Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fantasy vs. Horror

I wrote a short story. It’s fiction, because I’ve changed names and sequence of details, and compacted these into a plot encapsulating the events of a fifteen minute span of time. But otherwise, these were based on factual persons and circumstances. I thought this story would be a shoe-in for the speculative journal on campus, but the editor told me on rejection that it just wasn’t fantasy enough. 

That’s scary.

This story deals with a person masquerading as “the right man for the right woman” on an online dating site. It depicts his habits in searching for women, and a habit of collecting photos posted by these women that he keeps in a stock fold for “art.” This art is violent in nature and is hinged to his addiction to hardcore BDSM porn. In the fifteen minutes readers spend with the character they experience his objectification of prospects and his plans to use them for grotesque “artistic” aims. In the end, the girl he’s trying to reel in gets away. That’s probably the most fantastic detail of all.

In the conversation I had with the speculative journal editor we discussed gratuitous gory violence and exploitative sexuality in media. He said he’s not so effected by sexuality. I said I wasn’t so effected by violence until a few weeks ago. On Valentine’s Day weekend Mr. PNU and I wanted to see a movie. The biggest title out was 50 Shades of Grey, and neither of us were interested. So on the recommendation of one of my best friends, a fellow Greek student, we saw Kingsman instead. About midway through the film, Colin Firth’s character, a British CIA agent extraordinaire is lured into a church styled after the Westborough Baptists. Under the influence of powerful radio waves unleashed by the film’s villain, Samuel L. Jackson, the agent’s inhibitions toward violence are repressed and in a grotesquely comic scene, probably five minutes too long, he slaughters everyone in the church enlisting every inhumane method of murder imaginable. The assault to my compassionate sensibilities turned my stomach, and I had to look away.

We left the theatre thinking that perhaps there had been redeeming qualities to the film. I was still disturbed by the violence.

The next week, ISIS beheaded 21 Christians on a Middle Eastern beach. I shouldn’t give in to my curiosity, but it gets the better of me more often than I care to admit. I know enough about my weakness to know I am no less immune to sexual pornography than men, and neither am I immune to the temptation of seeing, firsthand, what was done to these men. I confronted the most horrifying revelation when I watched the ISIS film, and for the most part, it was no worse than Kingsman. Granted, I looked away again, because I couldn’t bring myself to see the initial throat slits. But the violence perpetuated by ISIS reads on film almost as comically as the Hollywood rendition. I was appalled at myself and my level of desensitization. 

And now I have a short story I’m trying to shop around that is horrific, but too close to reality to pass as speculative. That is terrifying.  I read the piece last night at a weekly open mic after giving the audience adequate warning that the work is mature in content and that I would prefer people walk out than sit as a story assaulted their sensibilities. Five people left mid reading. The rest who stayed looked at me with a sort of startled fascination for the rest of the evening. I think perhaps the reality of what I’d read sank in. 

One woman told me it was absolutely haunting.

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