Writer's Spotlight: Amita Basu

Process Notes:

I’m interested in what’s happening inside people. Emotion, habit, perception. My favourite writers are Dostoevsky and the other pioneering psychological realists—who immerse you in an individual’s psyche as a fetus is immersed in amniotic fluid. You look out at the world, you notice some trivial thing, and you’re startled to find yourself reacting to this, not as yourself, but as that character. An intimacy so deep, it’s almost obscene.
But “The Hole” is an external story. You don’t get inside the protagonist’s head. The horror is that neither does she. She lives her life, and she views herself, from the outside. She has created herself as a product to be consumed. Increasingly, millions of us are alienated from our immediate reality. This is a privilege earned at great cost. We seek happiness in extremes of autonomy, in endless choice-sets (Hmm, which of 750 flavors of ice-cream do I want?), and in curating our own equivalents of Patrick Bateman’s penthouse. Inside these consumer mini-jails, what many of us find, instead of happiness—is loneliness, unhappiness, and a hole growing inside us.

Why do you write horror?

Horror fiction fulfills a vital need: our need to engage with fear-evoking stimuli. We become buried in everyday problems. Horror fiction puts things in perspective. A chemical jolt awakens our brains from the stupor of the banal. Horror experienced within the safety of fiction reassures us; it may even provoke laughter. The laughter of the child, laughing at the safe resolution of their own fear: when its mother, after a moment’s disappearance, reappears in the game of “peekaboo.” All fiction exists for catharsis: to allow us to experience vicariously things we wouldn’t be able to, or want to, in reality. In the 21st century, as the world’s hard-earned peace becomes again fragmented by civil war, communal strife, and mass murders, horror fiction is a powerful tool to engage with reality.

AMITA BASU is a graduate student of cognitive science. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Fearsome Critters, Potato Soup Journal, Gasher, Star 82 Review, Proem, St. Katherine Review, Entropy, Muse India, Dove Tales, and The Right-Eyed Deer. Her nonfiction has appeared in The Curious Reader, Countercurrents, and Deccan Herald. She has finished a collection of literary short stories and is working on a mystery novel about art. She lives in Bangalore, India. Some of her published writing is at https://amitabasu.wordpress.com/