Rick Gualtieri’s new comedy-horror The Wicked Dead (Tome of Bill #7) releases today, and we invited Rick to the CQ blog to talk about how he blends the two genres. In celebration of his new release, Rick is hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway in which one lucky winner will receive signed paperback copies of books 1-4 in the Tome of Bill series, and a second place winner will win a signed copy of The Wicked Dead. **Open to USA and Canada only**
Make Them Die Laughing, by Rick Gualtieri
Outside of Romance, there are few genres more polarizing than Comedy. After all, everyone has a different sense of humor. One person’s gut-buster will fail to even crack a smirk on another’s face. Writing comedy and failing go hand in hand. They’re best buddies who end up taking each other to the prom because nobody else will date them. The thing is, with humor you will fail. There is simply no way to write something that audiences will find universally funny. Some won’t get the joke, others will be offended, and even more will find the punchline to be less funny than a bag of puppies hanging over a wood chipper.
Much the same can be said of Horror, except at times it can be even worse. With comedy, you have degrees of funny. Something can be milk-out-of-your-nose hilarious, funny, mildly humorous, chuckle-worthy, you name it. With horror, you’re either scared or you’re not. That doesn’t mean a non-scary horror story is crap. Far from it. It can still be highly entertaining - much like walking through a cheap haunted house behind a group of idiotically screaming teenagers. However, entertained isn’t the same thing as terrified. When horror misses the mark, it’s typically a total miss on the level of Freddy Krueger misplacing his glove and trying to kill you with a handful of stuffed Care Bears.
So why mix them? The answer itself is simple. To make someone scream, with either laughter or fear, is to find those primal triggers in someone’s brain and then zap them with a cattle prod … and it is awesome! When they both work together, though, it is pure magic itself. You’re talking a roller coaster of emotions, highs and lows that can leave someone as exhilarated and spent as if they’d spent the day at an amusement park.
Horror is the ultimate tension builder, whereas humor is the hammer which breaks that tension. To me, the perfect blend of the two combines a serious, potentially terrifying backdrop, with a hero who can’t help but crack wise in the face of it all. Slapstick can play into it, but that shouldn’t be the focus. Once you cross the line into slapstick, you’ve pretty much left all pretense of horror behind. Sure, Scary Movie 1 and 2 were funny (don’t get me started on the increasingly unfunny sequels after that), but the horror aspect was part of the mockery. It wasn’t meant to be there to build actual tension. Sure, there may have been the occasional jump scare, but heck a cat hiding in a basement can do that just as well. That’s called being surprised. While it may seem the same in the moment, it’s a far cry from pants-shitting terror.
For me, more pure examples would be Ghostbusters, Army of Darkness, or Big Trouble in Little China. All three presented worlds in which the consequences were potentially dire. With minor rewrites, any of these could have been passed off as straight horror and they could have worked well as that. Think about it. In that first example, remove our heroes. You’re left with the tale of a primal god invading modern day New York. The dead have risen and mankind is on the verge of being wiped out by a power it cannot hope to comprehend. Add Dr. Peter Venkman, however, and the entire tone changes. The stakes are still the same, but rather than victims cowering in fear, you instead find a hero willing to casually flip the finger at the forces of darkness converging upon him.
That’s what appeals to me about this mixed genre - the tension, the paranoia, and the potential for unfettered carnage. Yet, with a few words, the right character can release all of that built up pressure in a euphoria of laughter … only for it to all start again a few minutes later.
And yes, the same pitfalls for both are still there. Hell, add in R-rated content that doesn’t shy away from gore, four letter words, or anything non-politically correct and it becomes a potential minefield. One false slip and you’ll be hit with a barrage of high-caliber disdain. But you know what? That makes victory all the sweeter, and that’s what you need to focus on.
Anyone writing in this mixed genre needs to stop worrying about the naysayers, the easily-offended, or those who only read “real literature”. In short, fuck those guys. Instead, focus on writing the story you want to tell and then finding the audience who will appreciate it. They’re the ones you need to care about because they’re the ones who get it. And, when you finally find them, the effort spent writing those blood-splattered dick jokes will be well worth the long hours and those family members who just have to ask, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
There are reasons we fear the night. Now he must become one of them.
Bill Ryder has a powerful destiny. He just never expected it to involve an amnesiac bloodsucker, a bunch of D&D dorks, and a hormonal witch. It’s time for the gamer, geek, and legendary vampire to embrace his fate. Ordered to storm the vampire stronghold in Boston, Bill must approach the doorstep of the invincible undead warlord he’s destined to face. It’s his only chance of stopping Armageddon.
As his enemies stand in his way and his allies falter, the vicious beast inside of him wants out. If he stands tall and faces his fate, the world might just have a chance of surviving. If he fails, an unquenchable evil will destroy everything Bill knows and loves.
Why can’t the end of the world ever be easy?
Rick Gualtieri loves to write adventure, mayhem, and snarky dialogue. His bestselling Tome of Bill series combines all of this into a world of supernatural danger with hard-hitting action and plenty of sharp-tongued geeky humor.
Rick lives alone in a dark, evil place called New Jersey with only his wife, three kids, and countless pets to both keep him company and constantly plot against him. When he’s not busy monkey-clicking out words, he can typically be found jealously guarding his collection of vintage Transformers from all who would seek to defile them - Defilers Beware!