Veterans in Horror: Interview with Chris Reichard
Chris ~Cliff~ Reichard has always been a creator of dark works, but their writing has been stripped raw and refined over and again through hardships experienced in war, activism & the discrimination that intersectional queer punks face. They live a life of semi-seclusion in this increasingly chaotic world, while still taking time to enjoy life’s little pleasure.
Tell us a bit about your military service. Years? Branch? Specialty?
I served as a Signal Support Systems Specialist in the U.S. Army from 2004-2012. In that time, I spent nearly three years deployed to Iraq.
What role, if any, did reading and writing play during your military service?
Honestly, writing poetry helped get me through some of the roughest points in all my deployments. As far as reading goes, my second deployment drew me back to the written page through comics, and my favorite “horror” read was in my third deployment with House of Leaves.
What inspired you to start writing?
There was a poetry assignment in English class some 20-odd years ago that flipped the switch inside my head. I ended up taking two more courses by that teacher afterward.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
Whether it was the horror-tinged musicals of Little Shop of Horrors & The Rocky Horror Picture Show, movies like The Nightmare on Elm Street series or shows like Tales From the Crypt, horror has been a staple in my life since childhood. As far as books went, Grimm’s Fairy Tales and R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series broadened my adolescent mind to what horror and dark fantasy could be.
What role, if any, does your military experience play in your writing?
The challenging experiences of my military service has rubbed my mind raw, exposing nerves that have jaded and shaded my writing in darkness forever.
What is your favorite depiction of military service in all of literature? Why?
Stretching literature with the screenplay for Saving Private Ryan, this film showed the stress, heartache, stubbornness & brotherhood that I’ve mostly experienced myself.
How do you feel military veterans and the broader military experience has thus far been represented in the horror genre?
Very often the military is misrepresented as a trope of heartless idiots with almost zero humanity remaining, whereas veterans are often (more accurately) shown as the grizzled pessimists that ultimately sacrifice themselves at the hard calls.
Who are some civilian characters in horror that you think would have made for great soldiers?
Ellen Ripley from the Alien movies. Technically she was only a civilian consultant to the Space Marines, but she constantly shows why she should be in charge.
Who are some military veteran horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
Dante Alighieri, because Inferno is THE classic jaunt through Hell.
What’s something about veterans most people don’t know?
Most veterans have a darkness in their heads that they don’t talk about. Especially those who act like they are always fine. With an average of 22 suicides per day, many of their loved ones never see it coming. That’s all because they’re still at war… just with themselves.