I have to admit, having been caught up in editing recently, and it made me ponder the similarities between my two series, Infected and Josh of the Damned. Now, on first glance, the two series couldn’t have less in common. Josh is a horror-comedy about a convenience store clerk who sells snacks to monsters and is forced to save the world whether he wants to or not (and mostly he’d rather not), while Infected is all about the havoc caused by a werecat virus unleashed on society, and Roan McKichan, the virus child caught between worlds who’s wrestling with the possibility he may not be entirely human. Josh is funny and weird, dwelling at an intersection where poorly paid retail jobs meets B grade monster movies, and Infected is … well, it’s dark. I’ll be the first to admit it’s kind of grim sometimes. Although it too is funny, as Roan had a very well developed sense of humor, and all his friends are weirdoes. (He is too, so that works out.) So is comedy the common denominator? Not really, because humor is the point of Josh of the Damned, and it’s a leavener in Infected, something to cut the darkness.
The common denominator is horror.
Now, Infected isn’t really a proper horror series, not as they are generally understood. But considering how awful the effects of the virus are, and Roan’s internal and occasionally external battle with his own weird viral strain, the influence of body horror, a horror sub-genre, is undeniable. You can find some of the best examples of body horror in the work of movie director David Cronenberg, who pretty much cornered the market in the ’80’s. (Scanners, Videodrome, The Brood, Rabid, The Fly … I could keep going, but all have body horror as part of their make up. To be fair, the last movie he made with any body horror elements in it at all was eXistenZ. I think he said all he wanted to say.) Body horror is just what you expect: being terrified of something in you, or something warping you, changing you into something you don’t recognize. You have seen the enemy, and it is you. You could even fold the Alien movies in at the edges of body horror, because there is a little of that in its bones.
To muddy the waters, Infected is set in an alternate universe, one pretty much like our own world, except for that pesky werecat virus. Also, there are lots of mystery plots, since Roan is a private detective. I can’t call it horror with a straight face, or at least not with an asterisk. And while there is violence, there hasn’t been a horror movie slasher or anything of that ilk. Which is good, because they wouldn’t last five minutes with Roan. (Or Holden either, come to think of it. He doesn’t dick around.) This is probably why I have a hard time deciding what genre the Infected series belongs in, because I’m not sure.
And Josh is horror, only in the Evil Dead 2/ Army of Darkness vein, but with less slapstick. That’s hard to recreate in print anyway. In fact, if somebody wanted to argue that it wasn’t horror since few horrific things happen, I’d be forced to agree. Josh is from the goofy horror sub-genre, the creature feature department, where guys in clumsy rubber suits menaced co-eds and the city of Tokyo with equal effectiveness. Yes, he deals with zombies, werewolves, and vampires, but they’re generally just there to buy stuff. In the end, the Quik-Mart Corporation is the biggest villain of them all, which makes perfect sense. What would you be more afraid of – a shambling corpse, or a CEO with a cadre of expensive lawyers? I rest my case.
But then I suppose this might lead you to ask why horror? Why do I like writing it so much? That might be something for a psychiatrist to handle, but the truth is, there’s a lot you can do in this genre. It isn’t just madmen in masks, serial killers, or standard creatures such as zombies, werewolves, and vampires. It can be and should be a whole lot more. Much like chocolate, horror can meld with just about any genre you want to pair it with. Readers, writers, won’t you give it a try? It can be so much more than scares and gore, if you’re willing to use your imagination. We need more writers to stretch the boundaries and see where we can take it.
But I have cornered the market on yetis, okay? They’re all mine, don’t touch ’em!
Exclusive snippet: Doug, Josh’s stoner roommate, is giving him a lift to work.
“You tell me, avatar,” Doug said, tossing the butt out the window as the light turned green. (Apparently you never wanted to be pulled over with even a minuscule amount of pot in your car. How Doug knew that, Josh had never asked.)
His Honda rattled as it shifted and lurched forward like a drunk. “I mean, what? Can’t afford the car?”
“Yeah, that’s one thing. Second, I never learned to drive.”
“What? You shitting me? You never took the class in high school?”
“My high school didn’t have that class. We did have metal detectors, though.”
“Gotta have priorities.”
“Guess so.” Josh picked up the pizza box between them and took a slice. It would have to be his breakfast, if you could call it breakfast near midnight. Oh hell, it was whatever he said it was. The night shift made its own rules.
For no obvious reason, the car shuddered, and he had to grab the box before it fell into his lap.
Doug’s Honda was beyond shitty. It shook, made funny noises, and smelled of bong water and beer. And yet, Doug called it his miracle car, as it just kept running. No matter that its exhaust smelled like Satan farted, the damn car would just not give up and die. It was an ugly, magical creature.
Doug reached over and grabbed a slice. “Owe me ten eighty-five.”
This was news for Josh. “What for?”
“The pizza I’m delivering for you. Also, I expect a tip.”
“Oh man.” Josh searched his coat for his wallet. He had slept past his alarm and missed his usual bus, so he’d had to call Doug at work, who made up some excuse to deviate from his route to give him a lift. Josh had no idea how he’d swung it, but Doug was the one with oodles of slacking-off experience.
“Hey, it’s cheaper than asking for gas money.” Doug gnawed on his crust for a moment. “Why you even goin’ to work? Didn’t they try and kill ya last time?”
Andrea Speed was born looking for trouble in some hot month without an R in it. While succeeding in finding Trouble, she has also been found by its twin brother, Clean Up, and is now on the run, wanted for the murder of a mop and a really cute, innocent bucket that was only one day away from retirement. (I was framed, I tell you – framed!) In her spare time, she arms lemurs in preparation for the upcoming war against the Mole Men. Viva la revolution!