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Saturday, 17 September 2011

Joseph Garraty - Guest Blog

A couple of months ago I made excited fan-girl noises over Voice, a great little horror I picked up on kindle.

Joseph Garraty has since become a twitter buddy and pen-pal of sorts, and if you aren't following his blog yet you really should be. He's a busy guy, so when he agreed to a guest post for me I made more excited fan-girl noises.

You can find Voice here:
Amazon – Kindle format

Follow Joseph's blog at : 
Take it away, Joe!

I'm a quiet, low key kind of guy. People at work joke that, if i'm talking, you'd better listen up, because if  I've expended all that effort to open my mouth, it must be because I have something important to say. I wouldn't go that far, but I would say I go through life in a pleasant state of calm equilibrium. I'm not loud or aggressive, I get along with most people, and I tend to take a lot of care in my daily actions. I drive the speed limit, for Christ's sake.

On the other hand, I recently released a horror novel full of bloody and horrible events, and this is me on stage (head blurred, due to banging):

It would be reasonable for the casual observer to ask just what the hell is going on here. How in the world do horror fiction and loud rock and roll music fit into the life of a man who breaks out into a nervous sweat if it  looks like he's going to be a couple of minutes late to an appointment?

I've spent a bunch of time thinking about that, and I don't think its a contradiction at all. I think it's actually healthy (but then I would think that, wouldn't I?). Here's why:

Modern life is essentially a contest between the higher functions and the lower, between long-term goals and immediate needs - or, if you're into literary criticism, between the Apollonian and Dionysian. I am not into literary criticism, so I'll call it a contest between being a social animal and just being an animal. One the one hand, for society to function we need to cooperate, to make accommodations for each other, and, yes, to drive the speed limit. On the other hand, our ancestors (and I'm talking ancestors back to friggin' protozoa here) did not survive by driving the speed limit. They survived because basic animal biology is driven by what my brother's bio professor called "The four F's:fighting, feeding, fleeing and ... reproduction." That shit is wired in to our biology—we wouldn’t be here if it weren't.

If there’s a contradiction, that’s it. The human animal is wired with tension at the very foundation. Coping with that basic tension, though—there’s nothing contradictory about that, and that’s where the horror fiction and loud music come in. At first glance, the works of Stephen King and, say, Mรถtorhead don’t seem to have a lot in common. But if we peel back the surface layer, what do we find?

The four F’s. Everywhere. Rock and roll at its core is a celebration of the fourth F, the music of reckless abandon and pure sexual energy. Done right, there’s nothing cerebral about it—it all comes straight from the gut, or maybe the pelvis. Horror fiction is a different animal, much more concerned with fighting and fleeing—and feeding.

The way I look at it, the two complement each other perfectly, and indeed have been enthusiastic partners for a long time. Go back and dust off the legend of Robert Johnson, the blues player, and right there you have the roots of rock and roll coupled with a deal with the devil. Later, of course, Black Sabbath came along and married the dark themes of horror to rock music in a more explicit way, and in doing so spawned an entire genre dedicated to that marriage. Nearly all heavy metal imagery is laden with horror themes—just walk into the music store (does anybody do that anymore?) and grab any metal CD at random, and you can’t miss it. Hell, Metallica’s got at least one song based on a Lovecraft story, and it doesn’t get more obvious than that.

I believe we get balance in our lives from experiencing these things. The human brain is an immensely complex and powerful simulation engine, and by channeling your favorite Dionysian art form (oops, that slipped through) through it periodically, you keep the humors in balance—absorbing the art is, in fact, neurologically similar to having had those experiences yourself to some degree. And you get it without the vast social and personal disruption of satisfying your four F’s the hard way.

I don’t think this is a catharsis thing, either. It’s not that we go through life and then one day need some rock music and a bloody story to keep us from exploding, any more than we go through life eating only steak and then one day need to eat some asparagus to keep from exploding. It’s balance.
And, as an animal that basically wants to fuck and eat, and wants it right now, living life in a society that wishes we’d all obey the speed limit, a little balance goes a long way.

That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.