I had a brief comments exchange with a talented young writer over on my page recently. She was amused by my use of the term “redneck horror” to describe a genre in which the horror takes place in an extreme rural setting, be that bayous, backwoods, open barren plains or deserts, great rolling prairies or the deep south.
She said she always thought of it as “Southern horror” – but that’s really too narrow, too limiting for what the genre entails. The horror takes place in some setting which allows for rednecks, whether that’s in rural Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, New York, Oregon, Washington, Idaho(rror), etc. Doesn’t matter where. Backwoods England will work as well as chigger-country USA. There are rednecks everywhere, and they can and do occupy every recess of land where urban or suburban sprawl hasn’t pushed them out, and they can be horrible.
I don’t mean literally, of course, I mean literarily. But the fact remains that any sufficiently woodsy or backwoodsy area can be the setting for great redneck horror, a genre some of us horror writers forget about. Which is interesting, when I stop to consider how often it’s slammed in our faces. Classics like The Hills Have Eyes or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre come to mind, but even good ol’ Jason Voorhees ran amok in a rural area before storming the rest of the known universe. And, who can forget the granddaddy redneck horror of them all, Deliverance? Huh? I mean, c’mon — Deliverance. ‘Nuff said.
For many of us, the city is horrifying enough, with its dark alleys, smoked glass and steel, dark recesses in walls and alcoved, shadowy doorways, and empty, rotting constructs. It’s full of seedy neighborhoods full of seedy people, so if we throw more atop that dung heap, no one bats an eye.
The same is true of going to the other extreme, too, but those of us less familiar with the sidewalk-less, open ditched, tree canopied life of slower pace, tobacco wads and rocking chairs on creaking porches don’t reach for that flavor of spice often enough to season our work. Why should we think to? I mean, we’re always taught to write what you know, right? But think about that: who’d write only what they know? Who knows anything about being a vampire, or werewolf, or zombie? That doesn’t seem to stop us from writing about it either; same with being a fairy (faery), or ogre, or orc or whatever the hell else you’ve got running in your imagination. If we only write what we know, we stunt ourselves.
Some fantastic stuff has been written in the redneck horror genre, though, for those who dare plumb the depths. It’s been around forever. As for me, I think a redneck horror piece – even if it’s only a short – is way overdue, and something I look forward to doing. It’s a refreshing change from the ordinary settings of my normal work, and gives me a chance to stretch memory and descriptive muscles I haven’t exercised in a long time. It’s a challenge, it’s a new wrinkle in my style, and it’s fun.
And after that, I think a short story – because I can’t see doing anything novel-length that way – a western horror story. Why not?
How ‘bout you? What new wrinkles and niches and facets and rips and tears are there in your chosen area of writing? What new, exciting things are you eager to try to stretch, grow, expand? And if you’re not a writer, what would you enjoy reading as a change of pace from the plethora of vampires in silk clothes and opulent marbled mansions or wizards in dank dungeons and damp towers?
Shout out, y’all.
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