Today’s post is from Jason Sizemore. Jason has a fascinating vantage point — he is an author, an editor and publisher; check out his about page to learn why he selected this adventure. In his guest post, Jason explains how his background affects his writing and why he calls it Appalachian Gothic.
In his introduction to my collection, Irredeemable, Geoffrey Girard describes my writing as Southern Gothic. He’s right, of course. Many common Southern Gothic traits are threaded throughout the stories: alienations, the supernatural, a southern US setting, violence, religion, to name a few. But a term I favor for Irredeemable is the phrase Appalachian Gothic.
I am a lifelong Kentucky boy. I grew up in southeast KY, deep in the hills. My dad was a coal miner. Our community was quite isolated. Nowadays I live in Lexington, KY. Kentucky and the Appalachian Mountains have always been a big part of my life, and its culture and heritage inform most of the short fiction I write.
Small community churches thrive in the hills. You’ll find little makeshift houses of worship around every curve in the road. Most of the time, they’re nothing more than uninsulated one room wooden buildings that can hold no larger a congregation than 20 people. A lot of these churches don’t have an official affiliation, such as Baptist, Methodist, and Catholic. They simply go by ‘community church’.
Nearly my entire youth, right up to the time I left home for college, I attended a local community church up to 4 times a week. The church labelled itself Southern Baptist, but it was more a mixture of fire and brimstone Baptist and a non-snake handling version of Pentecostal. The preachers were less concerned about teaching the Gospels. They wanted you to be afraid of what would happen if you didn’t have faith.
Lake of fire! Gabriel’s trumpet! The four horsemen! Eternal damnation and eternal thirst!
This seriously scared the piss out of me.
Ultimately, the scary imagery presented by the ‘holler’ preachers would fuel a creative tidal wave of religious-based horror from my pen.
Other aspects of Appalachia found their way into my work. The abject poverty we (and most everyone else) lived in. The distrust of outsiders (there is a long history of ‘outsiders’ coming in and creating problems in the communities…see the FX show Justified for excellent dramatic examples of this). Alienation. Legends (think blue people and granny witches).
Some of this stuff is shared with Southern Gothic. But I like to think Appalachian Gothic is unique enough to have its own categorization.
So to Mr. Girard, thank you for the fantastic (and I do mean this) introduction. But I’m going say my book is Appalachian Gothic, thank you very much!