Posted on January 8, 2009 by Flames
A new horror design essay has arrived here at Flames Rising. Author Maurice Broaddus tells us a bit about the creative process that went into his recent project with Wrath James White.
Religion and Horror
Some people have asked about what the thought process behind bringing Orgy of Souls to light. So I thought I would explore that for a bit.
At the World Horror Convention 2007, Wrath James White and I were telling award-winning writer, Gary Braunbeck about our collaboration. If I could capture a facial expression of his reaction to just the IDEA of the two of us writing together, and use it as a blurb, I most certainly would have done so.
Wrath James White and I have very little in common beyond being bald, black horror writers. Our writing styles, our lifestyles, our politics, our worldviews, our spiritual perspectives – on paper, we shouldn’t even be friends. He writes for those with “a taste for the violent, the erotic, the blasphemous,” while I write introspective, atmospheric stories. He’s a hedonistic humanist and I’m a Christian, the facilitator (a nebulous title coming from the Greek meaning “we don’t want to keep explaining to the congregation that one of the church leaders is a horror writer”) at a church called The Dwelling Place.
Religion and horror are inextricably tied to one another, probably because both deal with the unknown and try to come to terms with the fear of it. Since spirituality is a fundamental part of the human experience, an examination of faith, especially against the backdrop of the horror genre is something that is near to my heart. Doing so with a voice diametrically opposed to mine, that’s a challenge that I’ve looked forward to.
The a “big idea” to Orgy of Souls is the examination of the idea of faith and in a lot of ways is a continuation of the kind of conversations (read: arguments) Wrath and I typically find ourselves in (in fact, my story recently published in Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest #12, “Broken Strand” is another story stemming from one of our arguments, that time on free will. Just like “Nurse’s Requiem”, in the Dark Dreams III anthology examined the idea of faith stemming from another argument; and my story “Rite of Passage”, in an upcoming issue of Space & Time Magazine stemmed from an argument we were having over the history of slavery. In other words, we do this a lot).
Seen as a crutch by some, faith is that sometimes tenuous, sometimes stronger-than-we-think thing that keeps our world in order. I believe that we’re all people of faith in our own way, it’s just a matter of what we choose to put that faith in, be it in ourselves, science, humanity, or in God. As such, we each are on our own spiritual journey.
I don’t know much for sure and I’m certainly not afraid of questioning or going through a period of doubt. Faith includes doubt. God is big enough for us to question, doubt, and wrestle with. In fact, I believe He expects us to. The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s certainty. Finding faith is like falling in love: there is an element of mystery to both and let’s face it, there are times when we feel like we have been chosen and times when we choose to do it (which is what marriage has taught me).
As for “how can a Christian write horror?” (you can imagine the variations on this question I tend to field … and my sometimes less than helpful responses) or justify any story, much less one about faith, set against a backdrop of plenty of sex and violence and the occasional demon … the best answer I can offer is that sometimes exploring faith can be messy.
Orgy of Souls is as much about the collaboration as anything else. It’s important to choose wisely in your collaboration partners because it’s a lot like entering into a marriage (and divorce can be just as messy). The idea is to come together without losing the distinction of your individual voices. The way we looked at it was that I do what I do. Wrath does what Wrath does. I get to play in Wrath’s sandbox (though I swear, he wrote all the naughty bits. Absolutely. He’s solely to blame. I definitely had no role in any of that. For sure.) Wrath gets to play in mine. It was every bit as much two friends coming together to do what we love, writing, just to enjoy the give and take and learning from each other. And have a ball doing it.
Then we invite the reader to join in our fun. You can’t ask for much more than that.
About the Authors
Maurice Broaddus‘ work has appeared in Weird Tales, Horror Literature Quarterly, and a wide variety of anthologies. His story “Family Business” won first prize at the World Horror Convention Story Competition in 2003. Often known as the Sinister Minister, Broaddus says of the religious aspects of his writing: “As writers, our worldviews–from nihilistic to religious–are a part of us and thus a part of our writing. What we believe, why we believe, it’s all in there.”
Wrath James White is a professional fighter and writer, two pursuits that blend together to create unrelenting prose. His novels include Teratologist (co-written with Edward Lee), Poisoning Eros (co-written with Monica O-Rourke), and Succulent Prey. “If you have a weak stomach, a closed mind, rigid morals, and Victorian sexual ethics, then avoid my writing like the plague,” says Wrath. If, on the other hand, you want hard-hitting fiction where nothing is taboo, you’ve found the right author.