By Kaaron Warren
Most writers have an internal voice that runs day and night, even while we sleep. It’s the voice that points out ideas to us, that says, did you hear that, about a snippet of conversation, or see that, about a piece of grafitti or a stray dog trailing a leash, or new shoes neatly placed in the gutter. As a horror writer, that voice can show up in surprising places.
For me, ideas often come hidden in old magazines. There’s something about jumping into the past (and, in a way, seeing into the future because I can find out what happened next thanks to the internet) that sparks ideas for me.
When The Pixel Project approached me for a story for the important anthology Give the Devil His Due, I knew I wanted to write a story where the abuser truly felt the pain of regret and suffering. I just wasn’t sure how.
I flicked through an old Punch Magazine from the 1960s and came across an advertisement for cigars. Two men, one sitting in a leather armchair, one with his foot up on a stool, both completely filled with self-assurance and certainty of their importance. They were in a place called The Steering Wheel Club, which did, in fact, exist at one time.
The idea for a horror story lay hidden under the façade of comfort, companionship and wealth. There were apparently famous steering wheels mounted on the walls and with my horror writer’s imagination, I wondered what sort of men would collect steering wheels behind which someone had died.
Horror stories are a glimpse into the truth.
Glimpses of truth lie hidden in the pages of an old history book. I was glancing through a publication called The Archaeological Journal 1931, and I came across a description of an unnamed woman (who they call Kathleen, but whose name was not Kathleen) who fell in love with a priest, the author says, ‘until he gave her a thorough and well deserved flogging with a handfuls of nettles” after which she saw ‘the error of her ways’ and became a nun. In the Thomas Moore poem, the priest in fact ‘hurls her from the beetling rock’ to her death. The priest comes to regret the loss of her love (not Kathleen, but her adoration) and blesses her to be happy in Heaven, which makes her ghost, which glides mournfully across the lake, smile.
I feel a helpless fury reading this, the same I get when I read about Henry the Eighth’s wives or any other abused ‘appendage’. I’m helpless to change what happened, but through fiction I can affect how I feel about it, and to perhaps gain some small revenge. The good thing about writing horror is that I can make bad things happen. I have people come back from the dead, and ghosts haunt, and I can have Kathleen smile like she does in the poem, but in my story she’ll thrust her ice-cold fingers into his eyes so he will never see god’s beautiful creation again…
Violence against women in domestic situations can be similarly hidden. The face people present to the world (as individuals or as families) can hide the true nature of that relationship. I wanted to be a part of this anthology because while my voice gives me ideas for stories, and I can speak it aloud, there are many, many others who need help, and need the chance to ask for help.
About Giving The Devil His Due (http://bit.ly/GivingTheDevilHisDue)
Giving The Devil His Due is a charity anthology featuirng stories where The Twilight Zone meets Promising Young Woman as men who abuse and murder women meet their comeuppance in uncanny ways. Edited by Rebecca Brewer, the anthology features sixteen major names and rising stars in Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror including Angela Yuriko Smith, Christina Henry, Dana Cameron, Errick Nunnally, Hillary Monahan, Jason Sanford, Kaaron Warren, Kelley Armstrong, Kenesha Williams, Leanna Renee Hieber, Lee Murray, Linda D. Addison, Nicholas Kaufmann, Nisi Shawl, Peter Tieryas, and Stephen Graham Jones. The book includes resources for victims and survivors of VAW worldwide, making it a valuable tool for getting life-saving information to domestic violence victims still under their abuser’s control or rape survivors who are too ashamed to ask for help. 100% of the net proceeds from the sales of the anthology will go towards supporting The Pixel Project’s anti-violence against women work. Find out where to get your copy of the Special Edition via http://bit.ly/GivingTheDevilHisDue. The upcoming Classic Edition will be released on 25 May 2022 by Running Wild Press (https://runningwildpress.com/).
About The Pixel Project (www.thepixelproject.net)
The Pixel Project is a complete virtual, volunteer-led global 501(c)3 nonprofit organisation whose mission is to raise awareness, funds and volunteer power for the cause to end violence against women using a combination of social media, new technologies, and popular culture/the Arts
Shirley Jackson award-winner Kaaron Warren’s most recent books include the re-release of her acclaimed novels, Slights, Mistification and Walking the Tree (IFWG Australia), Tool Tales, a chapbook in collaboration with Ellen Datlow (also IFWG), a novella Into Bones Like Oil (Meerkat Press), which was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award and the Bram Stoker Award, winning the Aurealis Award, and Capturing Ghosts, a writing advice chapbook from Brain Jar Press. She was Guest of Honour at Genrecon 2018, World Fantasy 2018, Stokercon 2019 and Geysercon 2019.