Behind the Scenes: Local horror author dishes on the goosebumpy genre’s appeal

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From the July 4, 2013 edition

Last month one of the greatest horror writers of our time passed away. Richard Matheson was 87 years old. He spent nearly 60 of those making other people pee their pants with fear.

Matheson was most famous for his stories about the zombie apocalypse (“I Am Legend”) and the monster-man on the wing of a plane flying 20,000 feet in the air (you remember that famous “Twilight Zone” episode).

Interestingly, though, Matheson loathed the term “horror.” The word, he thought, had become obsolete, its meaning mangled by popular convention.

It’s a confusing term; horror isn’t all blood and gutsy gore, and horror literature is often mistaken to be the same sort of thing found in horror movies, said Worthington-based horror author Lucy Snyder.

Snyder knows a thing or two about horror. The Horror Writer’s Association recently awarded her a Bram Stoker writing award for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction. To give you some perspective, prolific author Joyce Carol Oates and filmmaker Joss Whedon also won a Bram Stoker Award this year.

Snyder’s winning story, titled “Magdala Amygdala,” appeared in the anthology “Dark Faith: Invocations” and will be published in the “Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 5.”

In keeping with the tradition of using fear and fantasy as a lens through which to explore a normal, everyday human problem, “Magdala Amygdala” uses horror to bring up questions of faith, regardless of denomination.

“[Faith] is something a lot of people wrestle with,” Snyder said. “A lot of things happen in the world that don’t necessarily fit with anyone’s values and you have to reconcile that into your own life.”

Reading horror literature is an outlet for Snyder, too. She admires dark, mentally complex tales, such as those of author Chuck Palahniuk, a master of a genre she started studying after she made the decision to focus on horror fiction writing.

“My stories always inevitably took a dark turn. There are a lot of things that happen in the world that bother me and I tend to think about them a lot,” Snyder said. “I learned I wasn’t inherently going to be writing about puppies and butterflies.”

Educating oneself on horror — what it is and what it isn’t — is a lot easier these days, Snyder said, because of forums on the internet and web-based lit mags. The fact that Columbus has an impressive hoard of horror writers working in it helps too, Snyder added (check them out in September at the Worthington sci-fi, fantasy and horror lit convention called Context 26).

Snyder’s advice for beginning horror writers? Read as much as you can and don’t diss the basics.

“I love a good ghost story,” she said. “I’ve written about a dozen.”