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Horror, Earthquakes, and What Horror Means to Me

We Don't Belong Here, a Podcast

Horror genres subvert the mainstream formulas of commercialized beauty, focusing on the dark underbelly of life itself. In an industry that propagates excess and luxury, horror lives on the blurred lines of death, gore, and carnage. At least, that’s how I feel about it. 

Not being allowed to watch horror movies as a kid made me gravitate towards them as a 12-year-old, sitting on the couch of my grandmother’s apartment, squished between two older cousins. We picked up a copy of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the version with Jessica Biel) at Blockbuster. The opening scene finds a young woman begging the van full of teens to turn back, to not go any farther into Leatherface’s territory. The teens insist, telling her to calm down, she pulls out a revolver from between her legs and shoots herself. 

My first reaction was to laugh — loudly, nervously. My aunt, walking away from the TV, responded, “Tamara, something is wrong with you. Why are you laughing?”

I didn’t know then, but I was in shock. I was simply responding to a traumatic image the only way I knew how: to laugh.

Today, I’m obsessed with finding the humor in all things. I haven’t found much of it these days but I can point out traces of joy in the midst of tragedy. 

Shake, Rattle, and Scream!

Personally, horror films were always a family affair, probably due to my older brother’s peculiar tastes or because we only had one TV in the house. I remember one night watching a made-for-TV special on ABC called Rose Red. The living room was filled to the brim with cousins, siblings, and not-so-favored relatives, but for that hour we all got along. 

A scene from Red Rose. (Photo Credit: ABC)

A scene from Rose Red. (Photo Credit: ABC)

The miniseries penned by Stephen King is about a group of psychics who try to unearth the mysteries of the haunted Rose Red mansion. As we huddled around the television, a mild earthquake struck Los Angeles. We looked at each other in shock, afraid to move, waiting for someone, anyone to confirm that what was happening was real.

Living in an apartment complex, it was customary to open the door and lock eyes with the other residents, confirm in silence or slight nods that yes, we felt it too. What happened next is something only fate could have designed: an earthquake struck the Rose Red mansion in the film. It was my first introduction to fate and the unexplained, but my family laughed it off as simply a coincidence. 

Co-creating ‘We Don’t Belong Here’

I’m excited to be working on a horror podcast for Avaaz called We Don’t Belong Here with Sim Dhugga and Ryan Thomas Riddle.

It’s the first time I’ve fully committed to the genre that I spent many years avoiding or laughing off. I get to write about the unexplained, the in-between moments, and I try to make it funny. It’s incredibly fated that all three of us have never written for the genre before — it’s all in the name. You’ll find traces of each of us in the characters, trying to find ourselves in places that we don’t fit in, all the while pushing forward — making it work and laughing off the pain.

We Don’t Belong Here premieres on October 27 wherever you listen to your podcasts!

(Header Image Artwork by Eesha Chavan)


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In a faraway valley nestled in the metropolitan desertscape of Los Angeles, you’ll find Tamara Syed. A 20-something anime connoisseur who can’t decide what to watch next. A former music journalist and photographer, she’s a sucker for a killer soundtrack. Since her days of loitering in roleplaying message boards on Neopets, she’s had a knack for storytelling. If she doesn’t have a pen in her hand, it’s probably a microphone in a dusty corner of the city sharing jokes with a despondent audience. Follow along for clever takes on the world of anime and recommendations for the best games to download on your phone.

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