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Asian Heritage in Horror Month: An Interview with Scott J. Moses

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What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve written for as long as I can remember, but the instance that made me want to take it seriously was in middle school. We were assigned the task of writing a fictional short story. Any genre, theme, etc. I spent five hours on it and experienced “flow state” for the first time. I read somewhere that whatever gets you there, in that state where the task at hand is all you can think about, where all else melts away for a while, should be something you take seriously. Something to give you purpose and a way to make sense of the world for yourself.

What draws you to the horror genre?

I grew up loving Halloween and all things dark but was rarely ever allowed to celebrate it. I think the desire grew from there but was always present. Kinda like sad songs, I’m really into them, but can’t exactly say why. I guess they seem more real to me and my experience, but that’s another conversation. Horror is just such a versatile genre, but if I had to choose one reason I’m drawn to it, I’d say it’s a genre built on empathy. We all have universal human fears that horror allows us to face indirectly. Fear of death, for one. Fear of loss, another.

Do you include Asian and/or Pacific Islander characters and themes in your writing with purpose, and if so, what do you want to portray?

As of late, I’ve started really leaning into that part of myself. The novel I’m currently querying deals with a Japanese family moved to the States, and the novel I’m drafting is a bit closer to home, in that the protagonist is half-Japanese with a Japanese mother and an American father. I’m not sure what I want to portray exactly, just my experience growing up biracial, I guess.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

That while things may just be as bad as they seem, it doesn’t make life something unworthy of living. There’s so much good as well, and it’s made brighter for all the dark. I don’t mean to make light of tragedies, of which there are many but more that in spite of them, you can choose to go on, be a light in the world, and “carry the fire” as McCarthy said. There’s so much darkness, and we could all use a little more light. It’s taught me to be grateful for the good moments as well. Bourbon on the rocks, my cat asleep and purring on my chest in the early morning, sun shining through the blinds and warm on my skin, family, chosen or otherwise, and slivers of peace where it can be found. And it can be found. Hell, it isn’t even hiding most of the time.

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? How do you think it will continue to evolve?

I think women are getting more of a platform which has been cool to see. People tell me women can’t write good horror, but I think those people are either ignorant or not well-read. Sara Gran’s Come Closer is the scariest thing I’ve ever read, and I’d challenge those folks to pick it up and tell me differently. Same with Han Kang’s Human Acts.

How do you feel the Asian and/or Pacific Islander communities have been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?

I feel like there’s a long way to go, but it’s steadily climbing. If I remember correctly, I read somewhere only 7% of traditionally published authors are Asian. I’d like to see that number doubled or tripled in the next decade. I don’t think that’s a huge ask.

Who are some of your favorite Asian and/or Pacific Islander characters in horror?

Yeong-hye in Han Kang’s The Vegetarian stands out to me. If we’re talking TV/Film, I’d say the detectives in a film I just watched called Memories of Murder. Godzilla Minus One’s Kōichi Shikishima, for sure. I resonated with that character in so many unexpected ways. See that film if you haven’t. And let’s be honest, where would I be without Cowboy Bebop and Spike Spiegel? Yeah, you might be asking me how that’s horror, but if you’ve ever experienced loss, or been wise to the death of a chapter of your life as it’s dying, well, I’d say it’s a bit horrific. Anyway, Spike was a big help to me when I was young, and still today.

Can you recommend some Asian and/or Pacific Islander horror authors for our readers to check out?

This is off the cuff, and I’m sure I’ll miss a few, but I highly recommend JAW McCarthy (who’s up for a Stoker this year for her novella Sleep Alone, by the way), Ai Jiang, Nadia Bulkin, Kazuo Ishiguro, KP Kulski, Han Kang, Junji Ito, Haruki Murakami, and Cassandra Khaw.

What is your best advice for horror authors today?

Write from your heart, your pain, and with empathy. If you think you’ve disclosed too much of yourself, or gotten too vulnerable, then you’re probably onto something special, to making someone else feel less alone. And if all life is suffering, well, what better way to exist than to reduce said suffering?

And to the Asian and/or Pacific Islander writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?

The same as the above but with an addendum: Don’t hide who you are like I did for most of my adolescence. I masked my Japanese side to avoid getting shit (can I curse?) in school and elsewhere growing up in the American South, and while it often worked, I didn’t realize I was killing a part of myself. A part of myself I’m only now, in my thirties, coming to know better and truly explore. Don’t hide who you are. That isn’t living, not really, it’s something else.


Scott J. Moses is the author of Our Own Unique Affliction (DarkLit Press). An Active member of the Horror Writers Association, his work has appeared in Cosmic Horror Monthly, The NoSleep Podcast, Planet Scumm, and elsewhere. He also edited What One Wouldn’t Do: An Anthology on the Lengths One Might Go To. He is Japanese American and lives in Maryland. You can find him on Twitter @scottj_moses or at www.scottjmoses.com. He is represented by Alec Frankel of IAG for TV/Film.

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