Columns > Published on June 13th, 2023

We Go On: The Miracle of Perseverance

I expect many readers will undoubtedly be frustrated after finishing my debut novel, Everything the Darkness Eats. I expect many readers will feel cheated, as though they had blindly submitted to the whims of some master manipulator. Of course, I welcome these criticisms and I am delighted whenever readers react so powerfully to my work. After all, I’ve been told time and time again that the worst public reaction to any creative piece of work is indifference. It’s a special kind of Hell (as a creator—author, filmmaker, musician, artist) to release your artwork for public consumption only to be met with silence or, even worse, total apathy.

I shouldn’t be so surprised that I crave this kind of polarizing reaction to my writing. After all, my favorite books and films are deeply polarizing works of art with valid arguments being made on both sides. I think of boundary-pushing films like The Baby of Maconmother!AntichristA Serbian Film, etc. I think of profoundly transgressive books such as House of LeavesThe Girl Next DoorThe Sluts. Each of the aforementioned works has been rightfully praised by critics while panned by others. I expect the same sort of diverging reaction to Everything the Darkness Eats. I expect this not only because of the graphic content explored in the book, but because I fully anticipate most readers to feel as though they haven’t received proper closure when finishing the novel. It ends so abruptly. There’s no closure. I’m very much aware that these will likely be the dominant criticisms of the book.

(There is a distinct possibility I’ll be incorrect, of course. Feedback is always so unpredictable and it’s imaginable that other issues will arise when the book is placed in the hands of various discerning readers.)

It’s a special kind of Hell to release your artwork for public consumption only to be met with silence or, even worse, total apathy.

Without delving too deeply into possible spoiler territory, there is a particular subplot in Everything the Darkness Eats that I expect will draw heartfelt reactions from readers—the story of Malik and Brett. This particular subplot is explored in detail and then abandoned quite suddenly with very little conclusion. Or rather, I should explain myself better: the subplot is erased almost instantly in the book’s finale and we, as readers, are not served the traditional narrative structure to satisfy our needs. I assure you that the decision to end the book in such a way was quite deliberate. I was very intentional when crafting this story and, more to the point, I wanted to illustrate the very real horrors that members of the LGBTQ+ community face on a daily basis.

As I write this, there are another handful of legislative measures being executed to strip rights away from queer folk in the United States. It seems almost ludicrous to me to make that kind of statement, especially since we inherently assume the Western world is so progressive and open to all kinds of lifestyles, possibilities. This is obviously not the case. I wrote much of Everything the Darkness Eats while suffering from a crippling depression. I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I as a queer person did not belong, that I’ve never belonged. I grew up in a very small town located in the northwest corner of Connecticut—a town called Kent. Although the community was welcoming and most were friendly, it became increasingly obvious to me as I grew up that my concept of gender and sexuality were different from the others who surrounded me. While my experience growing up in a relatively conservative Connecticut town offered me the inspiration to write this story, it was the violence and distrust lobbied against queer people that truly motivated me to put pen to paper.

The novel is noticeably quite bleak. That’s intentional, I assure you. As readers approach the final pages of the book’s epilogue, I expect some of them might be wondering how certain story threads come together and how certain conflicts are resolved. The fact of the matter that I’ve been skirting around for the entirety of this essay is obvious—these conflicts are not resolved. They never will be, unfortunately. I’ve deliberately ended this book without much resolution for the characters of Malik and Brett because it seemed to be the most honest way to tell their particular story.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to most readers that LGBTQ+ people face a higher likelihood of being victimized for their identity. After all, there have been countless articles published about this issue and exploring the increase in violence against LGBTQ+ folks over the past few years. It’s distressing to report, but most of these attacks are not resolved. The assailants are sometimes never identified and because of this, they never face any charges for their crimes.

I don’t seek out genre fiction to be soothed or to be placated and told in no uncertain terms that “everything is going to be alright.” Quite honestly, my viewpoint of humanity and our place in the cosmos has remained steadfast since I was a teenager. I’m afraid I don’t have much hope for my fellow man. I’ve seen first-hand how human beings are capable of committing monstrous grievances against one another.

Despite this—despite the cruelties we suffer, despite the trauma we inflict upon one another—we go on. We carry on in spite of all the adversity, the agony, the sorrow. Although I can be somewhat misanthropic when it comes to my view of humanity, I think it’s miraculous how we seem to collectively persevere despite all the misery that forever seems so intent to destroy us. Queer people inherently feel as though the world delights in our agony, our misfortune. We are beaten, abused, raped, murdered. In spite of these brutalities, our community continues to thrive and carry on. I’m in awe of our tenacity and our dedication to survive no matter how hellbent the rest of the world seems to be with regard to our annihilation.

They want us dead.

Unfortunately for them, we will never acquiesce.

They can try to snuff us out one by one, but (unfortunately for them) you cannot obliterate an idea or a thought once it’s been planted.

Perhaps it might have appealed to a broader audience for Malik and Brett to find satisfaction and joy after experiencing the unadulterated horrors of their ordeal. But I’m not interested in presenting that form of dishonesty to the world, especially to younger queer-identifying readers. The fact of the matter is quite simple—horrible things happen to us quite naturally and sometimes there is little to no resolution during the aftermath. We are expected to live with the trauma, to carry on with the unearned pain. We do. We are obviously capable of survival despite the hatred and vitriol directed at our community day after day.

When you think of Everything the Darkness Eats, I hope you think of perseverance.

I hope you think of the inevitability of being hurt as well as the possibility to grow and survive from that agony. I hope you think of yourself as a miracle—a wondrous and magical being capable of withstanding even the most hideous destruction.

Most importantly, I hope you realize that we go on because there is a pervasive feeling of hope shared amongst us that things will be better tomorrow. Perhaps things won’t ever be as cheerful or joyous as we had initially hoped. But we will find our community—our spiritual brothers and sisters, our siblings of similar sorrows—and we will find a way to suffer less and to make life a little more bearable… I wish that for you, dear reader… I’ll see you out there…

Get Everything the Darkness Eats at Bookshop or Amazon or direct from CLASH!

About the author

Eric LaRocca (he/they) is the Bram Stoker Award®-nominated and Splatterpunk Award-winning author of several works of horror and dark fiction, including the viral sensation, Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. A lover of luxury fashion and an admirer of European musical theatre, Eric can often be found roaming the streets of his home city, Boston, MA, for inspiration.

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