In a small black box, next to my desk, I have printed copies of all my stories. Several have been published, a few have not. But there is one that I have never offered for publication, from a terrible and graphic nightmare I had the night before I wrote it. It came to me whole, like a twisted Apollo leaping, full grown, from my aching skull. It is, I think, well executed, but not necessarily a 'good' story. There is no redemption, only horror and madness and despair. Which is why I don't really want it published.
We do not, I believe, as writers, have moral obligations to make ugliness beautiful, nor evil into goodness, though sometimes we do , and these are bright points of our careers. Those of us who write horror, or dark fantasy, and our readers are hoping to be brought to the precipice and to have our eyes directed into the abyss, and see what, exactly, it is that is staring back at us. Even in literary fiction, we see shadows; past the early phases of adolescence, we can rarely maintain a black and white sense of what is wholly good or wholly bad, and we recognize that we, and others, are a combination of the two.
But there are topics we leave out of fiction, generally. Certain sexual acts are never portrayed, and only in specific genres of horror films are there actual murders graphically portrayed. (Oddly enough, I don't know how graphically. I can't watch those things. They give me nightmares.) I also recently learned that even in the most violent of video games, children are never killed, even in the ones where brutality goes consistently unpunished. In a setting of violence, we still consider some things unacceptable.
I'm ok with this, though I wonder who is making the decisions. I am comfortable censoring my own work, but the idea of censorship troubles me. Looking through my own work, I discover that there are themes of redemption, or revenge for a wrong, but not random and senseless destruction. 'Moist' is one of my favorite of my stories, but it offers only revenge, not salvation. Hardly a shining reflection of human potential. But as I pointed out to a loved one who asked me why I never wrote happy endings, (she got 'Love Spell' -- it's almost happy?) no one wants to read about the guy who got up, had a great day at work, and went to bed. We're glad for him, but we're not going to read about him.
Not everyone is redeemed, not everyone is redeemable, maybe, and I think the morality of horror lies in its deep sense of justice. Bad guys generally meet a bad end. While that position may be morally grey, it appeals to us, for the same reasons that we love superhero movies and even love stories, where the hero saves the city, and the best man wins and gets the girl. We want the world to be this way, even though we know it isn't.