Call Her- Microprose Practice

Call Her-

Microprose practice for Christine.

by Shannon Barber

How to raise them, stand hand in hand, speak and dream together. Sing the scabrous music of the Outer God. Call Nephren-Ka, Goddess of Bloody Tongues.  

Sing children. 

Fm’latgh. 

Burn. 

 Call her- 

Leviathan.

Happy Women in Horror Month- Post 1.

Some meandering thinky thoughts.

Hi homies. I’m having a day and y’all know that means I’m just gonna dump my brain until I can focus.

Sooooooooooo horror.

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it but, I’ve been working on some new horror stories. As I’ve mentioned before, my fiction work has become the slow deliberate I have a fucking mission type work that my non-fiction used to be.

My new shit is different than what I’ve done before. If you’ve been here a while you may know that my first professional level sale was yonks ago and I made my bones writing a lot of erotic horror. Not sparkly vampire twinks but rough trade I want to rip off your head and fuck your neck monsters. I wasn’t into more classic horror at the time and found that my personal aesthetic was very at home in the porny horror.

Fast forward and I’ve been writing/working on some more classic type horror. Ghost stories, demons, etc. However, these are without a doubt Black stories.

Now I have to confess some things.

I don’t read a lot of horror anymore except very specifically because, frankly I am disinterested. A lot of my disinterest is in a vein of conservatism in horror. For me it started with horror mags for a few years having very eh, narrow ideas of what is acceptable. I don’t know how many guidelines I read that prohibited sex of any sort, naughty words, etc.

At the time, it felt kind of silly to me. I mean, some supposedly scary shit is going down and nobody says fuck? Okay. Upon rear-view, I realize what made me uncomfortable was that we couldn’t have anything too sexy, too cursebirdy but, the anti Blackness and anti womanness and anti non white dude was fine. Totally fine.

We could have booboo ass scary witch doctors and have storylines with suburban white kids going into the scary ghetto and gross outs because zomfg periods!! FAT WOMEN but, don’t have sexytimes or say fuck. I hated it and hate it now.

This is not a new feeling. Here is an excerpt from an essay I put at Medium about being a horror nerd. (Also peep the awesome photo of me screaming)

As an adult I think about some more of those stories and realize I was trying to see myself in those very White worlds. I didn’t have the language to express my hunger to see Black people populating the fictional towns or saving the day.

When I wrote my first novel in high school, it was a vampire epic in a very Anne Rice style, my vampires weren’t pale and smooth as marble. They were dark and smooth as my Mom’s living room table. They didn’t come from France they came from Egypt, not movie everyone is White Egypt, they came from the Haitian Revolution and from Zululand. Their history was my history told and learned through the lens of the vampire mythos.

This is what drove me/drives me out of horror. I feel like I’m disinterested because any bit of Blackness is King style magical negro or white kids triumph or or or…it is just so fucking boring.

So what AM I doing?

First thing is I’ve bit the bullet and changed how I write genre fiction visually. For a few years, because of how I like to space things, I just couldn’t stomach trying to re-format to manuscript format. Aesthetically, I tend to use line breaks etc as part of how I’m telling the story. That has been rough for me. I’m trying because so many places that publish genre fiction in print or online still use it.

Second thing, I’m being very deliberate in what I’m making up. Being that it is women in horror month, my stories (I’ll give you a taste soon) are women heavy.

Black women specifically.

Here is a taste of a ghost story I’m working on. Central to this is to understand this is happening in The Hood. This is a Black Ghost Story. For reference, somebody in this passage is dead:

At home my wife and I sat with our horde of cats and dogs going over the events. “I guess we should probably tell him.” I knew she was right but, we’d only just started working with the guy. “I know but I don’t want to. You remember what happened with the last two. I mean, he was crying babe.” She turned her big dark gaze on me, I bravely resisted the urge to cower. “Don’t start with that super masculine shit Pablo. The first time something reached out and touched you, you couldn’t speak English for an hour and you cried. Don’t.” 

