Defining the horror genre is problematic at best, because of all the speculative genres, horror is perhaps the most multifaceted. Its sub-genres run from “splatter-punk” to “apocalyptic” to “dark fantasy”. One of these genres – “Quiet horror” - consistently stands out in my mind as one of horror’s most powerful forms. Relying chiefly on atmosphere, character development, internal/spiritual/existential conflict, emotional impact and real-life horrors, “quiet horror” has offered up some of the most powerful, resonating stories.
I’ve dug into “quiet horror” this past year, and have discovered that it really resonates with me. Writers such as Charles L. Grant, J. N. Williamson and T. M Wright have become fast favorites. Two newer writers that have emerged to carry the “quiet horror” torch forward are Norman Prentiss, author of Invisible Fences (Cemetery Dance) and Brian Freeman, author of The Painted Darkness (Cemetery Dance). It’s also not a coincidence that both of them have been nominated for the Stoker Award this year, in the category of Long Fiction for their respective novellas.
Freeman’s The Painted Darkness is a hauntingly beautiful tale exploring the thin line between fantasy and reality, which is so often broken in the creative process. In his tale about an artist named Henry, who struggles to battle demons from his past (demons he’s made himself forget), Freeman explores the creative process, asking the question: What does it REALLY mean to create?
Freeman’s narrative effortlessly straddles that of a young Henry when he first discovers the power of “painting against the darkness” and older, conflicted Henry, whose demons have finally demanded he face the past. What is real? What isn’t? A basement full of monsters? Legions of red-eyed, haunting rabbits? Freeman deftly handles a story which reveals itself in good time, and doesn’t leave the reader feeling cheated or hoodwinked at the end.
Artists of all kinds: painters, writers, musicians and others breathe “life” into their art, life that comes from inside them, as well as somewhere else. What if artists breathe life into MORE than just their tangible work? What if they’re able to open doors that release not only their imagination…but another force so powerful it can bend reality to its will? In this novella, both young and adult protagonist Henry have learned to “paint against the darkness”. Such a powerful theme Freeman delivers with this work, and perhaps the best answer to anyone who questions the validity and purpose of art and creativity in our daily lives: to combat the darkness and hold it at bay.
A second printing of The Painted Darkness is running out. Grab one today.