Masimba Musodza has emerged as Zimbabwe's "Master of Scare", penning stories of the supernatural, the psychological, the gory, the macabre. He traces the start of his journey to the time when, as a boy, he watched the first instalment of the miniseries 'Salem's Lot on television. Needless to say, he wasn't allowed to watch the second episode, but it was too late. Over the years, he was to encounter not just Stephen King in literary and cinematic form, but also H.P. Lovecraft, E.A. Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson and others.
He has also drawn from the rich lore of his heritage. Fear of the supernatural is widespread in Zimbabwean society, with even mainstream media reporting encounters with powers of darkness as they would a burglary. However, Masimba remains a skeptic, despite "witnessing" some pretty wierd things.
"We were out in the rural areas," he recalls. "One of my host cousins took me to a jiti, a get-together of young people at a chosen homestead, with dancing to popular folk songs, flirting etc. One our way back, we were on this clearing, the moon was so bright it was almost like day time. My cousin asked me if I could see the women gathered near a cattle kraal ahead. I said I did. 'Are you sure?' he asks. Of course, I was sure! What kind of a question was that? 'OK, listen carefully. We are going to pass those women. But we are going to act like we do not see them. Even if they greet you, do not respond. Look on ahead, we'll carry on with our banter.' I was puzzled, but I did as told. We passed the women, and it occurred to me that they were nude! But I was only looking out of the corner of my eye, so I could have been mistaken. When we got home, my cousin explained to me that those women were varoyi, witches. He saw them all the time as a lad about the village. They had the means to make themselves invisible, but, for some reason, some people could see them. If they had so much as suspected that night that we could see them, they would have surely harmed us. .....Looking back, although I cannot explain why a group of women stood naked near a cattle kraal, I am skeptical. My cousin is now a grown man, husband and father, and I doubt that he would recall this incident quite the same way again."
For Masimba Musodza, the horror genre is not just about demons and ghouls and homicidal maniacs, but about fear. Fear of scientific advancement (Frankenstein), the fear called xenophobia (Dracula) etc. Hence, his own horror works carry the fears of the generation that saw the post-Independence euphoria and optimism degenerate in to the turmoil of the last two decades.