She was right. I didn’t want her to be, not that I wanted to keep secrets but some things are just too much to explain. Something walloped me on the back of the head and two of the dogs looked behind me, tails wagging. The voice was loud and clear as always. “I heard you was talkin shit.” My sister Letiticia was the most irritating and amazing dead person. She had the uncanniest timing, she made herself comfortable on the floor with the big dogs and I sighed. “Hi Letty, so nice to see you. Oh, what no come in. No bother, it’s not like I was trying to get some alone time with my wife.” 

What I want to point you to here is that we are not using the Black body as the vehicle of fear. Blackness is not the mysterious scary other. It just is. This is the intimate vernacular the way (something I LOVE about Daniel Jose Older y’all know) folks talk to each other. These are people I know, if you are also a POC you probably know them too. I’m taking the haunted house trope away from the burbs and the seemingly always Victorian or whatever ghosts and bringing it into my community.

In terms of how I’m writing the women. In a lot of horror, the women are either fat ugly and scary (unfuckable and therefor support “the scare”) or they are super fuckable. She’s pale as milk with a long graceful neck and sweet brown eyes with a narrow waist and hefty titties and OH she speaks forty languages and is innocent and horny and shrieks with terror when a thing goes bump in the night.

Y’all know.

And if you are the writer, suddenly the question is are U FUCKABLE? EW NO U R NOT SO UR STORY IS UNREALISTIC.

We’ll talk about that shit more later.

My women are the heroines. As the maker of this myth, I’m giving them the power that women tend not to get in these stories. And yet, they aren’t ass kicker barbies.

I want to say more but I don’t want to spoil it also I’m not done yet.

This story is Black y’all. It is Blackity Black Black Black. It is a love note to my fellow Black fen. And to women.

Ahem.

I’ve babbled a lot.

I’ll do more through the month.

For now how about some of my other woman centric, WOC centric horror?

From my Yeah Write Archives a few favorites from my experimental horror series.

Beautiful Pit Vipers.

Black Pharaoh in the Morning. 

Down home.

Starveling.

I Dream of Doormen. 

AND

How about my Wifey’s fave?

I can be funny bros.

Puppy.

Next time we’ll talk about things I want to see more of in  horror and how race and gender can be included in how we view what is or isn’t horror as a thing.

Craft Notes: On voice and tropes.

Okay, first I need y’all to read this and listen to this interview with Idris Elba about playing Stringer Bell. 

Next listen to a couple of minutes of this show from the 90s about horror and in particular the woman who voiced the devil in the Exorcist.

Tuck in, it’s gettin nerdy up in here today.

Now in the Elba interview (goddamn he is just…goddamn) listening to how he talks about how the characters he plays command him, are his new therapists. He says something about the warlord character he plays and he uses the phrase “voice texture”. I heard this interview weeks ago and that phrase has been stuck in my head.

Also, this quote touched me:

“There were so many dark issues explored with my character that I just thought, ‘Can I really pull it across? Can I pull it off?’ ” he said. “I’ve got children. I felt very uncomfortable with being associated with a film that had a character like that. But I realize that my purpose in this world as an artist is to leave an impression.”

If you’ve read a lot of my work you already know I have a thing for the texture of a voice. Whiskey, velvet, promises of sex and death in the tone and timbre of a voice. I am very audibly sensitive to tones, timbre, intent etc in voices and a lot of that fuels my writing. This idea of not only voice in the context of my voice as an author, but voice as in the voice of a character and the feel of that voice is something I love to dig into and play with.

I have mentioned before that I feel like one of my personal abilities *also see things I just love to play with* is making a world or story more intimate. Close. What’s closer than a voice against your skin or ear?

I mention skin because not  everyone can hear a voice in their ear right? We know that but, we know or can imagine what silk feels like, or an emory board.

Another reason I linked these two things are to give you a peek at how other mediums/modes of art inspire me.

I love listening to actors, Foley artists, voice actors etc talk about how they arrive at The Voice or The Sound. There is a certain level of resonance I feel with that. I spend a lot of time in my fiction looking for that moment. The Voice. Sometimes it is literal and I write a few lines and listen to different people speak until The Voice happens or The Sound happens and I’m off to the races.

