Henry Kuttner: The Reason I Write Horror.
As happens with most writers, I get people asking me all the time who my favorite author is. Well, for me that’s kind of hard to nail down because I don’t really have a fave. There have been tons of badasses in horror literature from Lovecraft and Shelly to Campbell and Barker and I find it difficult to cite just one writer because they've each given something amazing and terrifying in their own right. And not every iconic author hits it out of the park, either. For instance, scores of readers sing the praises of every Stephen King novel but I don't find every book or story of his appealing.
However, if I had to give an answer to why I write horror, I’d have say that the author who inspired me the most was Henry Kuttner.
Kuttner was a major player in horror, sci-fi, and fantasy and wrote under 17 different pseudonyms, besides his own name. He even wrote for the Green Lantern comic back in the 40's. He and his wife were members of the "Lovecraft Circle" and he was an avid contributor of stories to the Cthulhu Mythos. He stepped away from writing to get his masters degree before dying in his sleep at the age of 42.
Up until I was about 16 or so, I had read tons of books by a handful of authors in genres like mystery (Agatha Christie) and action adventure (Don Pendleton) and I was writing a lot of my own stories in the vein of those authors. I even read some King, Campbell, and Barker, but I hadn't really considered writing horror.
And, then, I read my first Henry Kuttner story - "The Graveyard Rats" - and I was bitten by the horror bug.
I will never forget the feeling of despair and horror I had well after I read it – even long afterwards when I tried to get to sleep at night… alone… in my room. I even found myself trying not to sleep near the edge of my bed. AND I WAS 16! Even today, I get freaked out thinking about that story. But it wasn't the rats that scared me - I couldn't care any less for them - it was the terrifying situation that Kuttner put his protagonist in that really got to me.
“The Graveyard Rats”, written in 1936 and considered to be one of the scariest short stories ever written, is about a greedy man, named Masson, who works in an old cemetery and steals personal belongings of people who are buried there. One night, he digs up one particular grave and… well, get it and read it yourself from Amazon. It’s extremely claustrophobic and terrifying and in the end… well, again, just read it.
For days, I couldn’t shake the feeling it gave me when I thought about what happened to Masson. That’s when I decided that horror was what I wanted to write more than any other genre. It still gives me shivers when I think about it almost 30 years later. I even swore that one day I would write a story that impacted my readers as much as Kuttner's story impacted me, and I finally did in my 40's with my award winning short story, "Confession".
Actually, after writing this and reviewing it before posting, I realize now that Henry Kuttner is more than just the reason I write horror. I guess I'd have to admit that I actually do have a favorite author.