“We’re already seen as scum, as monsters. So we’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.” - Rutger Malone
Body Art remains my favorite Kristopher Triana book and I think I know why. When I finished the Director’s Cut—with the never-before-seen epilogue—I noticed that Rutger Malone’s description of the porn industry has striking similarities to the world of extreme horror. At least in my mind.
I’m not saying extreme authors are porn stars, but there’s definitely a stigma still. Even mainstream horror authors don’t always get a literary pass. If you had to pick a genre that was the black sheep of fiction, it would be horror. There’s been people who were originally supportive of my being an author only to become quite shocked and unsupportive after they learned some of my books belonged behind a beaded curtain with a warning label.
Right there, I already feel a little kinship with Rutger, Kandi, and Jessica of Body Art—though I’m not about to do a scene with them ever! The connection increases as the novel describes how the porn industry changed over time. It’s evolution seems to mirror extreme horror's history.
In the golden age of horror, brick and mortar stores had large sections of shelf space dedicated to the genre, and big names were able to slip extreme nuggets into stories with minimal pushback. Stephen King has child sex scenes in IT; The Long Walk is basically a novel of graphically killing teenagers (my review here). And he’s only one author in a long list from Clive Barker to Anne Rice featuring explicit manuscripts.
Despite the revolting nature of the subject matter, there is an art to writing these extreme scenes. You must be masterful in their delivery. There should be a reason for the gore and sex, characters we can root for, and a message that shows us something about ourselves, even if it’s something we’d rather hide.
In the Golden Age of Porn, Rutger and Kandi were masters. The acting and film production were good—well, they were at least decent, lol. There was a plot and settings that hoped to stimulate the mind.
“Good porn isn’t just about simple stimulation. You can get that at any titty bar. Quality adult films are about the music of the flesh, the art of the body. They have buildups that make you anticipate the action. Not like now. The actors barely say hello before they start boning. There’s no character, no chemistry. People forget that the mind is the strongest erogenous zone.” – Rutger Malone
Now adays, any frat boy with an iPhone and a couch can make a porno.
By many metrics, it could be argued that horror has declined since the early 2000s. Similar to the iPhone, print on demand companies have made it possible for anybody with a computer to crank out an extreme horror book. While it’s great that widespread access is available, such saturation can change how the genre is viewed. Scroll through Amazon and behind the flashy horror covers are a lot of no-talent BJ scenes on a couch.
It gets to a point that to be noticed, you have to break the mold somehow. But it takes more than just writing the most messed-up book to be crowned the King or Queen of Extreme.
“The amateurs have stolen our art from us. They’ve taken our rightful paychecks away. So, we turn to the black market. We do what the amateurs can’t. We break the mold once again, Kandi, and in doing so, we become immortal.” - Rutger Malone
Authors like Kristopher Triana seem to be like Rutger Malone and Kandi. They maintain a high-level of literary craft and add in the extreme, attempting to create a symphony of splatter, a revolting yet highly-moving story, that gets inside you and changes you. A blend of mainstream with extreme. That’s why Body Art is my favorite Triana book, because it’s the story of walking the line, of creating powerful art, but without succumbing to the pitfalls of the industry. Something that Jessica was unable to do in Body Art.
Porn can be a slippery slope that may negatively affect aspects of mental health if you’re not careful. Horror can be the same way. When authors push to create monsters on the page and describe the next revolting act, we have to be sure not to allow our thoughts to become too monstrous.
The masters of extreme horror may not even like the label 'extreme' because we are true authors and we strive for genius, not cheap fuck films. We do it by digging into the worst parts of society and human condition, then share the story, not just to shock you, but to arouse the mind. To take you into the darkness, expose you to the danger, and finally take you safely back to the beauty with an artful plot, writing style, and message.
If you don’t have those things in your story, you're just an amateur.
That's why I connect with this book, and if you haven't checked out Body Art yet, the Director's cut includes a short story fro Triana, Intro from John McNee and a never-before-seen epilogue. The original is out of print, but you can find a copy here while supplies last.
And if you’d like to see my style of extreme horror, Corpsepaint & Rabbithole is free here. It's a great way to see if you'll enjoy my full Black Planet series without spending any money up front.
My next short story appearance will be in Chew On This! from Robert Essig. This anthology also features Kristopher Triana and other extreme authors who are anything but amateur.