What’s news for horror writer Paul D. Dail?
I was pleased this last week to find out that my #luckyseven post & review of The Cabin in the Woods was picked up by The Nurture Your BOOKS Daily e-paper. This is a fun electronic periodical that you can find by clicking here.
What does the future hold?
Next Friday, I’ll be posting a review of Jonathan D. Allen’s Corridors of the Dead. Speaking of genres that I’m not necessarily sure I understand, Allen’s book is Urban Fantasy. But perhaps what surprised me most was when I saw he was also working the “Lesbian Fiction” market at Amazon.
Curious? I was. Hope you’ll check back next Friday.
But without further ado…
This post will be my contribution to a series of posts started by TESSpecFic group mate Marie Loughin on the nature of “Horror.”
(TESSpecFic: The Emissaries of Strange Speculative Fiction is a collective of writers whose fiction fits under the speculative fiction umbrella. Several of the members have a particular interest in horror, myself obviously included.)
I will link to Marie’s post at the “What do I want from you?” section, but what I found particularly interesting was that she didn’t feel that her work fit the horror genre for a couple of reasons, one of which I just have to quote for you to get the idea.
“All I know is that clicking on that horror category would feel like sneaking into a pub when you’re still a year shy of legal drinking age. It might make you feel all grown up (and you might get to buy a beer or two), but at some point you’re going to get busted.”
Awesome. However, I’m taking a little different approach with my post.
So NOW without further ado…
According to AgentQuery.com, the horror genre is defined as:
“Horror fiction has one inelucable goal: to scare its readers. Its chilling pendulum swings with a broad arc, and uses a wide range of techniques to terrify and titillate its audience. . . . The problem is not defining horror, but defining the manner in which it engenders fear in the hearts and minds of its readers. Subgenres include dark fiction, dark fantasy, cutting edge, erotic, extreme, occult, vampire, gothic, psychological, supernatural, paranormal, pulp—the list goes on, illustrating the innumerable and imaginative ways that horror explores the unspeakable.”
So that’s how the industry sees horror.
Here is what I’m pretty sure the general public thinks about when they hear “horror”:
And herein lies the problem.
Don’t get me wrong. I am familiar with everything in this picture (and loved most of it). But that’s not necessarily what I write. I don’t write slasher stories, and while my novel The Imaginings may have a demon, the real monsters come in human form (this holds true for many of my short stories as well). In my opinion, this “broad arc” that AgentQuery mentions can be somewhat limiting when readers only envision horror as being blood and gore. As a result, many horror writers are then left to rely on sub-genres.
I’ve done my own pendulum swinging with it came to my definition of the genre of The Imaginings. When I first started writing it many years ago, I was calling it “horror,” but when I finished it, I thought, Well, it’s not really “horrific.”
At least not in my opinion. Of course, I wrote it, so perhaps that’s why I wouldn’t be scared (kind of like how you can’t tickle yourself). About this time, I heard that Stephen King was referring to his writing (or at least whatever he was writing at the time) as a “supernatural thriller.”
Perfect! I decided that I had written a supernatural thriller, not a horror novel. The problem was that I was working under my own assumptions that, A- “horror” could really only be equated with that picture up above, and B- “supernatural thriller” was an acceptable genre.
When my agent continued to call it a horror novel, I would agree with her, but still, whenever someone asked me what type of novel The Imaginings was, I told them, “Well, my agent is calling it horror, but I think of it more as a supernatural thriller.”
As of late, I’ve come to pretty comfortable terms with the “broad arc” of the genre, and when people ask me, I tell them I’m a horror writer (and usually I don’t even feel the need to qualify it anymore). I think this is largely in part to reading the above industry definition (a definition largely supported by Amazon and Barnes and Noble categorizations).
Or maybe it’s in part a result of what I’ve heard from others who read The Imaginings. Okay, maybe it is a little horrific.
But I know that each reader/viewer’s experiences largely dictate at what point on that arc they will put me when I say I’m a horror writer. And I can usually tell by the look on their face and their slow, cautious backstepping when their experience has been primarily “a bloody mess on a 20 ft screen” (to again quote Marie Loughin and bring this whole thing full circle).
And again, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I have met some great people who write that style of visceral terror and do it well. But when I lose a potential reader because of a misconception, then we have an issue.
What do I want from you?
Probably obvious, but what are your thoughts on this matter?
Thanks to Marie for getting this started. Here are the links to the posts both previous and following mine. If horror is your things, I hope you will follow along with these other posts. TESSpecFic is a small group, but we have some great writers.
And speaking of Jonathan D. Allen, don’t forget to check back next Friday for my review of his novel, The Corridors of the Dead.
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