A.P.E.X Event: Author Brian Evenson on How Horror Fiction Speaks Uncomfortable Truths

Author Brian Evenson had the audience reeling with a discussion of horror, writing and craft at the A.P.E.X. event on Thursday. 

Creative writing major Christopher Clark introduced Evenson and some of his prominent works, which included “Windeye” and “Immobility,” finalists for the Shirley Jackson award.  Evenson’s novel “Last Days” won the American Library Association’s award for Best Horror Novel of 2009.

“Horror fiction and dark fiction at their very best can speak uncomfortable truths and show us the world through a glass starkly,” Clark said. “It can also show us how frail, and ultimately how very precious, the world is. At its best it reminds us that we are all people doing our best in frightening and unreal times, and Brian is one of the best.”

Evenson shared one of his short stories “No Matter Which Way We Turn” to start off the event. Evenson had frizzy curly hair and black frame glasses, and he read his work virtually from Los Angeles in a calm and friendly tone. With the chandeliers slightly swaying from the air conditioning in the Great Hall of the Hunter Conference Center, an eerie silence fell across the audience. 

“No matter which way we turn the girl, she didn’t have a face. . . she was a whole girl made of two half girls but wrongly made of two of the same halves,” Evenson read from his short story.

After being asked “why write and read horror?”’ by a panelist, Evenson expanded more on what horror fiction can accomplish. 

“Horror that’s done well can offer you what’s done in literary writing but it’s also scary. It’s about unsettling people’s view of the world,” Evenson said. “Especially at a time where our world is in such a strange place, I think it serves as a more accurate mirror of what people are feeling.”

Evenson offered advice to aspiring writers by recommending they read as much as they can because “you don’t know where you’re going to end up.” Evenson personally reads over 300 books a year, which adds up to almost one book a day. 

Southern Utah University English Professor Todd Petersen served as a panelist of the event and recalled what the author told him when he was Evenson’s student in college.

“He told us to read what you hate, read against the grain, read what you like and read widely,” Petersen said. 

Clark shared his point of view that reading, especially horror fiction, can be a healthy way of processing emotions. 

“Horror fiction serves to unsettle you, and that can sometimes be a healthy and productive feeling to have especially in a safe space like reading,” Clark said. 

In the spirit of Halloween, visit Evenson’s website to read some of his horror fiction and learn more about the author. 

“His short fiction serves as a testament to what the form is capable of. He is a master craftsman who knows how to combine the most mundane with the surreal, the sinister and the numinous,” Clark said. 


Story by: Elizabeth Armstrong
Photos by: Elizabeth Armstrong