Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Horror

As everyone knows, horror is a huge genre. Horror is emotional, it tries to provoke a response in the audience. It's the genre of fear; it seeks to shock, scare and thrill audiences with 'the unknown', grotesque images, frightening imaginary creature. Sometimes a horror story is a cautionary tale, involving the audience in fight or flight.

Horror is probably the least understood genre. Common misconceptions include:
  • It's all psycho killers.
  • It's kid stuff or only for teenagers.
  • It's too gross.
  • It's too scary for me.
  • Horror writers (or fans) are creepy/scary/sicko/etc.
  • If I write horror, I can be the next Stephen King.
    Good luck with that one!:)

All this is really only part of the story. Horror also operates on a deeper level; it explores the taboos of culture and humanity's repressed desires, and it is these explorations that generate both thrills and dread.

Academic and horror author Michael Arnzen says, "...horror is more like a game of peek-a-boo than a gore film. Good dark fiction is a form of seduction--it plays with the desire to both see and not see--tapping into that curious desire we have, to peer between our fingers while covering our eyes. It plays off the ambivalent desire to simultaneously censor and bear witness."

In addition to this strange push-pull dichotomy, "When horror tales explore and speculate about the unknown, they often also teach us about what we do know, even if only to point out the limits of cultural knowledge." and "By staging failures of intellectual mastery, challenging norms, and transgressing social boundaries, horror has the potential to revise and the potency to reshape the way its readers think." according to Arnzen. Wow!

Horror stories have probably been around as long as humans have been. As Arnzen says, "Horror stories document and illuminate the human condition across history and culture as much as any work of fiction." I'm convinced! :)

Horror writers, check out the Horror Writers Association which exists to promote and protect the careers of professional horror writers and host seeking to enter their ranks, while at the same time using its best endeavors to raise the profile of the horror genre in the publishing industry and among readers in general.


  1. I can just see the caveman horror stories !!
    Might write about that one !!
    Nice post !

  2. Who doesn't love a great ghost story?

  3. Can't you tell you how cool it was to see "Seton Hill Writers" in the A-Z challenge list. I went to Seton Hill back in the 80s. I had been thinking about doing the letter "I" based on one of the habits (no pun intended) of one of the English professors I had.

  4. Thanks for posting this, Lesley! Little late catching up... I'm reminded by the whole A-Z list of a book that Clive Barker did on the genre awhile back: "Clive Barker's A-to-Z of Horror" that readers might find of interest, if they want to "drill down" into a muckier, deeper, darker level. Muhahah.

    Let us know if you write about caveman horror, JL Dodge! I bet some cave paintings actually might be horror stories, to some degree. Hunting is inherently horror-laden!