Sometimes I feel like I don’t quite belong to the horror writing crowd. Sure, I call my work ‘horror’ because it’s the most convenient label for it (‘Speculative fiction’ is a bit of an umbrella term and does tend to get me looks of slight derision) but ‘horror’ is very broad. Almost too broad, as anyone attempting to compare say, H.P. Lovecraft, M.R. James and Dean Koontz against one another might find. Any slasher-movie fans reading my work would probably be quite disappointed - there’s no blood, or guts, or… well, horror, really. So I struggle to define it.
Then I came across the term ‘fridge horror’. It’s from the marvellous TV Tropes website, where I can spend hours poring over the often hilarious descriptions of character, plot and genre tropes that can be applied to all stories - written or televised - everywhere. It’s kind of nice. It reminds you that, far from it just being you as an author who keeps coming up with ideas that have already been done, there are no new ideas - it’s the way you deal with the established ones that marks you out! In fact, far from causing the waving of pitchforks (pardon the cliché) and yells of “Cliché!”, a familiar plot device can often serve as a welcome signpost to readers who sometimes become alienated by anything too unfamiliar.
But I digress. Fridge Horror, as termed by TV Tropes, is “when something becomes terrifying after the fact. Maybe you thought about this or that plot point a little too hard, and suddenly you realize that everyone was trapped in stasis forever, or that the lovable child will grow up in a world where everyone around her is dead. This can be either intentional or unintentional by the author.”
Stories that follow this pattern are my favourite kind. There’s definitely a place in horror for the flat-out horrifying - of course everyone is afraid of torture and mutilation - but, apart from me not having the stomach for that kind of horror, it’s the type of thing I read, recoil from in immediate dread and then fling from my recollection. Other, quieter, horrors tend to lurk around a while longer, tapping me on the shoulder in the dark. When I’m alone at night, I don’t fear a crazed, bloody axe murderer crashing through my door. I fear a disembodied whisper close by my ear, too quiet to be truly certain of. Those things that aren’t terrifying on first read, but stick around to haunt you. Everyone’s dead immediately from that axe-murderer’s attack, but what of M.R. James’s so-briefly mentioned character in ‘A school story’, shut in for the night with whatever invisible presence just spoke so cosily to her? What happens to her? How will she escape quickly when she’s just locked all the doors? Which would you prefer - the quick, brutal demise, or the lingering unknown..?
Die Booth lives in Chester, UK, in a tiny house with a fridge well-stocked with custard, ale and horror. You can read several of Die’s stories in the 2011 anthology ‘Re-Vamp’ co-edited by L.C. Hu. Die’s first novel ‘Spirit Houses’, a to-be-pondered-over-at-the-fridge tale of the supernatural, adventure and excellent Scotch, is available now in Epub and Kindle.