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Guest Blog: Non-binary Writer Delmar Terblanche On Horror Podcast TALES FROM THE TOMBSTONE TAVERN

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Spooky audio drama for Halloween

Guest Blog: Non-binary Writer Delmar Terblanche On Horror Podcast TALES FROM THE TOMBSTONE TAVERN
Tales from the Tombstone Tavern

"We see movies for a lot of reasons. Sometimes we want to be amused. Sometimes we want to escape. Sometimes we want to laugh, or cry, or see sunsets. And sometimes we want to be scared." - Roger Ebert's review of Halloween (1978)

Fear isn't a part of life. It's essential to life. It's one of the foundational emotions which underpins a thousand others. It steers us clear of danger, helps concentrate the mind, and inspires our most boundless and intoxicating creativity.

When I was a child, I was afraid all the time. The house I was raised in dates from the 1800s - which, for Australian real estate, might as well be Paleolithic - and in its creaking floorboards I heard convict ghosts, while beneath the fur of our neighbours' dogs I saw werewolves. There was an enormous spiny succulent near the house at the end of our street, and whenever I passed it I walked in quiet terror - no plant should be that sharp, or that robust. I was convinced that if I strayed too close I would be devoured.

Of course, I knew none of this was real. I suspect all children do. But they also know, deep within themselves, that it is true. And that truth buries within us, until, years later, it emerges (chestburster-like) as horror fiction. In no other genre, in no other form, is the recognisable so frequently twisted - beaches, showers, twin little girls - who can now regard them without suspicion?

But this also explains, I think, why horror holds such appeal for those queer folks among us. Dracula brims with homoeroticism, while Carmilla (a vampire novel by Sheridan Le Fanu which predates it) explicitly depicts lesbian relationships in neutral terms. This trend carried through to cinema - The Bride of Frankenstein is a film by an openly gay director, about two men living together (albeit in a mad castle), violating society's norms, and daring to raise "children" of their own. Subtle.

When it comes to queerness, the clue is in the name. The testimonies of a thousand coming out stories mean you don't need me to recount the unease which sits at the heart of queer identities - the notion that you are different from the world in a manner indescribable but real, and that the everyday paths the people around you walk were not meant for you. Is it any surprise that a genre which specialises in twisting the familiar has frequently overlapped with these themes?

Guest Blog: Non-binary Writer Delmar Terblanche On Horror Podcast TALES FROM THE TOMBSTONE TAVERN
The cast of Tales from
the Tombstone Tavern

My favourite breed of horror has always been ghost stories. Werewolves, vampires, demons - these are subject to rules, and can be fought off - but ghosts... you can no more fight a ghost than you can your own memories. They're always the aftereffect of some trauma, some tragedy - a final, furious cry of human experience, subjecting the haunted to whatever pain led the haunter here. There is a reason we describe bad experiences as "haunting" us.

Everyone's ghosts are slightly different - but, naturally, they do overlap. Mine come from a long line of queer spectres, and they haunt me with images of who I am and who I "should" be. These ghosts are visions of all my deepest fears - either the world rejects me for whom I love and what I am, or my own self betrays me and I never become the full, queer human being I so dearly want to be. I know this type of haunting is not unique to me. And, so, I put it into my writing.

In 2020, we are all haunted - in too many ways to count. Terry Pratchet once said that "humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape." To be human is, often, to be afraid. And so our fears reverberate throughout our fantasies - sculpting them - just as those fantasies allow us a chance to confront, overcome, or reconcile with our fears.

I hope, if you choose to visit the Tombstone Tavern, and dwell with us among candlelight and stale beer, you will agree that this oldest of traditions - the telling of scary stories - is a deeply human one, and that its relevance lingers on. I hope you enjoy yourself. I hope you are amused! I hope you are entertained. And - this above all - I really do hope you are scared.

Happy Halloween.

Tales from the Tombstone Tavern is available on podcast platforms now

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