A second revised post about my life in gay horror that originally appeared on my former publisher’s website, which I am reposting on Boys, Bears & Scares so it will have a permanent home. This time I’m scared stiff and possessed by my own demons.
If you’re like me, you know there’s nothing like a good bump in the night to get the heart racing and the nerves tingling. The thrill of it causes your pulse to pound, starts the adrenalin flowing, leaves you saturated in sweat, and has you looking over your shoulder to get a good glimpse of the seductive devil who’s back there, about to slip inside your soul….
Isn’t it amazing how one paragraph could be describing either an incredible sexual encounter or a horrifying experience with the supernatural? While the psychological ramifications of exposure to one or the other are totally different, the physical responses are virtually the same. So is it any surprise that the horror genre has always crossed the line between titillating and terrorizing?
For starters, the monster is most likely to desire the innocent and virginal—while preying on the promiscuous and sexually active. Hey, it’s rare for me to focus on the innocent and virginal, but I stepped out of my comfort zone and did so when evil St.Ick targeted the boys of Comfort Cove in Scaring Up St.Ick & Arousing QPD, the Christmas and Valentine’s Day installment of my gay horror series.
Also, horror imagery often takes the sensual and perverts it with disgusting twists: demons with slimy, pus-squirting tongues they insert between supple human lips in order to possess the unwilling; creatures with grotesque, phallic appendages they use to savagely penetrate and poison beautiful human bodies; alien species with gaping, oozing, teeth-lined orifices resembling pulsating vaginas and anuses, which need to fill their void by sucking on flawless human flesh.
And possibly the most important reason sex is almost obligatory in horror? We are most vulnerable when we’re naked: in the shower as the knife-wielding masked killer stands just on the other side of the curtain; skinny-dipping in the middle of the night, unaware of the man-eater swimming just beneath the dark surface; making love in the backseat of a car at Lover’s Lane as the hook hand latches on to the door handle. Well, all that, and because of, you know, the obvious: sex and the satanic are often linked and are both considered taboo. So how better to draw in an audience than by serving up a whole lot of bare boobs to the beast?
Ironically, when I was an impressionable teen in the 1980s, there was a disconnect as I was bombarded by visions of curvaceous, scantily clad women being sacrificed to vicious specters on the covers of the plethora of horror paperback books and VHS boxes that lined my local bookstore and video store shelves. Upon digesting the media, I was never particularly upset when the lusty busty babe got the axe—I was too busy hoping her boyfriend would be the last man standing.
The horror genre is marketed to the straight man—particularly straight male adolescents. But this isn’t simply sports or cars we’re talking about. There’s something incredibly metaphorical about horror. It’s the big bad monster trying to punish those who partake in the natural acts of lust and love. And who better to relate to a relentless outside force trying to stop their desire for instinctive, impulsive passion than gay men?
In my time as a writer of gay erotic horror fiction, I’ve discovered something the heterosexual male horror community doesn’t fully comprehend: many gay males are voracious devourers of horror books and films. We’re not merely the prissy, disposable first victim or the psychosexual-woman-hating-cross-dressing killer they’ve always presented us as (hint hint: toss in a little hairy man buns now and then!).
Thanks to the niche communities the internet creates, I’ve connected with readers who are just like me. They love men, they love sex, and they love horror—but are generally required to subject themselves to woman parts in order to get to the scary parts (I know, there’s a gay joke in there about how the woman parts are the scary parts). As if the feedback to my gay erotic horror stories isn’t sign enough that there is an audience for it, I’ve found another very interesting gauge—the stud stalking page on my site. It’s a detailed list of every horror movie I come across that features even the slightest glimpse of scrumptious man epidermis. The response to the section has been overwhelming from gay horror fans, from requests for more recommendations to other titles I need to add to the list.
I love writing erotica. I love writing horror. My first published strictly erotic stories appeared in jerk-off magazines, and I told myself it was just a way to get my foot in the door and that eventually I’d be able to get mainstream horror stories published. Then I began to realize that every time I went to write a horror story, it was with a gay man’s perspective. I didn’t want to write about women in peril (the market is flooded with that approach), and it didn’t make sense to try to put on the straight man beard. Sure, those options would sell more books to more people, but I really wanted to write horror I would like to read myself. I’d simply enjoy writing it more, which would most likely mean better, more genuine storytelling. For that reason, I’ve been astonished at how many aspiring gay male horror filmmakers have an extreme aversion to making gay horror, instead opting for completely heterosexual casts of characters and the usual final girl formula.
