Horror Writers Association Blog

“This Small Window of Acceptance” By Joseph VanBuren


The Halloween season is the time of the year when the rest of the world accepts us. I mean that in two different ways.

Growing up, my mom was not only a super hero single mother raising three boys, she was also Wiccan. My brothers and I were raised with the sense that Halloween was “our” New Year’s. Yes, we went trick-or-treating like all the normal kids, but we also celebrated the dead. I have fond memories of setting a place for the spirits at Samhain dinner. While my brothers and I were running around the house on a sugar high from all the candy ingested, my mom would be chanting calmly under the light of candles and the wispy smoke of incense. I never understood the witch costumes and decorations, because those green hags looked nothing like my mother. Despite such discrepancies, Halloween was always the one night we sort of felt like we fit in with everyone else.

I have also been a fan of horror films since I was a kid, which I credit with leading me to the reading and writing of horror and related dark literature. The potential reasons why I was drawn to this type of art are perhaps another story for another blog. With the love of horror flicks, however, comes another reason to embrace the Halloween season. TV channels that ignore the existence of the horror genre the rest of the year suddenly play nothing but those great movies I grew up on. Eleven months of the year, my classmates looked at me weird when I told them of my love for horror. In October, they would come over and watch Michael Myers stab people up with me. For one whole month, horror is cool!

As horror writers, of course, we see this phenomenon firsthand. Pretty much any store, site, or blog that deals with books will promote horror every October. The genre that wasn’t serious or literary or whatever enough is suddenly very commercially appealing. And people buy into it, so the companies keep doing it. As artists who love what we do and the genre we do it in, should we embrace this small window of acceptance, or should we not play into the pigeon-holing of an already marginalized form of art? Well, I’m sure some writers have their own opinion, but my personal reply is: “bring on the October Halloween madness!”

Much like being Wiccan, being a horror writer comes with the assumption that much of the world will misunderstand what you do and what you stand for. But once a year, people will dip their toes into your dark world, because they are a part of what you do and what you stand for whether they realize it or not. And if there is one thing my mother taught me, it’s to be yourself no matter who doesn’t get it, because the people that do get it will appreciate you that much more.

So, please, watch those horror movies in October! Even better, read those horror books – especially from HWA members 😉 If horror was mainstream cool all year around, it would not be as effective in one of its main purposes: to discuss the dark parts of human nature that people tend to ignore most of the time. Don’t worry, we do this all year around. We’ll still be here for you next year.


TODAY’S GIVEAWAY: Joseph VanBuren is giving away a copy of his upcoming poetry book, Mask: Shadow, in e-book format (PDF). Comment below or email membership@horror.org with the subject title HH Contest Entry for a chance to win.

BIO: Joseph VanBuren is an author, editor, music artist, and the scrambled brains behind Sykophunk Productions. His poetry and fiction have been published in Confluence, Ink Cloud, and the anthology Life on a Tightrope; he has written/performed/produced hundreds of music tracks, opened up for a variety of national acts, and had one of his tracks played on The Colbert Report. Spawned from the Hudson Valley, New York, he now lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana with his beloved fiancée and adorably neurotic dog. His current projects include getting a bachelor’s degree and releasing the Mask series, a trilogy of poetry chapbooks with soundtracks. You can find more information and social media links at josephvanburen.com

We all wear various masks for different situations. It’s how we adapt and react to life. Wear a mask for too long, however, and it becomes difficult to remove. Especially if that mask has been forced upon you…

Sykophunk Productions presents Mask: Shadow by Joseph VanBuren. Through twisted poetry and dark ambient soundscapes, the tale of a tortured soul unfolds. In the aftermath of strange psychiatric and biogenetic experiments, our narrator questions reality, laments the loss of truth, and perhaps even reveals apocalyptic prophecies.

Mask: Shadow book and soundtrack album will be available October 31, 2017, through Amazon, josephvanburen.com, and sykophunk.com


Excerpt from Mask: Shadow

Truth is undead,

raised from the grave a nocturnal slave,

risen from the altar in an altered state,

resurrected from a broken recollection.


Layers of yesterday stitched together,

a wretched semblance of something

not quite recalled, encased

in an easy-to-swallow coating.


Medicated souls full of memory holes

haunted by the spirits of the passed

away, passing on a sickening hunger

of infectious consumption.


One comment on ““This Small Window of Acceptance” By Joseph VanBuren

  1. I wonder whether this way of looking at things might make the horror writer a kind of secular priest/priestess of the Mysteria of Death. Our goal would be to guide our readers to an encounter with the darkest parts of humanity they don’t want to face in the hopes that they will be transformed by the experience.

    A very interesting post on several levels!

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