Tell us a little bit about “Things of Which We Do Not Speak.” How did you come to write it?
“Things of Which We Do Not Speak” was written during a period of my writing life when I focused more on real world horror and less on the supernatural. That has changed somewhat now, but I’ve always been intrigued by the dynamics of dominant/submissive relationships and the fear and distaste some profess for this type of sex play. So I started with the idea of a woman who asks to be “abused” as part of a sex game, while her male partner reacts very negatively and judgmentally to the idea. Then my next question was why would this character, Matthew, who seems to be into Elaine, why does he react this way?
What I came up with, of course, is the dark secret Matthew is hiding, even from himself. So while on the surface, it might appear that he is reacting to a sexual kink of Elaine’s, his true fears and desires run much deeper and are almost totally repressed, a dynamic that certainly occurs in real life. The person who “protests too much,” saying, “Oh but I could never do that, that wouldn’t be very loving, would it?” is sometimes the most dangerous partner, since they’re clueless as to what really lies within their own minds and hearts.
Do we fear in ourselves what we condemn in others? Is that why horror movie characters are so frequently “punished” for social or character infractions, for example?
As far as fearing in ourselves what we condemn in others, look at all the sanctimonious politicians and religious “leaders” who get caught doing the very thing they’ve labeled as evil, illegal, immoral, whatever. No better way to draw attention from one’s own activities than to lead a crusade against that same behavior. Until they get caught, of course.
As far as characters in movies, etc. the “woman as victim” theme obviously appeals to some male viewers on a number of levels, misogyny being one element of that. I also think there’s a subtext aimed at keeping female behavior within societal “norms,” e.g. if you’re promiscuous or kinky or whatever you are, you’ll end up fed into a wood chipper or worse. Our culture definitely threatens a terrible fate for women who deviate from the norm. Even our language reflects this. The word “slut” gets bandied about very freely, but what term do we use for a virile and sexually active male—why, “stud,” of course, a badge of honor. No sexism in that, right?
Overall, I’d say there’s the fear of our own sexual proclivities combined with a societal fear of sexually adventurous women.
You’ve been called the “Queen of Erotic Horror.” What is it about sex that scares us so much?
Stan Tal, who published some of my early work, gave me that title, because at the time I wrote almost exclusively erotic horror.
And yes, I do think sex scares a lot of people, because it’s primal and, to be any good, really requires giving up control, which is scary in itself. There’s a lot of self-judgment—am I good enough? Am I doing this right? Am I being too sexual or not sexual enough? People tend to be performance-oriented rather than pleasure-oriented, and pleasure is the whole idea.
Our culture has us in a kind of double bind—it’s sex, sex, sex wherever you look, and yet there’s this fear of diving in, of doing more than dipping our toes into sexual splendor and bliss. So the act becomes more mechanical, a kind of obligation or test. Much as with food—food ads everywhere but God help us if we gain weight.
On a deeper level, we inhabit animal bodies, which is disturbing to those who want to believe we are “above” that. But sex—great sex, I mean, not perfunctory sex—arises from our animal selves, our primal selves, which is beautiful and carnal, but which some people reject. So it makes for all sorts of misery, projection, and unnecessary guilt and frustration.
What are you working on these days? Any upcoming publications or existing projects readers should keep an eye out for?
Currently, I’m finishing up a short story which has somehow morphed into a novella, a post-apocalyptic piece involving a young woman who struggles to choose between following her own feral appetites or fleeing inland with her lover, away from the ever-encroaching ocean.
I’m also looking forward to Grey Matter Press’s publication of the anthology Peel Back the Skin, which includes my story “Moth Frenzy.” And later this year, The Overlook Connection Press will be publishing an illustrated edition of my erotic horror novel, The Safety of Unknown Cities, with art by fabulous horror artist Glenn Chadbourne.
If you could be any supernatural monster, what would you be?
Hmmm, I think I would be a succubus to the man of my choice, becoming both his most desired erotic fantasy and his most dreaded nightmare. (Though I probably wouldn’t advocate using this description on a dating profile.).
Spread the word!