I pretty much grew up on horror stories, ghost stories, scary stories. Awful ones amused me, good ones fascinated me.
Thing is, I also grew up with a screwed-up brain, and never any idea what was so screwed up until recently.
Over and over, writing stories pulled me back from the brink of the worst of things, but when that failed I became pretty much non-functional. The worst of those was late 2004, when a bunch of things came together and a final trigger just whipped everything away.
During that period I developed a level of fear that I’d never had before: with the realisation of the true depths of the things that lurked in my brain, came fear of what could come out of it. There was good reason for this, so I shut it down. I stopped watching, reading and writing scary stories. I told myself I wasn’t fascinated with the darkness of it, with the crafting of it, with the art and the skill of creating something truly scary. But that’s a whole different blog…
For years, I refused to go anywhere near scary stories of any sort. The fear I’d always had of the dark places in my head was too great, the fear of the influence it had over me, fear that using it would change who I wanted to be. So I tried to board it up, in the hopes that I could ignore it. It worked a little bit, I stubbornly avoided things, refused to write even the worst of my nightmares, blocked any story ideas which might require it… Eventually I mostly stopped writing altogether, because every time I did something, it seemed to swerve back into that place in my head that I was afraid of.
If you look at what I write, there is a common element in it – even the fun stuff has darkness to it: in the story, in the characters, it’s there.
And then…there was April Wade. Honestly, if I’d first paid attention to anything other than the Concessionaires Must Die Geekify, I doubt I’d be sat here writing this.
When I discovered her first live narrative, Killcam, it was very nearly enough to scare me back into the woodwork, and April would probably never have heard from me again. But before I did that, I stopped to compare Killcam to what I knew of April. What I saw was a show which had broken all sorts of boundaries, engaged a seriously committed audience, and done some seriously messed up stuff. What I also saw was April – a good person. A crazy as all hell person, with a sense of humour as weird and random as my own, but one who was also and fun, and smart, and nice.
I saw someone who embraced that side of her brain, and came out seemingly better for doing it.
Over the last couple of Immerverse shows, I Am Agnes Day and Alice’s Eyes, I’ve worked some stuff out.
Yes, there are things in my head which are dangerous to me.
Yes it’s possible for me to go too far into it, at the wrong time, and struggle to get back out again.
But also yes – I like my dark side. I need my dark side. It balances me out. It gives me strength. Far from sending me to it, often it brings me back from the edge. Without it, I can’t tell the stories I need to tell – and I do mean need to tell.
For the next show? Well, while April & droogs have been gleefully plotting ways to mess with all our minds with The Dying Game, I’ve been making up someone to play the game as who reaches quite some way into my dark side.
I’m prepared for the fact that being Garrett Post will mess with my mind somewhat. If you read his blog, Garrett is struggling a lot with the balance between his philosophy of removing only those who create unhappiness, and his desires to hurt and kill. Charlie may just be the one to send him over the edge…
Garrett is a character like none I’ve ever created before. I’ve also always had, for my scary guys, the single step remove of being the writer, not the person.
I’ll admit, part of why I’m looking forward to this is to see how far I can push my dark side, when it’s gonna push back, and how it might affect me (this is possibly why there’s a couple of people concerned for me on this one).
But I’m also looking forward to indulging something I hid from for far too long – building the person, (good or bad) and giving them a situation which will force them to find who they really are.
The point of all this: I have found some things again. My love of reaching into that dark place and crafting what comes out into something deep and terrifying. My love of finding the character, making them real – pain and all. My fascination with that darkness never left, but I hid from it and I forgot how much I loved exploring it.
April has returned these things to me. Things I forgot I loved. Things that make up part of who I am.
What’s the big deal about the Immerverse? Well…all of it, actually. Immerverse is many things – groundbreaking, fascinating, amazing, fun, horrifying, awe-inspiring…but it’s also been my reminder that not only can I use that part of my head without needing to be scared of it, but I should, I must, and I’m actually kind of incomplete without it.
There are many reasons I have come to love April, and for this I will always thank her, and support her however I can. Because more than the amazing things she does, is the amazing person she is.
Btw – next show Freedom Farm starts this month. April 20th, 2pm-2am PDT / 5pm-5am EDT / 10pm-10am GMT. Come join us in the Immerverse.