There are times when this leads to a different POV or at times a whole new story. A lot of this work happens outside of the actual ass in chair part of writing. Often I have one or two lines from any given story I’m working on playing in my head in different tones and voices until it happens.

Currently I’m working on a horror (used loosely) story I’ve been playing with forever. It is a passion story that I originally wrote in a more classic horror possession thing (read the TV tropes thing about demonic possession here) as told by the demon. Then I rewrote it in third person and started over again with a tight first (plural..I’ll explain in a minute) person from the POV of the girl who is possessed.

Now, as I toyed with the passion thing, and how to get a satisfying narrative out of it. I tried researching Judeo Christian demons and coming at it from a this is X demon and this is their, uh.. qualities (?) and telling the story that way. That didn’t satisfy. I toyed with making it some kind of weird auto erotic situation which didn’t pan out.

Ultimately, what I settled on was creating a plural first person POV of Lola and Sam living and using one body with two voices. I spent a lot of time using specifically non gendered language, and using both and We as the central pronouns through the story. This bit is a good example of how I did that:

I panicked and held tight to Sam and we hurled that old bastard off of us, wailing that we would not be torn apart. We waged war for seven days and nights.  We broke one of the priest’s legs, the young one had impure thoughts when we spread our legs and offered him sweet, young virgin pussy.

I worked really hard to go from both the genesis of this relationship with a kind of resolution in under 2k words which has been difficult. I wanted to have very distinct time periods demonstrated by both the evolution of the singular I to the plural I/We and go from Sam and Lola meeting, to being exorcised to living.

I’m in the editing stage and I want to make it a bit more sparingly. I’m working on getting it leaner and more uncomfortable. I want a reader who expects the tragedy of the innocent young girl being possessed and then gaining redemption to be frustrated and made uncomfortable.

Again, this is probably why I have such a hard time in genre markets. But when I write horror, I don’t necessarily want to scare  the reader. I think it’s far more difficult as a writer to create a sense of lasting discomfort. I don’t want the reader to be smiling or feel satisfaction at the end of the story. I want the reader to be kinda mad. Grossed out. Maybe dwelling on something in it that made them uncomfortable.

I really enjoy the idea of taking very literary devices and kneading them into horror.

I want Reign in Blood by Slayer AND I want the Moonlit Sonata.

I want cake AND I want dragon’s breath spicy crispy chicken.

We all know I’m a greedy and promiscuous reader.

Of course, my writing tends to go the same way.

I’ve been writing this while drinking tea and doing stuff for the dayjob.

I think I’m done now.

So there you go, another view into how I function and create. Next time we’ll talk soundtracks and how music gets into my work.

Yeah Write entry#245- Lost Innocent

Lost Innocent

by

Shannon Barber

I was an Innocent.

For most of my life I did what Innocents do. When the darkness was too deep I looked away. I obeyed the frisson of fear, itching inside my tailbone. Like all Innocents my bones, knew The World and instinct kept me away.

Maybe it was depression or lethal curiosity that compelled me to open my eyes wide and see the door open. The Doorman had a smile as wide as a Cheshire cat and a manner so charming- no it wasn’t his fault. I walked through the door without a light or talisman or fucking clue.

The World opened to me and I thought I was special. The One, magical and chosen.

I wasn’t.

The World is dark, even during the paltry daytime. The air is thick and grimy, you can feel magic born of blood and terror crawl on your skin. The World is not the place of dreams and magical adventures where I got to be so special. It is the darkest of nightmares, the dark that reveals things to you in maddening wafting shadows and plays of dimness.

Sometimes while I’m cowering in some cave or ditch full of lukewarm water and moving things, if this is the warmer hearted sister of Tartarus or a hell of my own making.

My first night here I ran from some wordless creatures that I knew on sight wanted my pain and not my death. Artful sadists with vaguely human forms, not human enough for comfort and too human to not to be horrifying.

I was an Innocent.

I have learned what it is to be prey. I have returned to the primitive and primal. I have reconnected with my own innate animal nature.

All I want is to be an Innocent again.

The World is not for me.

The World….

                        is not for me.

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