by Mark Allan Gunnells
As a gay author (or an author who happens to be gay, whichever way you prefer to think of it), I have a very particular interest when it comes to writing horror fiction. I want to present the reader with something familiar then give it a twist by offering a perspective not often seen in horror fiction. Namely, a gay perspective.
Growing up an avid horror fan, I rarely saw any representations of gay people, and what representations there were tended to be stereotypical and borderline offensive. Things have gotten a little better these days, but more often than not gay characters in horror fiction play supporting roles and are not often front and center. One of the things I want to do through my writing is change that.
In a lot of my work, I like to take traditional scenarios and situations (tropes, if you will) and insert gay characters. May seem like a little thing, but this new perspective can often breathe new life into a standard formula. In my novel Sequel, for instance, I placed gay characters in the midst of a very traditional slasher story. In The Quarry and its follow-up The Cult of Ocasta, my main character had to deal with a combination creature-feature and possession tale while also navigating issues of sexuality and romance. However, never have I played with the concept of taking a standard horror trope and tweaking it with a gay perspective more than in my novella Asylum.
Here I took a very standard zombie set up, filched right out of the Romero playbook, and trapped a disparate group of survivors in a small space, fighting the onslaught of the undead while also dealing with personal demons and interpersonal conflicts amongst themselves. Only instead of trapping them in a farmhouse or shopping mall or military bunker, I chose to trap them in a gay club. Instead of having a group of straight characters with one token gay character, I had a cast made up almost entirely of gay men with one token straight female.
When I started writing this piece, I had no real mission, no intention to make a statement. I merely wanted to take a familiar situation and put in people that readers are not using to seeing in those situations at the forefront and see what developed from there. Just as a natural extension of these characters and their concerns, the story ended up dealing with issues of bigotry, persecution, self-loathing, addiction, loneliness, sex, love, and strength. The framework for the story was nothing new, but by using these characters, I felt something new came out of it. A story at once familiar and yet unique.
I was so thrilled when Apex Publications recently put out a new edition of Asylum, including a brand new story “Lunatics Running the Asylum” set in that fictional universe, and I hope that the story continues to engage people through offering a new perspective on a traditional horror trope.
Mark Allan Gunnells loves to tell stories. He has since he was a kid, penning one-page tales that were Twilight Zone knockoffs. He likes to think he has gotten a little better since then. He loves reader feedback, and above all he loves telling stories. He lives in Greer, SC, with his husband Craig A. Metcalf.
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