Once upon a time I wrote a zine called HUBRIS: The Journal of Cultural Horror. It was an ambitious monthly publication centered on cruel, unjust, and terrifying things going on in the world. I envisioned doing six issues, after which I’d reset and possibly do another six. I burned out after 5. Cultural horror is still something that I want to write about, though. What I need to do is figure out how it fits in with my life and my other plans. To that end, I put together a magna carta.
A Cultural Horror Magna Carta
There are several layers of purpose for this magna carta:
- Why do I want to write this?
- What do I expect to get out of this?
- How does this fit with my larger goals and plans?
- How does this fit with the otherwise positive outlook of my other goals?
- Is there a way to do this without making myself sick?
Those are the main questions to try to answer when looking at the pros and cons. These are the problems to be solved. I think there’s a way to do it, which I’ll cover in my conclusions.
The Reasons Against It
We’ll start here. It’s easiest for me to articulate because I know the answers already:
- Research is time consuming.
- Every story is a gut punch.
- It does not contribute to Priority 1, the Big Hairy Audacious Goal.
- It does not contribute to Priority 2, self-care.
- Do I have anything of value to add to the conversation?
- Am I putting myself in danger by speaking out?
The reasons that I stopped writing the zine are still in place. The emotional toll that it took on me, doing a deep dive into those stories that I felt needed to be acknowledged if not given a signal boost, was significant. I don’t want to put myself through that again. It saps my energy, messes up my concentration, and destroys my mood. It doesn’t matter whether a story makes me sad or angry, it throws me off.
There is also the fact that it becomes as time sink. Blogging as a hobby, the way I do here, if fine as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the writing that pays the bills. This site contributes to my self-care, as a means of personal expression and safe social interaction. Cultural horror as a topic doesn’t offer any immediate value-add.
As for the danger bit, while it might be overstated I am currently at the mercy of two governments. I don’t want to be seen as a troublemaker or rabblerouser. There’s also the potential to be harassed, because we know what the internet is like and have seen people put through hell for less.
All of that aside, I also want to be sure that I have something worthwhile to say. I don’t really think that I’m so influential that my tepid signal boost will change anything. Nor do I think that I’m so brilliant that I can find solutions for most of these issues.
The Reasons For It
As counterpoint, here are the reasons it could be worthwhile:
- Getting it off my chest is a form of self-care.
- I’m tired of living in fear of what fascists might do.
- Finding a positive, or at least hopeful, spin will be a creative challenge.
- It doesn’t have to be a major project.
- Harassment can be dealt with if and when it happens.
For a long time I though that it would feel forced to try to shoehorn cultural horror into the themes of simplify, create, thrive. Yet the who reason I selected that premise was because it theoretically covers everything. It’s all a matter of approach and presentation. Can’t topics be discussed in terms of how artificial complexity and the intentional muddying of the metaphorical waters has created these issues? Isn’t creativity going to be the way out of the darkness is most cases? Won’t we all be better off by acknowledging that these things exist, and finding a better way? Shouldn’t these stories at least spark gratitude for our own privilege? Isn’t cultivating compassion for those who are suffering ultimately a good thing?
It’s not about embracing the darkness, or spreading the misery around. The point has to be to shine a light on the things that live in the shadows, the stories that don’t get enough attention, the vile people who keep getting away with these despicable things. Control follows awareness. When you are aware of these things, you are back in control. What we fear is the unknown. Once these things become known, we can find a way to live our lives in spite of them.
To write about cultural horror in this space, then, won’t be as reductive as giving in and wallowing it in.
These posts will be small acts of defiance.