I have a sweet spot for stories framed in the meta, and “Introduction to the Horror Story, Day 1” fits the bill. I’d like to turn that meta back on the author. What scares you? What leaves Kurt Fawver trembling beneath the sheets as the darkness comes?
Willful ignorance scares me as much as angers me. I truly believe it’s the root of most of the world’s social strife. Too many people just don’t want to learn about anything other than their own limited experience. It leads to violence against anything that’s not, in their minds, familiar and understandable.
This story has a strong narrative voice, both in terms of format and the narrator themselves. Tell us something of the inspiration for this story and why you chose this particular form.
I wanted to tell a story that attempted to break down horror into its most basic parts, all while using those basic parts to form the basis of the horror in the story. When I considered what that reciprocity would look like, it seemed a lecture from an educational voice would be most apt to accomplish the breaking down, since making complex issues more digestible is what educational voices are supposed to do. Figuring out how to build that lecture back up into a story that worked as a story was definitely the hard part (since lectures are sometimes pretty dry).
One element of the story that resonated quite strongly is the concept that horror in the form of suffering is a very intimate, personal experience. What unsettles in the abstract can paralyze in detail. How aware of the reader’s attention are you when writing? Do you write with a specific audience in mind?
I rarely write with a specific audience in mind. I try to make my stories as universal in their themes as I can so that they connect with the greatest number of readers. As the professor in the story says, there are certain ideas, certain elements of existence, that will resonate with almost everyone. I think the best stories hit on those sweet spots, so that’s what I try to do.
You have extensive experience in the world of academia, teaching, guiding, unraveling. Do you feel that your work as a professor has influenced your writing, or vice versa?
Yes, absolutely. I’ve written several stories that are grounded in the academic world, either through plot or narration or setting. The contemporary idea of school is inherently a chaos unto itself, and there’s so much mystery in knowledge, so much potential for the unknown, the arcane, and the incomprehensible to rear their heads in learning, that the academic world lends itself to horror.
Returning once again to the meta of the story, the narrator makes note of a number of writers who explore the darker reaches of the imagination. Do you have any particular favorite horror writers? Are there any newer horror writers who have attracted your attention?
I have too many favorite horror writers, both old and new, to even begin to list them all. You’d be reading names for the next hour. And, honestly, I’ll feel awful if I start listing and then forget someone who deserves a shout out. I’ll just say that the authors I name drop in the story—John Langan, Paul Tremblay, Shirley Jackson, for instance—are certainly all influences, and leave it at that.
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