First of all, please introduce yourself.
My name is Darius Jung. That doesn't match the name on my birth certificate, but then again, neither does the name on my desk at work. There's no special meaning or reclusiveness to it, I just wanted a name I could dispose of if everyone thought my writing was crap.
I work in IT, am married and have two intermittently tolerable kids. That sucks up most of my time. Pretty much every free second outside of that is devoted to goofing off writing. I've been working mainly on fantasy novels, while my short stories tend to be supernatural horror in contemporary settings. My debut novel, coming out next year, will be a YA historical fiction. I have a wide variety of interests and my writing reflects that.
Can you remember the first time you were truly frightened?
One of my earliest distinct memories of anything was the time I woke up to find my parents and older brother weren't at home, just my grandparents. I was about three at the time and it turns out they were moving into a new home, so it wasn't practical to have me around while they were doing that. I remember crying and crying while my grandmother held me. Because of a language barrier, I couldn't figure out that my family was coming back. I thought they'd abandoned me.
Hey, I thought these were all supposed to be softballs! Let me just get my dictionary here.... It's hard to describe fear because there's such a wide range of feelings that we might call fear, from anxiety in social situations to more visceral dread of physical harm. If we're talking about horror as a genre, we're probably talking about the more intense versions of any of those fears, but really, I think fear is anticipation of anything that you don't want to happen. How did I do? C+?
What were you afraid of most as a child?
Kids are afraid of lots of things in general: heights, bugs, cleanliness. None of those fears stayed with me the way a specific incident did. In grade school, one of my best friends told me this story of a kid on his street that had the evil eye. I forget most of the details, but I really remember that time he pointed out the kid while he rode his bike past us. My friend really sold it, so I had nightmares. It was so intense that when I found out he was tricking me, it ended our friendship.
I also remember that time I inadvertently watched Ninja III: The Domination and stayed awake every night waiting for ninjas to storm through the window and stab me to death. Parents, pay attention to what your kids are watching.
What are your biggest fears now, as an adult?
Actually, I'm still afraid of bugs, but at least I can call my wife to handle that. What I think I'm most afraid of is death. I'm sure that sounds lame, since we're supposed to be all philosophical about that, but actually, it's the fear of a lack of an afterlife. I waffle between rationality and spirituality all the time because of this fear. The idea of total non-existence, its finality, makes me extremely anxious when I think too much about it. I guess I was supposed to say I was most afraid of something happening to my kids. Oops.
Is fear a good thing or a bad thing?
I was going to say that it isn't so much fear that’s bad, so much as how we react to it. In fact, I'll go further and say that fear itself is good from an evolutionary standpoint. It's designed to not get us killed so we can survive as a species. But definitely, many of the ways in which we react to fear are detrimental to humanity. It's why hatred of a group of people is generally suffixed by "-phobia."
Why do you think people “escape” with a genre that stimulates fear and anxiety?
I think the appeal of horror is in its voyeuristic quality. You enjoy seeing something bad happen to someone else. Not necessarily because they deserve it, but you get reassured that at least your life isn't so bad.
What was your most creative or favorite Halloween costume?
I have a confession to make. Halloween is actually my least favourite occasion of the year. Why? Costume stress. Dammit, I just want to show up at a party and have a good time. What is with all this prep work? It’s not like I’m the host! And now, dealing with kids’ costumes? Ugh.
Also, one of my greatest pet peeves is Halloween theme parties. Why does a Halloween party have to have a theme? Halloween IS a theme! You're just making an already difficult task impossible! What's that? Just re-wear a previous year's costume? Get something cheap from the dollar store? There's no way I want to be that guy. This probably all stems from that fact that I don't drink very much. You end up thinking way too much about these things when you're at a party sober.
And finally, remember when Halloween costumes used to be scary? Let's bring that back!
As you can see, I feel very strongly about these issues. And now I've run out of time and can't answer the original question. Next!
Who is the best horror villain?
