Asian Heritage in Horror: Interview with Tracie McBride
What inspired you to start writing?
My origin story is probably a very familiar one to most writers. It started early in childhood with a love of books and a reverence for those who created them. Then, in primary school, praise came from teachers for my early efforts at written storytelling. High school hit, then adulthood, and somewhere along the line, I shelved the childhood dream of becoming a writer. I picked it up again when my first child started school and I undertook online study to earn a Creative Writing Diploma, naively thinking I might have time to devote to learning the craft (three years and two more children later, I graduated….)
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
I’ve always enjoyed most flavours of speculative fiction and had it in my head that I was going to write science fiction, fantasy, and horror, in that order, but I lack the scientific knowledge to adequately cover the ‘science’ part of science fiction and my fantasy stories often ended up tending towards the dark side. It was simply a matter of going with the flow.
Do you make a conscious effort to include Pacific Islander / Maori characters and themes in your writing, and if so, what do you want to portray?
Early in my writing career, an American editor told me I should write more stories from my own culture. As a New Zealander, this advice was initially confronting; at the time, cultural cringe ran deep in New Zealand generally and in the spec-fic writing scene in particular, and there was often discussion on how to ensure our stories were accessible to the American market. But, I have never forgotten that advice. Now, the short answer to that is that I do make a conscious effort to draw on New Zealand and Australian themes and on Māori mythology. As a short story writer, what I want to portray varies according to the anthology or magazine I’m writing for. But there is usually a tiny bit of me – my experiences, my observations, my relationships, my culture – that makes its way into a story as an anchor point.
How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
The internet has changed everything. The horror genre is no exception. We now have an abundance of easily accessible content, from online magazines to e-books and Print-On-Demand paperbacks to streaming movies and television. It’s impossible to keep up! Sometimes it feels like we have more things to fear now – school shootings, climate change, and online stalkers being a few – or, perhaps, it’s just that in the Digital Age, awareness of the scary things is pushed closer to our faces. If I have to offer a hot take, I predict that genre distinctions will become blurred, perhaps even erased, and what once was considered edgy horror will become mainstream entertainment.
How do you feel the Māori Community has been represented thus far in the genre, and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?
Speaking only from a Māori perspective, we are on global terms a tiny ethnic group. Māori representation in the genre is proportionately small, however, I see this as a positive; this means that any representation we do have will be Māori driven, telling the stories we want to tell the way we want to tell them.
Who are some of your favorite Asian, Pacific Islander, or Māori characters in horror?
Depending on how you define “Asian” and “horror”, this might not answer the question, but I loved the Indigenous Australian “Cleverman” TV series. The West brothers are flawed, complex, and powerful characters. In Māori mythology, the goddess of death and the underworld Hine-nui-te-pō is notable for many reasons, one being the way in which she kills the hero Māui.
Who are some Māori or other Pacific Islander horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
I can recommend plenty of Māori authors, and I can recommend plenty of New Zealand horror writers who may or may not be of Māori descent, but finding the perfect intersection is not a straightforward enterprise! So, I’ll just give you a handful of names, all Kiwis or Pacific Islanders, some horror writers, and trust that readers will find the gems they are looking for amongst them:
Tabatha Wood, Octavia Cade, Becky Manawatu, Paul Mannering, Eileen Mueller, Dan Rabarts, Cassie Hart, Bryce Stevens (who also writes under the pen name of David Kuraria).
On the Indigenous Australian horror front, I’d recommend Lisa Hart. Readers might also want to keep an eye out for up-and-coming writer Yaritji Green.
What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
Think about what scares you. Then, dig deeper. Then, dig deeper still. Then, write about that.
And to the Māori writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
Write for yourself first. You can find your audience when the work is done.