Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by Jennifer Brozek.
About the author:
Jennifer Brozek is a Hugo Award finalist and a multiple Bram Stoker Award finalist. Winner of the Australian Shadows Award for best edited publication, Jennifer has edited sixteen anthologies with more on the way, including the acclaimed Chicks Dig Gaming and Shattered Shields anthologies. Author of Apocalypse Girl Dreaming, Industry Talk, the Last Days of Salton Academy, and the acclaimed Melissa Allen series, she has more than seventy published short stories, and is the Creative Director of Apocalypse Ink Productions.
Jennifer is a freelance author for numerous RPG companies. Winner of the Scribe, Origins, and ENnie awards, her contributions to RPG sourcebooks include Dragonlance, Colonial Gothic, Shadowrun, Serenity, Savage Worlds, and White Wolf SAS. Jennifer is the author of the award winning YA BattleTech novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, and Shadowrun novella, Doc Wagon 19. She has also written for the AAA MMO, Aion, and the award winning videogame, Shadowrun Returns.
When she is not writing her heart out, she is gallivanting around the Pacific Northwest in its wonderfully mercurial weather. Jennifer is an active member of SFWA, HWA, and IAMTW. Read more about her at jenniferbrozek.com or follow her on Twitter at @JenniferBrozek.
About To Fight the Black Wind (Arkham Horror):
"Her malady - nightmares that left her bloody - seemed, at first, to be a common self-harm complex. Then I looked at the wounds. The mind is powerful, but I have never seen the mind create wounds like these. Little did I know her wounds were just the first of many mysteries I would face while caring for Josephine."
-Jennifer Brozek, To Fight the Black Wind
Not all patients can be cured - or want to be.
Psychologist Carolyn Fern’s newest patient suffers from nightmares that leave glyph-shaped wounds across her skin. The case is odd, even for an institution like Arkham Sanatorium, where the unusual becomes the everyday. Things become even more complicated after the young woman claims to have met Malachi - Carolyn’s former patient whose treatment was cut short when he was brutally murdered - in her dreams. What is the link between the two, and how can Carolyn help a patient who, it seems, does not wish to be cured?
GUEST POST by Jennifer Brozek
I write in a lot of different genres. From urban fantasy to space opera military to science fiction to cyberpunk to historical fiction to young adult to mystery and crime fiction. The overarching theme that ties my work together is the horror element I bring to the table.
Some argue that horror is a genre while others argue that horror is a subgenre to all of the other genres. I’m not going to argue either side because I walk the line between the two. Horror is its own genre while also being a subgenre. Either way you slice it, most of my writing comes with a body count.
I vastly prefer reading and writing supernatural horror stories to realistic horror stories. The real world is ugly enough without me living a fictional but realistic horror tale in my head. Reading and writing supernatural horror gives me the distance I need. I like the fantastical element.
Horror is the modern day cautionary (or fairy) tale. It is the hidden world of what if. It tells you what lurks in the dark or beyond the edge of sight. The horror stories that I like have rules. Rules of engagement, of escalation, of de-escalation. Horror, by and large, allows the reader to hope, to dream, that they too can defeat evil. Even if it is only a temporary win.
Some horror I write can have a terrible (for the protagonist) ending, but when the bad guys, or creatures win, they often do it believing they are doing so for the right reasons or the good of all. Sometimes, you have to do bad in the name of good.
Why Lovecraftian Horror?
The mythos created by H.P. Lovecraft, and continued through other authors, is among some of the most interesting hidden world horror universes I’ve experienced. It ticks all of the boxes I look for in a horror story: beautifully evocative prose, hidden world aspects that allow you to imagine the story happening around you when you walk out your door, strict rules to escalate and de-escalate the horror, temptations and punishments, magic, different levels of terror (forbidden knowledge, monsters, Elder Gods), and dimensional travel.
There is so much within the Lovecraftian horror universe that any author can grab a piece and run with it, making it their own. To tell the story they need to tell. With the Lovecraftian universe as a backdrop, any story told is familiar to those who love this particular mythos.
I’ve told historical mythos stories, modern day ones, romantic ones, and young adult ones. I have read far future mythos stories, alternate history ones, and even big stompy ’Mech mythos stories. Lovecraftian horror is what you make of it.
In the end, the Lovecraftian universe is, on its own, a character. That allows all of us to play with it.
Creeping Dread Versus a Gorefest
While a horror story in the Lovecraftian universe can be in-your-face gross, it specializes in the type of horror I appreciate. Creeping dread, the thing just beyond sight, the slow horror that builds to the inevitable end. I am a much bigger fan of things that go bump in the night than the splatterpunk gorefest of stories that revel in violence and blood for the sake of the violence itself. Honestly, my imagination can make something so much more horrible than anything I see on a screen or read in a book. This is why I need that distance; the supernatural element.
What Man is Not Meant to Know
It is the personal story of horror and madness that attracts me. I appreciate stories that include a cost to forbidden knowledge. It’s ‘forbidden’ for a reason. One of the biggest themes to the Lovecraftian universe is that knowledge is both power and madness. Ignorance is bliss. The more you know, the more you suffer. What you know can save your life and the lives of those you love at the cost of your sanity, your job, and your social standing. All of the things that make you a success in normal daily life. The question becomes: is it worth it? If you decide “yes,” the next question becomes: Is it worth your life?
The Temptation of Power
There is a tongue-in-cheek saying: “Knowledge is power. Power Corrupts. Study hard. Be evil.” This could be the t-shirt for Lovecraftian temptation. The cost of the magical power is always high. Personal sanity, spilled blood, and the promised death by Elder God. But, in the meantime, the power you’d wield, the knowledge gleaned, the treasure gained makes it all worth it.
The fight against this temptation interests me. The study of the human condition and to see where characters succeed or fail against the darkness of the void. These are the stories I like to explore. These are the cautionary tales to tell in the dark. Great power doesn’t always come with great responsibility. Sometimes it comes with the knowledge that when the stars are right, the Elder Gods will wake, and you will be the first (or the last) consumed.
Why Not Horror?
Horror stories are the ones that say, “Yes, there is darkness and something within it, but you can fight. You should fight. This is how. You may not always win, but there is hope.”
There is a comic by Akimo Comics (eat shit & die 233) I read it some time ago. It’s about an author who wrote a dark book. All the other authors wrote shining, happy stories that floated in the sky. One author asked why anyone would write such dark stories. The dark author did not answer. As he watched the rest shoot their stories into the sky, he shot his to the edge of the cliff. From there, you followed that story as it fell far and deep until its anchor hit the mud. A hand dug itself out of the mud and grasped the anchor. The dark book pulled the anchor and the person out of the deep and allowed them to see light while still far below the cliff’s edge.
This is the perfect analogy on why I write horror stories. Because they bring hope in dark places. Even within myself.