Today I want to direct your attention to a website called Holy Terror. As you could expect from the name, it’s a site dedicated to Christian Horror/Terror.
Last week I mentioned briefly the essay The Bible and the Horror Genre by William Shontz. I want to talk about some of his points a little more and maybe get your opinions on what he has to say.
Mir, you’ll be happy to know he makes lists. J
Shontz uses the first half of the essay to talk about specific Bible passages that contain elements of horror: 1Kings 22:38; 2Kings 9:33-37; and Micah 3:1-3. He mentions others, but I think you can get the point from these.
He uses the second half of the essay to discuss his list of what we learn “from the Scriptures’ literary use of the macabre.”
- “Graphic violent horror must have value.” He points out that the value “lies in its calculated infrequency.” He postulates that when a story is relentlessly violent it actually becomes boring and the brain stops paying attention to the violence.
- “Make sure the details count.” To illustrate this point, Shontz uses Mark’s account of the demon possessed man in the tombs of Garasenses. Shontz points out something I had never considered. That is the image of the demons living in the swine would have been particularly repulsive to the Jews. Then, to picture 2000 of them drowning in the sea would certainly qualify as horrifying.
- “ ‘Terror’ can be complete in and of itself.” Meaning there is a difference between terror and horror. “…sometimes it’s enough to give the reader or viewer a solid case of the creeps without the bogeyman jumping out of the closet at the end of the scene.”
- “The horror need not match your worldview.” He points out that many Christians with leanings toward horror fiction stick to demon possession as the vehicle for the horror rather than using vampires, ghosts, etc. because the later are not mentioned in the Bible.
I can agree with number 1. I don’t like graphic violence for the sake of violence. Sound strange coming from a writer and reader of ‘dark’ fiction? It’s not all Friday the Thirteenth.
Number two makes sense too. As writers we must make every word, every scene count. In speculative fiction where descriptions are so important to the story, the way we weave world building in with character building, plot and action is, I think, even more important than it is in other genres.
I agree with number three as well. A little sustained spookiness can be even more effective than outright, heart thumping, brain melting fear. Think M Night Shamalan.
Number four is where I have to pause and think. If what we write doesn’t match our worldview as Christians, can it still be called Christian fiction? (I know, that’s the 64,000 question.)
So what do you think? Does horror have a place in Christian fiction? Would you read a story about vampires? What about a vampire who accepts Jesus as the Messiah? Sound nuts? I know someone who’s written that story. I’ve read it and it’s good.
What about a zombie hunter? What about ghosts and goblins? Do you see a place for such on your bookselves? Or the shelves of your local LifeWay?
I hope so. I think we have a lot to learn from the dark side of Christian speculative fiction.