“Pitcher Plant” speaks to fear on many levels: of the certainty of death; of the unknown; of being forgotten, rendered irrelevant; of feeling helpless in the face of suffering. What inspired this dark web of words?
The premise, a house designed to lure and imprison Death, has been bouncing around this lumpy head for so many years that its origins are lost in fog. I can tell you that this is a short story version, and that a novel-length variant has also been ping-ponging about the inside of my skull since the Cretaceous period, and might still happen (though it would be quite different, and would have no real connection to this story). Time alone will determine if it happens.
One line in particular struck me as what may well be the true horror of the story: “You might very well figure out an escape route before the world above recognizes the disaster of your absence, but you might never.” The architect’s good intentions to save others from the horror of recognizing their own death, paved the way to a future where there may well be no Death, only an eternity of suffering. What would a Deathless world look like to you?
A world without Death would be a disaster horrific beyond imagining. That is all I currently have the stomach to say.
This interpretation of Death is very different from, say, Terry Pratchett’s gently grim and comedic character, yet you’re also known for blending humor with horror in stories such as “The Totals.” Why do you feel readers enjoy laughing at tragedy or monsters of any sort lurking in the shadows? Is it a simple cathartic relief “thank God it didn’t happen to me,” or something else?
Briefly: horror is so close to comedy, and vice versa, that sometimes the curtain slips.
In addition to being a prolific fiction writer, you also write frequently about movies. What do you look for in a good horror movie? How do these expectations differ, if at all, from horror in print?
Good horror movies are thinner on the ground than good written horror, in part because some of the folks who make them think sadism is enough. (More so, in recent years.) What I want from them is what I want in all good stories: an interesting perspective, a reason to care, a lack of compromise . . . and because the genre presents this pitfall, best avoided, a lack of nihilism for its own sake.
Is your wife a fan of horror? Does she read your darker stories?
The only story of mine that Judi ever (initially) refused to read was “My Wife Hates Time Travel,” which is pretty much directly inspired by her own irritation at stories involving time paradoxes. (But she loves Doctor Who, go figure.) My current sense of her tastes is that, while she can take horror, her love of the genre has somewhat softened in recent years. But this doesn’t prevent her from being my best first reader!
Spread the word!