in the genre)****. If I’m already labelling this story, it has to live up to the expectations of that label, and preferably either supersede or help to expand the genre’s (admittedly broad) definitions. Otherwise it’s an exercise in box-ticking: Folk Horror bingo, as Ingham says.

I meant to do a piece on Folk Horror ages ago but never got around to it. The links below will have to suffice for now. It’s one of the genres that’s difficult to define with precision, but generally you know it when you see it.

Folk Horror primer:


* If I can get 500 words written in a day, I’m happy. I have a full-time job, a full-time marriage and full-time child to juggle at the same time.

** It was also the umpteenth attempt at a story whose origins are actually shared by the new work, as I wrote before Christmas.

*** Carroll was encouraging, quoting Ezra Pound to Gaiman: “every story has already been written. The purpose of a good writer is to write it new”.

**** He also makes a good point about veering too close to saying “I was into Folk Horror before it was cool”. The stories in my collection which could be termed folk horror were written years before I heard the term, and in that respect are accidentally so.

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