What Do I Have to Offer Horror?
As I prepare-mentally and physically-for StokerCon, I had a thought.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of promoting for my book, “Rootwork”. I’ve been asked the same thing a lot of times, “What can Blacks contribute to horror?” I never answer the same, but I always have an answer. After taking a few days to think about it, I’ve got quite a few things we can add:
We can add Black families that aren’t super rich or ghetto poor. I’m a kid that grew up middle class. My kids are middle class. When my parents had me, they were poor. But they raised themselves up to middle class by working hard. They also said that I used to pretend the rats that ran through the apartments were my pets. Yes, read that again. rats as pets. For some strange reason, it was either rats or mice. And let me tell you, it doesn’t matter where you live, a mouse will always get in some kind of way. We had one run through the front door at my dad’s house (many years later) once. I laughed hysterically when he killed it with the broom, because he smashed it and its arms and legs spread out and it was flat beneath it. Even now I think it’s funny.
Resilience and hard work. That’s what we can add.
Whenever I read fiction now, I always make it a point to see where I am located in the novel. How am I represented? Some novels feel like we are forced in and don’t really belong. Reading about a brown skinned girl with a cotton candy pink afro does not represent me. However, neither does the straight laced black girl with the neck popping, head swirling, hurricane sensation either. These are what we call tropes.
Tropes are commonly used devices in literature-that more than often, are embellished.
Do I see myself in these tropes? Nah. I even wrote a paper about tropes-the knowledgeable, but single black girlfriend that reassures her white friend that everything will work out in the end, the Black mama trope (take with that what you will), can I get an “amen” for the church going/god fearing Black lady trope? (AMEN!) Now, let’s do dudes-doo rag wearing, pants sagging, reefer smoking, slang speaking men and teenagers? Yup, trope. How about the super smart Black guy without a girlfriend? (Oscar Wao-that’s all I got).
Ya see, it goes one way or the other. Either super extreme or not extreme enough.
New characters are what we can also add.
What did I tell you about tropes? We can throw those old ass tropes out the window and start new. Give me a black girl with a shaved head that loves Fleetwood Mac and cries at puppy commercials on television. She doesn’t talk exactly, but she is proper. That girl is me. Where are the girls like me in the stories?
You know what they say-those who can…write.
This is what I can add to horror. I can add so many things that soon, people will stop writing about us as tropes-even when they have the best intentions-and let us tell our own horror stories.
I know, this will leave us in the category of always being the “other”. But, Latinx are others, Native Americans are others…any non white person is an other and they have tropes and stories that they can tell. Let them tell their stories.
Back to us…or me. What can I contribute to horror?
I have already made several contributions. Many of which you may not have seen. I’ve given you different perspectives, different ideas of what horror is to me. There are so many things that scare me that I have no choice but to write about them. And I enjoy it. Because you know what? I enjoy sharing my work with other POC’s and seeing the joy on their faces when they can see themselves in my stories.
So, what can I contribute?
I can contribute myself.