Continuing with our spotlight on contributors to A Darke Phantastique, we come to J. C. Koch and her story “Outsiders”. The beginning is eerie:
For longer than I can remember I have roamed a darkened land, and I do not know why. Why I am here. Why I am alone.
My eyes have adjusted to the darkness, and I can see its beauty. The long vines that reach down to me from above, some thin, some thicker, all twisted. The creatures burrowing
peacefully within the walls of my prison.
For I am a prisoner. Of that I am sure.
She writes about her Lovecraftian inspiration for the story:
My favorite H. P. Lovecraft story has always been “The Outsider.” But I hate it at the same time, because the story is so unfair. The protagonist has a sweet soul—he’s just trying to find beauty and light. But when he finally sees himself, he realizes he looks like a monster, and then . . . bam, that’s it. Because he looks like a monster he is a monster and has to go live with the other ghouls.
I read this story when I was a teenager, but the unfairness of it has never left me. I think of that story all the time, and I reread it frequently. And every time, I want it to end differently. Every time I want the protagonist to realize that his soul is pure, regardless of what his exterior may be. Because what people are inside is far more important than what they are outside. Even if on the outside they look like a ghoul.
We all think of Lovecraft as a horror writer, but because of that story, for me, he’s always been something much, much more. He’s the author of a story that’s haunted me for pretty much my entire life.
Most of what I write (as Gini Koch and G. J. Koch) is funny. But sometimes, especially after turning in three long, funny novels in a row, a girl doesn’t want to be funny (which
is why I also write as J. C. Koch). And one such time I really wanted a change. I’d been thinking, again, of “The Outsider,” and this time I decided that instead of just thinking about it, I was going to do something about it.
“Outsiders” is the result of years of resentment for and heartbreak over a fictional character. One who, despite being a ghoul, didn’t scare me, but instead touched my heart in a
meaningful and lasting way. And that is, after all, why we write—to touch people in some meaningful and lasting way, whether we do it with humor or horror.
J. C. Koch is scared by horror stories but writes them anyway. Her stories have appeared in Arkham Tales, Necrotic Tissue, and Penumbra. In addition to writing about scary things, J. C. also likes to do scary things like pay attention to politics, keep up with the Kardashians, and play the stock market. With no time actually to do any of those things, though, J. C. tends to stay hidden under the bed, letting more of the terrors of the mind bleed onto the page, both metaphorically and literally. Reach J. C. (otherwise known as Gini Koch) at Going Bump in the Night (www.GiniKoch.com/jkbookstore.htm).
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