Not me. I don’t fear never reaching mainstream success, which so few do anyway, so I’m not going to waste my creative energy on it—there are plenty of straight horror filmmakers to make straight horror. I strictly pen horror stories “starring” gay men. I say starring because when I write, I try to make the story feel and flow like a horror movie. I want the read to be fun and fluid, not bogged down by excessive “smart” prose and philosophical thought. That’s just not the kind of horror that grabs me by the throat and squeezes until I can’t breathe. And so I incorporate whacky and sexually charged situations into my Comfort Cove gay horror series, like the creepy-crawly electrical sparks that possess the men of the city in the fifth installment Don’t Megalick the Power Cord in the Dark…by entering their bodies through their bung holes.
Because horror has always gone hand-in-hand with sexual content, and because the only thing that truly distinguishes gay characters from straight characters is that they—to put it bluntly—love and lay others of the same gender, it felt so natural for me to go balls-to-the-wall with the sexual situations (often literally). But to be clear, in the world of my characters, I don’t want all my men to be raped and ripped apart by heinous monstrosities, although it does happen occasionally. What can I say? It’s a classic horror convention. I want them to be happy, horny men who find love, score some ass, and get themselves into ungodly situations—like their excursion into a satanic death metal club in Don’t Megalick the Power Cord in the Dark.
My stories and novels are not intended to be torture porn, where the implication is that the consumer is getting sexually aroused and stimulated by gore and extreme violence. I’ve simply combined two of my favorite things—scares and sex—with each having its own place in my stories. The horror is there to give readers the willies, with the erotica as the tension relief—a chance to get off. Basically, an emission intermission. I guess you could even call it the horror-gasm.
And that’s the way the fun and fear unfold in my novels. Or, at least, I think they’re my novels…
Have I been possessed by my own inner demons?
I’ve created a monster, and it might be in me. And I’m scared (stiff). It feels like the right time to exorcise my Dan demons; the way my fingers have been dancing across the keyboard to spell out stories is like the involuntary movement of a planchette across a Ouija board.
I don’t think of myself as an author. I don’t even think what I’m doing is writing. I consider it relating a story; I’m a storyteller. I’m not saying I’m a liar, but I do make shit up. I’m cursed with an overactive imagination. For instance, in second grade, I drew a detailed picture of a ghost in chains rising from a grave then told my classmates this was a nightly occurrence in the cemetery next to my house. Granted, my house wasn’t next to a cemetery, but it was haunted. It’s just that, back then, Mom told us not to talk about it to anyone. So I fudged the truth. But now Mom’s gone, so I’ve recounted the happenings in detail on my horror house page. It’s not like Mom can reprimand me from the beyond. Or can she…?
Since I was a kid, I’ve had stories scratching and clawing at the inside of my skull to get out. Yet when someone says to me, “Oh, you’re an author,” I can’t bring myself to respond in the affirmative. I always reply with, “I have some books published.” I just can’t see myself teaching workshops on the creative process, giving lectures on being an author, penning essays on the art of writing, running in literary circles, or winning any prestigious award. I think I’m too beneath it all.
I have simple tastes. I like what I like—correction. I love what I like—regardless of its worldwide recognition or disdain. I appreciate that erotic photography celebrates the beauty of sexuality, but I’d rather see perverted porn loaded with funky fluids and sloppy sounds. I get the brilliance of Edgar Allan Poe, but I’m more freaked out by a fatalistic urban legend whispered around a campfire. I think The Exorcist is a timeless masterpiece of tension, terror, directing, special effects, and thespianism, but I’d rather watch Night of the Demons over and over again for its 80s cheese, excessive cheap jump scares, low-budget demon gore, awful acting, and the unforgettable moment when b-queen Linnea Quigley sticks a tube of lipstick into her luscious silicone…I mean…prosthetic breast.
