Loren Rhoads tells me where her morbid sensibilities come from and they led to her memoir.
Putting together a memoir is a very strange thing. There are so many stories from you that have to pick though and choose which to tell. A book by its nature seems to indicate some kind of thread to tie them all together—but you have to decide which thread you’re going to follow. My thread is summed up pretty well in the title: This Morbid Life.
It took me a long time to own up to being morbid. I discovered horror movies on TV as a kid and spent my Saturday afternoons watching the old black & white Universal monsters. Eventually my mom, who’d been a ninth-grade English teacher, pointed out that a lot of the monsters I loved had started out as characters in books. That led me to Dracula, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and Frankenstein.
That led me to writing. I wrote short stories for years to escape from the farm where I lived, the small town where I grew up, the dying city where I went to college. Nothing about my life seemed interesting enough to write about until I moved to San Francisco in the late eighties.
Before I really got settled, I met the owners of RE/Search Books just before they released Modern Primitives. It’s hard to recapture that time now. Before Modern Primitives was published, very few people had tattoos. Most tattoos weren’t artistic. Body jewelry was limited to the S/M underground. RE/Search didn’t create the movement, but they documented it at exactly the right moment. And I was there, standing on the fringes, watching.
The first essay I ever wrote about my life was about accompanying my friend Christine to get her labial piercing. Christine had been my roommate when we attended the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop. She introduced herself by asking me to shave her head and touch up her mohawk. She was brave and fierce and I was honored when she asked me to come to her piercing. The experience was so amazing that I had to record it.
Once the essay was written, I sent it to a zine I loved called File 13. The best part of File 13 was the editor’s introductory essays, which were smart and honest. He inspired me to risk sharing my life with the world. To my amazement, he accepted the essay. He even featured it on the cover of the next issue.
I wrote for other zines after that: Cyber-Psychos AOD and Tail Spins, Gothik Voluptuary, Chaotic Order, and Zine World. Each one had its own focus, but they all allowed me to record and examine my life from facing my best friend’s HIV diagnosis to the days I spent exploring a cadaver lab to dealing with my dad’s catastrophic heart attack to my thrill at donating blood.
I started my own zine in 1996. The only name I ever considered for it was Morbid Curiosity. It collected first-person confessional essays from contributors around the world. It also gave me a platform where I could follow the inspiration of File 13’s introductions and talk about my own life.
My memoir This Morbid Life collects all those essays and more. It opens with a piece I wrote for Gothic.Net about taking prom pictures in two cemeteries in Flint, Michigan. It explores what it was like to publish Morbid Curiosity. It goes on to celebrate following my curiosity wherever it led.
In the end, being morbid is the thread that stitches my life together. It’s the element that brings joy to the darkness. It makes every sunny day that much sweeter. Every day above ground is a gift, which is exactly what This Morbid Life is about.
Loren Rhoads is the author of a space opera trilogy, a duology about a succubus who falls in love with an angel, and a collection of short stories called Unsafe Words. You can find out more about her work at https://lorenrhoads.com/