Published on December 17, 2008
Fear and Loathing in your library
What is Horror? • An intense, painful feeling of repugnance or fear. • That which excites horror or dread, or is horrible, gloomy or dreary. • A shuddering with terror and detestation; the feeling inspired by something frightful and shocking.
What is horror fiction? Broadly defined, a story intended to scare, unsettle or horrify the reader. On the most basic level horror fiction contains a monster, whether it be supernatural, human or a metaphor for the psychological torment of a guilt-ridden human.
A guided nightmare ride that can shock, educate, illuminate, threaten, shriek, and whisper before it lets the readers loose. - Robert McCammon
“Horror is not a genre like mystery or science fiction or the western. It is not a kind of fiction meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion.” – Douglas Winter, Prime Evil
Did You Know? Horror is one of the most pervasive literary types. Elements of horror can be found in almost every genre: romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, even westerns. Not considered a separate genre until about 1985 when the beginnings of the Horror Writers Association was formed.
Appeal Factors Provokes a emotional/physical response in the reader. Allows a safe exploration of The Dark Side. Encourages escape from everyday reality. Validates a belief in supernatural. Provides a place to face our fears.
Some Early Milestones 1764 – The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole 1798 – Wieland, or the Transformation – C. B. Brown 1818 – Frankenstein – Mary Shelly 1835 – Berenice – Edgar Allen Poe 1847 – Barney the Vampire – A “penny dreadful” 1847 – Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte 1851 – The House of the Seven Gables – N. Hawthorne 1872 – Carmilla – Sheridan Le Fanu 1891 – The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde 1897 – Dracula – Bram Stoker 1908 – The House on the Borderland – W. H. Hodgson
Topics and Themes • Ghosts & Haunted • Scientific & Medical Houses Horror • Mythological Evil • Psychological • Demonic Horror Possession • Mind Control • Witches & Warlocks • Small Town Horror & Black Magic • Dark Fantasy • Vampires • Splatterpunk • Werewolves • Detective Horror • Mummies, zombies, • Comic Horror and golems • Classics
Ghosts and Haunted Houses • Most often involves tales of buried guilt. • Ghost or haunted house is usually a portent to the guilty party or even to someone innocent. • Examples: The Turn of the Screw The Haunting of Hill House The Shining Nazareth Hill Mammoth Book of Haunted House Stories
Mythological Evil • Often based on monsters from religion or mythology. • “Monster” derives from the Latin monstere, to show. • Often involves divine warnings about consequences of human action. • This type of evil often threatens entire populations. • Examples: The Shadow Out of Time – Lovecraft The Servant of the Bones – Rice The Descent – Jeff Long Phantoms – Koontz The Oath – Frank Peretti
Possession, Witches, Black Magic • Innocents possessed by demons or even Satan. • Witches and Warlocks may or may not be evil. • Pacts made with Dark Powers. • Modern examples often involve Catholics in faith crisis. • Examples: The Exorcist – William Blatty Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin The Omen – David Seltzer Dark Fall – Dean Koontz The Bible – Gospel of Mark A Ship Possessed – Alton Gansky
Scientific & Medical Horror • The fear of technology. • The perils of scientific investigation. • Close parallels with real life concerns. • Examples: The Invisible Man – H. G. Wells Toxin – Robin Cook Demon Seed – Dean Koontz Floating Dragon – Peter Straub
Psychological Horror • Horror with an explicable cause. • Torment from mental illness, child abuse, etc. • Questions the very nature of our world. • Examples: Silence of the Lambs Psycho – Robert Bloch Misery – Stephen King Church of Dead Girls – Stephen Dobyns Beasts – Joyce Carol Oates A Graveyard for Lunatics – Ray Bradbury
Mind Control • Brainwashing, hypnosis, telekinesis. • Based on our fears of being controlled by others. • Often has outcasts with gifts going “postal”. • Examples: Carrie – Stephen King Firestarter – Stephen King The Lecturer’s Tale – James Hynes Dragon Tears – Dean Koontz
Small Town Horror • Isolated settings. • Untouched by our civilized values. • Where no one can hear you scream. • Reminds us of our powerlessness and dependence on others. • Examples: The Stepford Wives – Ira Levin Desperation – Stephen King The Hungry Moon – Ramsey Campbell Unhallowed Ground – Gillian White
Splatterpunk • More a style of writing than a theme. • Characterized by a grotesque decadence. • Graphic sex and violence for their own sake. • No reluctant monsters or anti-heroes. • No taboos. • Examples: Every Dead Thing – John Connelly Ghoul – Michael Slade American Psycho – Brett Ellis
Detective Horror A detective investigating the supernatural Plot often secondary to the eerie background Examples: Legion – William Peter Blatty Mystery – Peter Straub Children of the End – Mark Clements Primal Scream – Michael Slade Whispers – Dean Koontz
Comic Horror • Laughing at our fears • Comic characters • Off-the-wall situations • Ridiculous monsters • Examples: Lunatic Café – Laura Hamilton American Gods – Neil Gaiman Ticktock – Dean Koontz
Short Story Collections Annual Anthologies – The Year’s Best Horror Stories; Best New Horror: 10th Anniversary ed. General Anthologies – Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural; A Touch of Chill: Tales for Sleepless Nights Theme Anthologies – Penguin Book of Vampire Stories; Stories of the Walking Dead; Werewolf! Individual Authors – The Darkest Part of the Woods by Ramsey Campbell; Duel: Terror Stories by Richard Matheson
Printed Resources • Hooked on Horror: A Guide to Reading Interests in Horror Fiction. Libraries Unlimited, 2003. • Horror Reader’s Advisory: The Librarian’s Guide to Vampires, Killer Tomatoes, and Haunted Houses. ALA, 2004 • Horror: The 100 Best Books. Carroll & Graf, 1998. 2nd ed. (new edition forthcoming) • Genreflecting: A Guide to Reading Interests in Genre Fiction. Libraries Unlimited, 2000.
Online Resources • HCPL homepage – Books Lists • Novelist • Harriet – adult services – Reader’s Advisory Tools For Adults • Bram Stoker Awards. Horror Writers of America/Horror Writers Association (includes a link for librarians). www.horror.org • International Horror Guild Award. www.ihg.org • August Derleth Award (best novel). www.bristishfantasysociety.org.uk
Personal Picks An early A post- Matheson’s For the YA’s effort of apocalyptic 1954 novella Gaiman Siddons and battle about a lone opens the her only between man’s last door into a venture into good and stand against creepy horror. A evil by a a plague of alternate Stephen modern vampires. reality. King favorite. master
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