Fear has been described as the "oldest and strongest emotion known to mankind". It also forms the basis of horror which has the ability to rattle people universally. Film and literature ascribing to the horror genre have endured massive cultural shifts yet still remain as popular perhaps because they let us exercise our fears and understand their enormity. Horror has been used in art, film and writing as a cultural marker since prehistoric times. In a modern society though, it is as much an acknowledgement of our social anxieties as it is a celebration of nonconformity.
To pay homage to the genre, Gaysi Family's quarterly magazine has put together NORMAL — a collection of 18 literary pieces that meditate on horror from a queer perspective, and steeped in India's own notions of the unknown. It has taken editor Niyati Joshi and visual editor Priya Dali four months to bring out the latest issue of the zine. "After having done an issue on 'desire' and queer stories in mythology, it felt like the right time to dabble in queer horror," says Joshi.
Although queer horror remains unexplored in the Indian literaure, with NORMAL, Gaysi Family aims to make the reader uncomfortable with every page, while challenging the heteronormativity of the genre, an issue left unaddressed even in popular culture. "We tend to either villainise or make fun of things that we either don't understand or don't want to understand. Mainstream media is struggling with its own challenges of trying to create original content within the quickest time frame to constantly be ahead of its competition. There is anyway a general lack of empathy in the way we consume art and when mainstream media depicts queer lives irresponsibly, it's shaping the opinions and attitudes of a whole generation of viewers," adds Joshi.
With the intriguing cover, the editors wanted to bring out the horror and not have quintessential design elements associated with the genre clutter the reader's imagination. "The idea was simple: to question what 'normal' looks like and how it is glorified, questioned and looked down upon. I've always found formal family portraits fascinating. There's always a sense of pride in them, which can sometimes vary from how the family comes across in everyday life. The 'queer family' in the cover illustration reflects that pride whereas the family on the other side is questioning what they're seeing. Do both families think they are the normal one? If so, which 'normal' does the reader identify with? That's the kind of uncertainty that I wanted to play with," explains Dali.
What stood out in the brief for Shweta Narayan, who is still not out to her parents, was the idea that someone will find this magazine and feel acknowledged, valid, seen. "These silences around us are so stifling — even for me, middle-aged and in the USA, and so much harder for kids in the Subcontinent. Telling our stories, and having a place to tell them, can change that." With her piece, Triumph XX: Dharma, she lets the mess in her head translate on to the page. "I'm bisexual and genderqueer but pass pretty well as straight and cis, and have a tangle of pain around needing to do so."
Joshua Muyiwa's Wrist Action, is an urban slasher set in the busy, trying streets of Bengaluru. "I wanted to take something that makes me afraid on a daily basis as femme queer man being in public, taking transport, getting from one place to another. On the other hand, I'm obsessed with action films, I always want to imagine that I can John Wick my way out of any of these situations. So, I wanted to provide the same swiftness of these fight sequences but hide it under the stealthiness of the horror genre. Also, I wanted to turn the tables on the real world we presently occupy, where femme presenting persons are in constant danger, I wanted the straight passing ones to feel the pain as well, I guess. I wanted to make subtle shifts to our world. And occasionally that could be horrifying too," he states.
The following is an excerpt — Muyiwa's Wrist Action — from NORMAL, reproduced here with permission of Gaysi Media Private Limited.
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Updated Date: Oct 12, 2019 14:23:16 IST