Antananarivo’s groundbreaking horror novel Due “The Between” was not an easy sell when it was released in 1995. The story of an African-American judge and his family terrorized by a white supremacist, the novel was ahead of its time to face the divides undermining a supposedly racially integrated America. The shameless embrace of horror tropes in the story – the main character travels between multiple planes of reality – also frightened critics, academics, and other readers who considered themselves too “serious” to read fiction from. kind.
Due has since published several novels, written screenplays with her husband Stephen Barnes, co-produced the famous documentary “Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror” and won the American Book Award, the NAACP Image Award and the British Fantasy Award. The Star spoke to Due about her debut novel, her family, and how things have and haven’t changed for marginalized creators.
Q: How did you become a horror fan?
A: I had no choice! My late mother, Patricia Stevens Due, was a civil rights activist and the first horror fan of my life. While a student in Florida in 1960, she received tear gas in the face during a peaceful march in Tallahassee. This physical trauma – she had to wear dark glasses 80 percent of the time for the rest of her life – marked her so badly that I realized that she used horror to shake off all that trauma and of all these monsters. . She always watched horror movies when I was growing up, and she gave me my first Stephen King novel when I was sixteen: “The Shining”. I was going to the races.
In your new preface to “The Between”, you talk about interviewing Anne Rice when you were a young journalist. Why was it such a transformative experience?
In college, I had started writing stories with white characters as the protagonists. The experience of college and exposure to the canon also exposed me to this contempt for the genre, which seemed to me to be fairly universal. I was going through a sort of identity crisis. So when I interviewed Anne Rice [a few years later], I asked her what she thought of critics who wondered why she was losing her talent for writing about vampires. She just laughed at that question and said, “When you write about the supernatural, you can write about all the big themes: death, life, love.” The bulb has come on! ‘This is who I am,’ I thought. From there, I had to read black genre writers to make myself realize that I could be part of a pantheon of black literature and also write horror. I was finding that since I was black it would be better to write about my own experiences and ideas.
What inspired you to write “The Between? “
It was Hurricane Andrew in 1992. I was lucky not to have much damage to my townhouse in Florida, but my mother’s house was damaged, my grandmother’s house was damaged. from my aunt. Miles of neighborhoods have been crushed by the winds. You couldn’t even recognize some streets. It was, as they say in writers circles, the inciting incident. I felt like I had stepped into a different reality, which gave me the idea for the novel.
In your preface, you also write about the absence of substantial black characters in horror. Do you think that has changed since you wrote “The Between?”
I sincerely believe that there has been and will still be real progress. But it’s something we all need to watch out for. And by all of us I mean as creators, as editors, as executives, as journalists. Difference and novelty are essential for horror fans, so when you add in specific stories and myths that are outside of the European mythology that we’ve seen happen again and again, it’s a bit of seasoning. extra that gives you extra goosebumps! That way, inclusion is just smart for anyone who enjoys reading scary stories. It also pays off for companies to support marginalized creators.
Was there a particular catalyst for this change?
I cannot stress enough the impact of Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” (horror film) on all marginalized creators. I won’t say that this opened the door for us on its own, but I know what it was like to try to present dark horror before “Get Out”, especially to Hollywood executives. When you came up with them, you either got blank faces or they were like, “That’s good, but do the characters have to Black?” There was no idea that a black character could represent a man or a person in a story. After “Get Out”, the leaders had a vocabulary for discussing black horror.
Why do you think horror is so important to so many people?
It offers a way to comment on the world we live in through the prism of the fantastic. Commenting on this world literally is too close to home, and perhaps too heavy. The genre makes it possible to find this necessary distance to comment. We all recognize the monsters in our lives, but sometimes it just takes that perfect sci-fi or horror novel to make us see what it is.