I write horror. Monsters, demons, weird things happening, eerie nights, human frailty, weakness, failures, fears, and nightmares are all part of the bag. Bad things happen to good people, and I see tragic stories in the news every day, domestic tragedies that make my heart ache and make me ask, "Why?"
Gary Braunbeck says something similar in his memoir, To Each Their Darkness - that he wants to know WHY. Why do bad things happen? Why suicide, murder, abuse, death, misery and destruction? So I'm always asking myself these questions, and thinking about stories that try to form an answer through telling a tale.
Because of the way I've been raised - Baptist/Christian - because of who I AM, an optimist who always sees the glass as half-full, who believes that while the world has become an awfully scary, dangerous place: life is beautiful and wondrous, and because of that, beauty still exists on this bad old planet of ours...I'm an Idealist.
I HAVE to be, especially considering my son's autism. He's made great strides in such a short time, is much better off than many others, and is a bright, wonderful little boy. But the very real fact remains: he may never enjoy a normal life. Ever. May never be able to live on his own. A friend of the family's son is autistic, and is a genius. Has memorized the entire Bible. But he can't live on his own, because he can't manage the simple machinations of day-to-day life.
So I HAVE to be idealistic. I have to believe in something better for Zack, have to believe that Someone, Up There was in control and Knows What They're Doing, because if not, I'd never be able to get through every day, especially the hard ones, when Zack is struggling.
I want to write fiction - not necessarily horror - that goes to dark places, looks at disturbing things with an unflinching gaze, so that we can get through it, to the light at the end. And yes - sometimes, in real life, we don't get to see that light. So, the Realists say, your story lacks realism. It's not true to life.
But to some people, that's what ART is. It strives against the chaos of life, by imposing an order - that's perhaps otherworldly, certainly Other - upon that chaos.
Now, a lot of people would maintain Gardner was saying this tongue in cheek, based on some of the fiction he turned out himself. But for me, the quote speaks volumes. Of course, I want my characters to walk and talk realistically, want scenarios to be realistic, as well as descriptions, and settings.Art is essentially serious and beneficial, a game played against chaos and death, against entropy. - John Gardner
But I'm not a Realist. I'm an Idealist. So, in the end, straight-to-world realism isn't my primary goal, because for me, if I'm crafting an Idealistic tale...it's part of my art.
How will this affect my future writing? Well, it has lead me to turn down a few gigs, just because the stories weren't "me", or at the time, I could find a slant that worked for me. But, ironically, I don't see it as changed my focus very much. My current serial novella, And I Watered It, In Tears in Lamplight Magazine, is dark. There's death, and some wrenching personal stuff there, too.
But for me, things need to have meaning. Order. Purpose. Because to me, that's what Art is: Balance, Order, Harmony.
I'll write dark things. I'll go there. But to play it off the light, to make it shine all the brighter.