I often find it difficult to tag something as the “best” or even my favourite. How you feel about a work subjectively changes with time and your current circumstances. I think it's more honest to say most "enjoyably memorable" rather than “best.” There's often movies or novels that I’ve thought were the absolute best at the time I experienced them, but over a number of years, my tastes changed, and while I still think they're awesome, they don't stay top of mind. Then when someone asks me to name the top movies or novels, I end up forgetting it and kicking myself. I choose to define "best" as "most enjoyably memorable" as an advanced apology for my faulty memory.
While movies, due to their visual impact, stay more strongly with me, I react more emotionally to the unseen and atmospheric horror of the written word. I think the Thing, from John Carpenter's movie, checks off all of those qualities. You never actually know what the natural form of the Thing is, and the resulting mood of paranoia and isolation and the fact that it feels truly unstoppable — I'm pretty sure Kurt Russell didn't manage to actually kill it at the end — makes it the most enjoyably memorable horror villain.
Can you remember the first horror film or television series you saw? How about the first horror story or novel?
I have a phenomenal memory when it comes to trivial facts, but I have a terrible memory when it comes to my own life. So the short answer is no, I can't actually remember what my first horror movie, TV show, novel or story was.
I will say, in fact, just about the earliest memory that I do have of a horror story was both a movie and a book. It was one of those pulp graphic novels that were created using still frames from the 1978 version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," with dialogue overlaid on the images. I suppose those were prevalent in the days before home video, when it would be a cheap and convenient way to relive the experience of seeing the movie. For some reason, my parents thought it would be a good idea to get this book for me as a way to improve my reading skills, so, of course, I ended up having nightmares about the man-dog.
Which subgenres of horror speak most to you?
(science fiction, speculative fiction, dark sci-fi, realistic horror, paranormal/supernatural horror, urban fantasy, etc)
My own preference is to write contemporary paranormal/supernatural horror, so that is very much the sub-genre that speaks to me the most. I think without that strong connection to the real world, while I may really get into a story and its characters, it won't have that visceral impact for me. I also think monsters that are more difficult to define make it less necessary to suspend disbelief, thus heightening the fear. But the horror shouldn't be too real: I get enough of murder and torture from the news.
What makes a book or film scary?
This relates a bit to the previous question, I think. If a horror feels more possible, that increases the impact of the fear. But stories about blatantly impossible alien or supernatural encounters can be terrifying as well. Fear is inherently driven by your imagination. As I said before, and now I'll stick to it, it's the anticipation of bad things. That anticipation is tied directly to your imagination. It's why, in my opinion, the best horror is of things that are unseen or intangible. It's why even if you've actually seen the monster, it's much scarier imagining the possibility of the monster appearing rather than actually seeing it. I'm talking about reading or viewing horror, not real life. In real life, it's definitely scarier if the monster is actually there.
What is the worst horror novel or film you’ve ever read/watched? What made it so terrible?
Again, I'm not going to definitively state that something was the worst and I don't generally like dragging other people's creative work. I feel safe in saying, though, that the least memorably unenjoyable horror novel I've read is Stephen King's The Tommyknockers. I will preface by saying that I absolutely love his short stories. But for some reason, I've never taken to his novels. I couldn't really tell you why. Maybe they're too dragged out. I've had a tendency to skim when I read his novels. The Tommyknockers is certainly one of the least memorable. I couldn't for the life of me remember what it's about, beyond something to do with aliens and that it's set in Maine, because every Stephen King story is set in Maine. The one thing about that novel that did stay with me was a tremendous feeling of disappointment and annoyance at having endured it all the way to the finish. I'm happy to see, as I look up Wikipedia to try to remember what it was about, that King himself agrees with me, calling it "an awful book."
Which way would you prefer the end to come:
alien invasion, zombie apocalypse, natural disaster, global war, nuclear fallout, disease, giant solar flare, nanotechnology or robots, or mass insanity
I've been spending what little spare time I have preparing my family to face down a zombiepocalypse. This consists mainly of playing video games. I'd be damned disappointed if the end turns out to be something else and all this prep was for nothing.