Horror: the best thing you’ve never read
Regrettably, horror fiction is a much maligned genre in the literary world; it’s primarily associated with blood and gore, and while that is certainly one aspect of what comprises horror fiction, there is a lot more beneath the surface.
As an author, the appeal of writing horror fiction is perfect for exploring drama, emotion and psychology at a visceral level. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the horror genre allows the writer and the reader to delve much deeper into what it means to be human more than any other genre.
Horror is also one of those genres which blends easily with other genres. You can have a science fiction horror story, erotic horror, supernatural crime, paranormal romance (though that one’s a bit of a stretch). Still, horror’s adaptability makes it an enticing option to both the reader and the writer.
Classic horror has influenced much of today’s contemporary writing. Take the works of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, or Ambrose Bierce and Mary Shelley, to name a few. These greats used horror to try and answer many of humanity’s great questions: what happens after death? Are we alone in the universe? Is the mind separate from the soul?
All these authors are still being mimicked today. In the 20th Century, Stephen King, has carried the torch of his forebears, asking the same questions but in different, yet meaningful ways. His novel, The Stand, for example, uses the apocalypse (caused by a virulent strain of the flu) to explore what normal people would do to survive in a world where roughly 90% of the population dies, ushering in the return of an ancient evil.
Even today, 37 years on since his first release, Carrie, King remains a guaranteed bestselling author, not solely because he’s the definitive author of modern-day horror, but rather because he’s simply a great storyteller.
Another modern-day legend is Clive Barker. His novella, The Hellbound Heart, uses the notions of hell, sin and the flesh to explore the nature of sexuality. Another tale, Cabalturns the concept of monsters being inherently evil on its head, instead making a statement on the monstrous aspects of human nature.
In Australia, horror is making its mark on the world stage, with many authors turning to “quiet horror” (subtle, atmospheric horror). Think of Shirley Jackson’s collection, The Lottery and other stories and you get the picture. Kaaron Warren’s collection, Through Splintered Walls, which won the Ditmar Australian Shadows and several Aurealis awards in 2012, contains very little, if any blood and gore and instead places real people in everyday environments (the collected tales are titled Road, Mountain, Sky, Creek), with each story being set in or around one of these locations. The stories are powerfully human, without being overtly horrific.
If you want to know more about horror fiction or Australian horror fiction (as a writer or reader), the first place to start would be the Australian Horror Writers Association. The non-profit organisation offers a story critique service, mentor program, hosts the Australian Shadows Awards for fiction and even publishes a fiction magazine, Midnight Echo, twice a year. Better yet, it’s an extremely tight support network, helping many members pursue their careers in writing and publishing in the horror genre.
So next time someone says they write horror, or enjoy reading horror, don’t be quick to judge. Horror might just be the best thing you’ve never read.
For more information visit the Horror Writers Association website at http://www.horror.org
Greg Chapman is a horror author and artist from Rockhampton in Central Queensland. He has had four novellas published: Torment, The Noctuary (Damnation Books, 2011), Vaudeville (Dark Prints Press, 2012) and The Last Night of October (Bad Moon Books, 2013).
His short fiction has also appeared in Midnight Echo magazine, Eclecticism, Trembles, Morpheus Tales, Bete Noire and the anthologies, A Killer Among Demons, Sex, Drugs & Horror and Frightmares.
His most notable illustrative work is the Bram Stoker Award®-winning graphic novel, Witch-Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times, written by Rocky Wood and Lisa Morton, published by McFarland & Company in 2012. He also illustrated the comic series Allure of the Ancients, written by Mark Farrugia, for Midnight Echo magazine.
He is also a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association and the Horror Writers Association.
You can find Greg on the web at http://darkscrybe.com