Mike Duran lamented in the comments of a recent SpecFaith article:
I’m not keeping score like Mr. Ferguson, but if he’s right about the frequency, or total lack of frequency, of reference to / publication of horror, then its pretty clear we’ve found our red-headed stepchild.
Of course he was talking broadly, even while including this blog in the analysis. To a large degree, he is right. In one sense many of the articles have been of a general nature that would apply to a broad spectrum of speculative genres including horror, but of those that are focused on a specific genre, it does tend toward fantasy and science fiction. Without going back to look, it has probably been a while since horror as a topic was broached on this blog relative to other genres.
This started my brain to churning. Dangerous, I know. I’m more than willing to discuss it, but I have a confession to make. I’m a mixed bag when it comes to horror.
On one hand, as early as six or seven, I had decided I didn’t like horror and would avoid it.
Primarily due to seeing “The Gruesome Twosome” at that age. The gore made me sick and I ended up sinking to the backseat floorboard of our car to get away from the images. I didn’t know enough about the genre to distinguish between slasher gore and more traditional horror. But the experience caused me to avoid anything horror-related for the most part. I didn’t like being scared.
Not to say I avoided it all. My step-father managed a theater for a few years. One of the side-benefits was getting to watch all the movies for free, multiple times if I liked them enough to see them again. Frequently he would show horror movies, usually Dracula versions, various monster movies, etc. I’d end up watching them often.
But to date I don’t believe I’ve read an official “horror” novel. No Lovecraft, Stephen King, Frank Peretti, Ted Dekkar, or the like. The closest I’ve came to that is Mike Duran’s novella, Winterland, though in retrospect, it felt more to me like a darker Alice in Wonderland than scary horror. I reviewed it on my blog.
Oddly, I’ve ended up writing some horror.
Two official horror flash fictions, one published, one not. Horror elements regularly show up in my fantasy books. The middle section of Reality’s Dawn contains at least three episodes one would label horror, for example.
When you think about it, many genres do that. Who can forget Doctor Who’s “Blink” episode who’ve seen it? Horror elements pop up regularly in that science fiction series. Not to mention many others. So despite my passive avoidance of the genre, I’ve been exposed to it.
That said, I hardly feel like a qualified person to broach the subject in any comprehensive manner, due to my lack of reading in the genre. That doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions, ill-informed as they might be, but I can certainly provide a platform for discussion of such topics.
To start with, why don’t I take you on a journey with me. Broccoli made me want to throw up until I was forty something. Even the smell of it turned my stomach. Now, I can eat it and even enjoy it. It’s about time I gave a horror novel a chance to hook me into the genre. To that end, I’m going to do the following.
I want the readers here to suggest a novel you feel is best representative of the genre as a whole, general market or Christian market. I know the temptation will be great for authors here to suggest their own, but I’m looking for more established works, even if more contemporary. In other words, if a person would read one horror novel their entire life, which would you recommend that best reflects that genre?
I’ll pick one from the suggestions, read it, and report back here. Not so much a review of the book, but my experience with the book and how or if my perceptions of the horror genre were affected by my reading it.
To provide some framework, I’m probably not ready for a gore-fest. I can handle violence, but starting out with shock-gore will probably not endear me to horror. Rather, it should fit Lovecraft’s definition to be valid:
The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
While that is used in all types of genres, one might suggest horror focuses upon that reality.
What horror book would you recommend I read? How do you break down horror into subgenres?