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Monday, October 1, 2012

31 Days of Horror-- Day 1: Librarians Meet the Horror Writers Association

Welcome to 31 Days of Horror 2012.  While last year, I focused on my book, this year I will be mixing guest posts with reviews and giveaways in an attempt to connect horror writers with librarians.

As I say in my bio, I am a proud member of the Horror Writers Association, but this year my pride swelled.  I used my connections as a member and reached out to a wide range of horror writers, from bestsellers to newer authors, and they were all more than generous with their time, writing posts for me to use this month.  Many of them also passed on books for me to giveaway to you.

Stay tuned because those giveaways start later this week.

So I hope you enjoy my month long barrage of horror posts geared toward the librarian and average reader brought to you by those of us in the horror industry-- those of us who are immersed in the genre all the year through.

We begin today with a post by Rocky Wood.  He is the current President of Horror Writers Association and author of the Bram Stoker Award® winning, Stephen King: A Literary Companion (McFarland, 2011) and the graphic novel, Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times (McFarland, 2012).

I asked Rocky to write a post to librarians about how the Horror Writers Association can help them. The HWA is working very hard to court librarians.  They have even committed to an ALA booth at the National Conference in June.  So, here's Rocky....

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Many librarians may not be familiar with the Horror Writers Association. Established in 1985 by writers such as Dean R Koontz and Joe R Lansdale, the HWA today has around 800 members around the globe, although a majority are North American. Icons such as Stephen King and Richard Matheson are long term members, as are such up and coming genre names at Jonathan Maberry, and the vast majority of today’s horror writers. It has a wide ranging website and also a public blog, ‘Dark Whispers’ at www.horror.org/blog.

One of the HWA's missions is to encourage public interest in and foster an appreciation of reading in general, and horror and dark fantasy literature for adults, teens and even children. To that end, our members take part in public readings and lectures whenever possible, we publish a newsletter for booksellers and librarians, and we are now providing libraries with links to recommended and new works by our members (more of which later). Many of these books are by award-winning authors and others by break-through writers you might not yet be aware of. We are particularly involved in promoting authors who are receiving break-through status with readers, as well as local authors for local communities.

Horror and so-called dark fiction, and its many sub-genres such as paranormal fiction, post-apocalyptic tales, urban fantasy, zombies, werewolves and vampires are more popular than ever. This is particularly so in the crucial and rapidly growing ‘young adult’ reading group – and we all know young adults in our libraries are looking for new and scary stories. ‘New’ to them, of course, could be a classic horror tale from Poe or Shirley Jackson, or the latest Nancy Holder book. One of the areas the HWA concentrates on is the graphic novel – and this of course is one of the most compelling ways to attract and engage young readers. Whether it be ‘The Walking Dead’ or Joe Hill’s ‘Locke and Key,' young people are fully immersed in this form.

We know that not all publishers market their wares as horror, and not all readers realize they are reading ‘horror’ or dark fantasy – but there is no doubt that ‘Twilight’, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘The Hunger Games’ and such titles all contain horror tropes. We are not concerned with the definition – we are concerned with generating more readers for writers, libraries and publishers – whether in traditional printed books or the electronic versions.

Horror is the oldest genre in literature – it goes right back to the first tales told around the cave-man’s fire, through the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’, through much of Shakespeare (‘Hamlet’, ‘Macbeth’), through the gothic novel and on to the famed ‘greats’ of horror such as Edgar Allen Poe, H P Lovecraft and Shirley Jackson. It is always popular, whatever it is called. There are always new generations of readers to discover such classics as Jackson’s ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, Poe’s ‘The Tell-tale Heart’, Stevenson’s ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ and King’s ‘Salem’s Lot’ or ‘The Shining’. But, while every librarian will know these classics, how do you keep up with the latest developments in the sub-genres and the new, interesting authors and tales that will compel your school-aged or adult readers? There are of course, some great RA services, but no-one knows the horror and dark fantasy genre better than HWA.

I would also make the point that HWA doesn’t just specialize in the obvious – novels and young adult novels. Our members write both short and long fiction, poetry, edit anthologies and write non-fiction. As an example I have written five popular books about Stephen King for those readers who are interested in more than just his stories. One of these books, ‘Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished’ (Fourth Edition, Overlook Connection Press, 2012) concentrates on King’s lesser known works, many of which would be of obvious interest to librarians looking to freshen their ‘same old’ King collections. Another, ‘Stephen King: A Literary Companion’, examines King’s position in literature and provides interesting information about every one of his 300 odd pieces of fiction, for instances the inspiration for ‘The Body’ (made into the movie, ‘Stand By Me’) or characters such as Carrie White.

We find that many libraries are under-represented in the dark fantasy/horror genre. Certainly, the popular series such as ‘The Hunger Games’ or ‘Twilight’ will be in place but what about the newly popular series such as Jonathan Maberry’s ‘Rot and Ruin’. Or the latest and best in adult short fiction, edited by such experienced genre editors as Ellen Datlow? We also have strong representation in fiction by female writers – including Nancy Holder, Nancy Etchemendy, Lisa Morton, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Kelley Armstrong and many more. HWA supports such initiatives as ‘Women in Horror’ month.

A major initiative is our ‘Halloween Haunts’ – running in parallel with this very blog this scary month of October, it appears at with new entries every day at www.horror.org/blog, and a range of giveaways for the public. We use this to educate readers, promote the latest in the genre, analyze the genre’s history and of course, entertain. And we also run a monthly Horror Writers Roundtable, where experts discuss such topics as the legacy of Ray Bradbury, book promotion and the popularity of cross-genre writing. Those discussions allow public feedback and you may find them of value.

The HWA offers a one-stop shop for librarians interested in expanding their knowledge of horror and dark fiction, and what is hot in that space at www.horror.org. Among the many resources that can be found there are:
  • A listing of the latest Bram Stoker Award winners. The iconic Bram Stoker Awards are the peak Award in the genre, and will guide you to the best in recent horror novels, short fiction, fiction collections, non-fiction, anthologies and even poetry!
  • The Bram Stoker Award reading list – this is a live compilation of the latest publications under consideration for the Awards – consider it a near real-time study of what’s hot in horror and dark fiction. This is certainly the only such list anywhere on the internet.
  • A listing of all the Bram Stoker Award winners and nominees going back through 1987 – a treasure trove of material for the great names in the genre, such as Ramsey Campbell, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Peter Straub, Joyce Carole Oates, Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman. 
  • A guide to getting a horror author to visit your Library; and much more. 
The HWA is also some of the few genre writers’ groups that offers membership to Librarians – an ‘Associate’ status for those who really want to engage with the genre. Our members delight in attending readings, signings and discussion groups at Libraries and we are always available to answer questions about the genre.

We have a dedicated Library Committee – chaired by J G Faherty* (author of ‘The Ghosts of Coronado Bay’), always working to improve our services to the Library sector; and have formed an initial relationship with the American Library Association to appear at upcoming ALA events; where we can meet you personally.

So, there’s a wide review of why you as a Librarian might want to engage with the Horror Writers Association – perhaps just sampling our online material; or perhaps involving yourself in direct contact with our advisers or members. We’re not that scary, really!

* Readers of RA for All: Horror will hear from Faherty himself and I will review The Ghosts of Coronado Bay both later this month.

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