Interview with ‘Body Horror Book’ author Cameron Trost

Q1. What does body horror mean to you?

Prior to writing my chapter, I’d never really given the subgenre, for want of a better term, much thought. The stories I tend to write would rarely be described as body horror, so I’m not really sure what to make of it. From a symbolic point of view, I suppose body horror is a way of exploring themes connected to the notions of identity, particularly the distinction between the individual and society, and the struggle between internal and external influences on a person’s behaviour.

Q2. Where did the idea for your chapter come from?

From you, Claire. You’re the one who instigated my rant of a chapter by asking me to write about the connection between horror and politics. Apart from that, the inspiration came from my writing and the work of other writers who pen horror stories. When you think about the themes, plot devices, and characters often used in horror, it’s not difficult to identify underlying political stimuli.  

Q3. Horror often reflects the fears of society, not just the individual. For example, feral youths torment nice young middle-class couples in ‘Eden Lake’ and ‘Them.’ Do you think there still exists class fear and hysteria of horror among youth within society?

Unfortunately, I suspect that middle-class Australia doesn’t think about working-class or underclass youth at all. Although I have written several stories based on this theme, and even more inspired by the opposite scenario (working-class people exploited by wealthy individuals or corporations), I’m not sure just how closely linked to reality it is. From what I observe of middle-class families, with their high fences, four-wheel drives, and gym memberships, I get the impression they are very comfortable, and not really afraid of anything except a decrease in property values.      

Q4. The U.K. in the 1980’s saw censorship and the banning of ‘video nasties’ such as The Evil Dead, Last House on the Left, and Cannibal Holocaust. Do you think there is ever a time where censorship should be exercised in society? Could you see that era repeating itself in the future in Australia or around the world?

The main problem in Australia, when it comes to the arts, is not active censorship, but a lack of support. I don’t have much experience with horror films, but as a writer and editor, I constantly find that indifference for art, particularly the forms that don’t seek to conform to market pressures, is the greatest obstacle. The public’s obsession with white noise, neon distractions, rare Pokémon, and moronic footie players is of far greater concern than the possibility of a revival of state censorship.   

Q5. What are you trying to say with your chapter? What is it you want readers to know or be aware of afterwards?

I want to encourage readers to really think about horror fiction, to take a step back and consider the context of the narrative. Horror fiction inevitably has a point to make about the cultural or political paradigm in which it is presented. Therefore, each story provides the reader with an opportunity to experience a slightly amplified or warped version of reality, and, consequently, to analyse the parallels between the fictional and real worlds. 

Cameron Trost is a writer of strange, mysterious, and creepy tales about people just like you. His short stories have been published in dozens of magazines and anthologies, and many of them can be found in his collection, Hoffman’s Creeper and Other Disturbing Tales. He lives in the subtropical city of Brisbane, Australia. He is the vice-president and Queensland community leader of the Australian Horror Writers’ Association, and an Australian Shadows Award-winning editor. Rainforests, thunderstorms, and whisky are a few of his favourite things.