My tastes are reflected in the types of stories I get off on telling. Friends advise me to stop with the gay horror and write a mainstream novel. “You have such a limited audience,” they argue. An audience that likes the same kind of raunchy, gruesome, campy crap I do! What more could I ask for? I’m thrilled when I hear from a reader who appreciates one of my stories, particularly because I didn’t write it to win his acceptance. I wrote it because it was the story I wanted to tell and the story I would want to read. I’m not aiming to be brilliant, poetic, or a master of prose. If occasionally I am, it’s totally accidental and I apologize (to myself).
I have no fear of aiming low. Poking around the internet, one thing becomes apparent quickly; no matter what the general public thinks, there is an audience for EVERYTHING. Those who contact me aren’t just readers of my books…they’re me. We live in the same twilight zone. We are obsessed with the same shlock. First thing I learned in Creative Writing 101 was “write what you know.” I write what I know (sex and horror), and certain readers know what I write.
But do I really write it?
I truly can’t explain where the stories come from. The ideas take on a life of their own as soon as they are conceived. For instance, Combustion, the first novel in my Comfort Cove gay horror series, turned into something I never expected when I began typing it. Take the city of Kremfort Cove. I made it up for one of my previous stories, yet before I could start location hunting, there was no question in my mind that it needed to be the setting for Combustion. It also became so obvious that for many of the characters from my other stories, their final destination would be Kremfort Cove. As Combustion began to unfold, I realized that Kremfort Cove is where most of the stories still clogging my brain were meant to take place. In the year that Combustion was moving toward its release date, the next four installments of the series were already finished in their first drafts.
And this is where the possession rears its ugly head…in my head. Sometimes I wake up with a start at night and just lay there for about an hour, my mind filling with specific plot points, scenes, and word-for-word dialogue for “upcoming” novels. I learn how each novel will begin, how each is going to end. I am informed of what happens in the middle; I might not know the exact path, but I don’t worry. I sit at the keyboard during the day, my fingers begin tapping away, and the stories unfold as if I’m watching a movie. I don’t have to stop and think about what’s supposed to happen next. It’s almost like it is being told to me and I’m just repeating it on paper. It’s supernatural, I tell you! I’m nothing more than a portal (which my husband has been saying for years).
This method (of my madness) is haunting me. During the waking hours, thoughts pop into my brain out of nowhere, distracting me from what I’m doing (such as listening to my husband tell me about his day). These probing thoughts explain how certain scenarios are going to play out, why point A is going to lead to point C, and the reason I introduced a seemingly irrelevant character in a book. I’ll find myself in need of a particular type of character for the novel I’m currently transcribing and immediately realize something along the lines of, “Oh, he already exists. A main character two books back had a minor exchange with him!”
This is why I’m convinced I couldn’t possibly be an author. I’ve seen writers say they have an idea for a book but can’t find the motivation to sit down and start it, don’t know how it begins, and aren’t sure how it ends. Huh? I would think that if you are compelled to write something, starting would not be a stumbling block! I’ve had friends enthusiastically say, “We should write a book together!” Tried that once, ended up writing the whole thing myself, and then got this feedback: “this is cool but it’s not what I imagined.” So, friend, what exactly did you imagine, and why didn’t you write it? Needless to say, my standard answer to such suggestions ever since is that, unfortunately, I’m not a writer, merely a guy who tells naughty, gnarly stories.
And I will continue channeling these sexy spooky stories until the overarching plot connecting them all is ready to be laid to rest. I’ve already been clued in to how the series is going to end. Right now, I don’t know how many tales need to be and are going to be told before that end comes. I don’t actually have the time to stop and think about it because the Dan demons are running the show (they’re kind of pissed I stopped as long as I did to write this). I don’t question them. I don’t doubt them. They’ll tell me what’s ahead when the time is right. I just continue to follow my spirit guides on this journey toward the unknown.
Those who have been reading my stuff for a while are familiar with my monster muse’s playful approach to sexy scary horror. If Combustion, the premiere Comfort Cove book, is the first of mine you pick up, you’ll soon be getting very cozy with the boys, beasts, men, and monsters—and hopefully staying up all night to reach the graphic climax….