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Momento Morii

Posted on 2006.01.11 at 04:06
The reality of death, pain, misery and decay, is all ugly and horrible, and while I have a morbid preoccupation at times, it's more a morbid aesthetic than a love of dead things or a black celebration of life's end.

Horror is a safety valve, a way of taking the meaningless and terrifying and giving it a context I can deal with--namely the context of my imagination. I do think about real human suffering when I write a scene, but I'm seeing a tableau, a mind-painting, as if I'm taking notes from a lucid nightmare. It's quite different from standing among the rotting wreckage of humanity, or stooping over the polished coffin of a loved one. I use death as a paintbrush.

Sometimes part of me thinks this is sick. I know how my life as I know it would end if I lost the one I call my beloved. I have smelled death and closed the eyelids of my adopted Grandparents. I have kissed the embalmed hands of friends taken too soon from this life. I've wept tears on their waxy, painted faces. Death is always a terrible waste, so why not salvage something artistic out of my fear and dread of it--from its inevitability? Why not express a truth with the trappings of the grave? I'm respectful of the real dead, and struggle to never cause suffering to the living. The shadow selves that I commit to paper are another matter...

It's all about respect.

I respect my characters lives in a bizarre way, their suffering has to mean something, but sometimes they die to teach a lesson, sometimes to open a doorway, and sometimes, God help me, to dress a stage. Horror writing, like the Goth scene, is not a love fest with death–it is a sacrifice of our fear, an acknowledgment of our own journey to the grave. It reminds us that we must treat each moment as precious, and burn those moments like magnesium flares. Horror uplifts the romantic hope that the grave is not the end. If the veil is thin and spirits join us, if demons are able to cajole us and possess us--isn't that proof that there is an afterlife and after our three-score and ten we can hope to rejoin those we love at the great clearing?

Many monks in the middle ages were required to keep a skull on the desk in their room, usually the skull of a deceased brother taken from the ossuary. This was morbid in the exact sense, but not the perverse one. The skulls were the original "Momento Morii," the remembrances that each of us will die. The grinning skulls proclaimed a powerful truth from beyond the grave--LIVE and do not squander your precious life!

I leave this grim subject with some quotes I found:

Death teaches us to live; it gives us a boundary to map our living within. Death's hammer breaks through the mirror separating us from light.
--David Meltzer

Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.
--Stephen Vincent Benet

Once you have been confronted with a life-and-death situation, trivia no longer matters. Your perspective grows and you live at a deeper level. There's no time for pettiness.
--Margaretta (Happy) Rockefeller

Thinking and talking about death need not be morbid; they may be quite the opposite. Ignorance and fear of death overshadow life, while knowing and accepting death erases this shadow.
--Lily Pincus


(Anonymous) at 2006-01-13 19:25 (UTC) (Link)

Love that Crucifer!

If any of y'all haven't experienced Rob's book Crucifer yet (pub tba) you're missing out, ask him for info (dance author, DANCE!)

What an eloquent guy:)


rjcrowtherjr at 2006-01-13 22:27 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Love that Crucifer!


Thank you so much for the kind words! I'm dancing, but my fingers keep getting caught in the spiderwebs. Just spoke with my agent and she's working hard to get things rolling at RH now that the holidays are over. Doug Clegg, see link on sidebar, just promised me a blurb as soon as he gets a galley. What a wonderful man. His new book, "Priest of Blood" (ACE) is amazing. And his other new book, "Mordred, Bastard Son," was just released in hardcover from Alyson. It's a gothic, dark fantasy with a gay romance at the core. If you haven't read him you should. I think "Priest of Blood" is a strong contender for the 2005 Bram Stoker Award. Again, thanks my friend.
wicked witch of the west
herkind31 at 2006-01-18 17:53 (UTC) (Link)
this is the reason i love Day of the Dead. it's not a perverse thing to have a sugar skull with your name written on its forehead, it's a way to embrace the cycle of life. without death there would be no life. and Day of the Dead also helps to celebrate/remember the lives of parted loved ones. it's a great celebration.
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