I’m trying to devise a good method for linking to Pantheon reviews from my web site—something easy and unobtrusive that wouldn’t clutter things up. In the mean time, I suppose it’s enough to state I’ve been honored by a very positive response to the book thus far (if you’ve not checked it out yet, there’s no time like the present). It makes me glad to see that people are enjoying the story and able to connect with its larger themes in a meaningful way.
The real reason I bring all this up, though, is to draw your attention to one specific review, posted on the Black Gate Fantasy blog (here). The opening words of reviewer Michaele Jordan made me laugh because, although we’ve never met, she seems to understand at least a part of my personality in a pretty fundamental way. “Josh Strnad does not look like a horror writer,” she writes. “He’s not dark and brooding, or dressed in black leather. Rather, he’s young and blond, fresh faced and apple-cheeked. He looks like he just came straight from a Wisconsin dairy farm. (And for all I know, he did.) Yet he writes horror. It says so right there on his website.”
She’s right, of course. Although Pantheon is fantasy, not horror, a good deal of my writing (especially in regards to my short fiction) does tend to lean toward darker subject matter… which is weird because I’m not a particularly dark person. In fact, if you had told me as recently as four or five years ago that I would cut my writing teeth (or fangs, if you prefer) crafting stories for horror markets, I may not have believed you. Unlike the popular image conjured when one thinks of the horror genre, I’m not big on gory movies (I’m more a fan of Pixar), I’ve never dabbled in the occult (I’m a committed Christian), and I don’t spend large portions of my time brooding over the subject of death (despair for its own sake doesn’t do a lot for me). I don’t even actively celebrate Halloween, for crying out loud. I am as unlikely a candidate for horror fiction as they come.
And yet… this is the genre that I’ve chosen, or perhaps the one that has chosen me. I love speculative fiction in all its many stripes, sci-fi, fantasy, and, yes, horror. Something about it speaks to me in a special way—I love the ability to look at reality and deeply human truths through the lens of the fantastic, to strip away the commonplace associations in order to see things, perhaps, as they really are. The truth of the matter is that I do enjoy a good creepy story, and, furthermore, that horror seems to have a way of tackling interesting philosophical issues that other genres may not be as good at. In fact, I find horror fiction at its best to be a profoundly moral genre (I’ll probably write more on this subject at a later date). On that note, my experiences with the indie horror writing community have been overwhelmingly positive—there are many remarkable, kind, friendly, funny, intelligent people who, like me, enjoy and participate in the creation of dark fiction.
So here I am: a country boy who is also an unapologetic geek, a blue-collar worker with a 4.0 gpa in his Masters-level classes, a man who teaches children and writes for an adult audience, a Christian who is comfortable to be associated with dark fiction. I suppose this makes me a walking contradiction, but I’ve long since made my peace with that. I’m convinced that nobody is just one thing—there is much more to each of us than meets the eye. Let’s have a conversation and get to know each other. Just don’t put me in a box, because you’ll most likely be surprised.