It is I, Nick Cutter. I can only imagine that you're super-impressed to make my e-acquaintance, as I'm the supercool, uber-badass writer of The Troop—the book!
Anyhoo, I figured I might give protential readers a little bit of a heads up about the book. Because all horror ain't built equal—or, to be more accurate, different types of horror hit a given reader's sweet spot, while others do not. Many horror readers (or moviewatchers) are omnivorous, happy to gobble up a gothic ghost story, a J-horror shocker, a serial killer or demonic killer or slasher flick with gusto. Some, however, have a certain threshhold that they don't want to see tested—some want to be scared but not disturbed. Some want to be chilled but not grossed out. Some want to be grossed out, and the gooier the better.
Suffice it to say, there are many savors and textures to horror. Some tastes are a little too ... well, bracing for a given readership or viewership. And I suppose it's hard, just judging by a snyopsis or a cover or a few reviews, what a person really has in store for themselves with some works of horror. Which may ultimately lead to an unhappy reading experience, which is hurtful to the reader—and a little bit saddening to the writer, who, while they may've made a sale, also may've earned a mortal enemy in the process.
So, with that said—and to ease my introduction to you, dear blog reader—I thought I'd outline my, hmmm, I guess you'd call it writerly aesthetic (which is a hoity-toity term, so please forgive me) in regards the The Troop, so you know what you're getting into if you decide to read it.
First of all, I was a child of the 80s. Aaaaah, those halcyon days! Mili Vanilli was at the top of the charts! Everyone was wearing piano key ties! The Reaganauts ruled! Gas cost a nickel a gallon or so I'm told! Anyhoo, it was an interesting time for horror. Of course Stephen King was at his apex—an apex that, for my money, he's managed to maintain in the decades since—but Clive Barker was coming on, too, and Dean Koontz was ripping it up as well. You also had Robert R McCammon and Peter Straub and a host of other really great horror writers. The drug store spinning racks were full of horror; King unshered in a run on paperback horror that hasn't been seen since. It wasn't all good, because that's the nature of booms—the market gets saturated, then oversaturated, and then it pops.
But man, I loved me that 80s horror. 80s, early-to-mid 90s. Don't get me wrong: I don't love it exclusively; I liked work that came before that boom, and I've loved books and authors who've come along since then. But there was something about that time, about the pulpy, crazy, gleefully-go-to-far books that came out of that time period, that kindles a wonderful nostralgia in me.
Puberty, man. What a weird time in life!
Part of the allure was how illicit it all was. Transgressive. You had writers back then who were rebelling against the (as they saw it) stodgy old ghost stories and mimsy horror of their forefathers. These writers wanted to push the envelope, and they had a supportive publishing environment where editors and publishing houses were more willing to put that stuff out. And around that time horror movies were pretty raunchy too—for the time, anyway. And it wasn't like today, when you can get anything off the Internet.
OLD MAN VOICE: Back when I was a wee lad, if you wanted to sneak into an R-rated horror movie, you had to buy a ticket to the PG flick and sneak past the usher into the theatre! If you wanted to rent one, you had to paste on a fake mustache or else try to pay an old rummy to rent one for you!
So when me and my buddies did manage to get our hands on a Friday the 13th or a Nightmare on Elm Street or a Dawn of the Dead or Videodrome or even a lesser film in the horror pantheon, well, it was a very good day. We'd secret ourselves away in the basement at someone's house, drink rootbeer and eat bags of no-name 99-cent barbecue chips and get gory.
I mean, let's face it—we weren't renting these flicks for the deathless dialogue or the stellar acting or the intricate plotlines. No, we were renting it for this, pretty much:
... or this:
Oh, hey! By the way, those are prrrreeeeeeetty gory (delayed spoiler alert!)
Anyhoo, that was what we dug. We'd wade through an hour of hackneyed dialogue and bad edting to see the makeup artists ply their trade—exploding heads, guts ripped open, limbs catapulted into the sky. And we'd know which videotapes (remember those?) had been rented and obsessed over by other gorehound teenagers, too—the gory bits would be grainy and static-y, because they'd been rewound over and paused and watched so much more than the rest of the tape.
So this was how I grew up. That was what intrigued me and what spurred the aesthetic I wanted to bring to The Troop.
Beyond that, I was really into a certain subset of horror called "body horror"—pretty simply, this is horror having to do with the ruin of the human body. Bodies changing, mutating, morphing against the wishes of their owners. My fellow countryman David Cronenberg is perhaps the grandfather of this style. You've got Videodrome and Rabid and Shivers and of course The Fly—which, while a remake of an older movie, really got the gooey, gross treatment from Cronenberg. Poor old Seth Brundle turning into Bundlefly slowly, sadly, bit by tortuous bit.
So these were the two large-scale elements I slapped togther while working on The Troop.
#1: The crazy, gleefully excessive aesthetic of 80s horror flicks and books. Blood by the bucketful. Limbs a-flying. And most importantly, it was fun—at least to a certain type of viewer or reader it was. There were moments when your skull would rock back from the page or the TV screen and you'd just be flabberghasted that someone had gone there—and you got the sense that the writer or the director, wherever s/he was, was delighted to have gone there and was even more delighted to have gotten that reaction from you. There was a real element of fun to those books and movies, and to be truthful I had a blast writing The Troop for the same reason.
#2: The body horror movement. Which is a movement based on pretty gross, terrible things happening to human bodies. I love it. Others hate it.
I'm not saying every book I write will follow this aesthetic. But The Troop certainly does. That's it's DNA.
So now you know. If you've read this and were on the fence about whether or not to pick up the book, this should hopefully crystalize your choice one way or the other.
At least now it has been written. A record exists. And anyone who is bushwhacked by the contents of The Troop in the future will have to reckon with the fact that, if they'd only done a little bit of digging, they could have come across this post first.