As I have mentioned on the blog recently, the publisher JournalStone is working very hard to keep horror in paperback, distributing through traditional bookstores, and getting it into libraries.
For the last few years, the genre appeared to be retreating to specialty stores and online marketplaces, with many of the titles that you used to be able to get in paperback being moved to ebooks.
Thankfully, JournalStone has gone in the opposite direction. You can click here to see my post about this from back in July.
But to show my personal gratitude for their commitment to horror in print, I invited the editorial staff of JournalStone to prepare guest posts about why they love horror. So today, as we close out on the end of the month, I will have 4 guest posts coming throughout the day.
In the meantime, JournalStone is also offering a prize pack giveaway. Email me at zombiegrl75[at]gmail[dot]com for a chance to win three horror novels including The Devil of Echo Lake by RA for All: Horror guest poster Douglas Wynne. The deadline for entries is Friday at 5pm central.
So with 4 posts to do today, let's get going on the first.
I will begin with Elizabeth Reuter. Stuck somewhere between childhood and adolescence, Elizabeth Reuter never got tired of playing with the imaginary friends that crowd her skull. She has written published articles, edited novels, and had her first short story published in JournalStone’s 2010 Warped Words anthology, a horror tale about evil children and denial. Ryu Murakami, Natsuo Kirino, J.K. Rowling, Holly Black and Clive Barker are the major modern writers who inspire her. She lives and works in Okinawa, Japan, translating Japanese/English nonfiction papers for her office and getting plenty of material to write about in return. Demon of Renaissance Drive is her first novel, but if Annabelle has any say in the matter, it won’t be her last.
Formula and Freedom By Elizabeth Reuter
There are two kinds of mainstream horror.
The first is the type most people think of when “horror” is mentioned: monsters and torture porn. Jason, Freddie, Jigsaw. In this best-known segment of horror, monsters will chase/trap a group of people who die one by one in the most gruesome ways filmmakers can dream up. The formula is set, down to the character archetypes and victim profiles: a young, white, virginal woman will survive, while minorities and the sexually active can count the minutes until their demise.
I don’t see the appeal of this type of horror. It’s so dull, so silly; worst of all, it isn’t scary. The heroes blur together and the monsters are known only for the deaths they inflict, rather than because they are themselves disturbing. What’s interesting in a story where you know what’s going to happen? What draws a reader or viewer to characters with no character?
Then there’s the other side of horror. In this, there are no boundaries on characterization, no checklists on who must or must not die. The only rule is: find what disturbs people and shove it in their faces. Discover what’s frightening and build a world around it. Search for parts of the human heart that no one wants to look at, and force that truth into the open air. It’s this freedom and creativity that draws me to horror, as a writer and fan.
Without the human—especially male—terror of rape, we would not have Alien. Uncontrolled sexual depravity powers Clive Barker’s Hellbound Heart, better known by its movie incarnation, Hellraiser. Alcoholism and child abuse fuel the antagonists of Stephen King’s The Shining. Perfectionism haunts Nina in Black Swan. A desire for love destroys the unlovable monsters of Frankenstein and Phantom of the Opera.
Watching and reading these staples of the genre, people are forced to wonder how much of themselves they can see in the story. Some are chilled by similarities; others see so much similarity that they angrily reject the comparison. Women who want ballet to be all beauty didn’t just dislike Black Swan, they raged against it for destroying their fantasies. The violence of their reaction told me that the movie had hit right on target. Only something people are deeply afraid of can offend them in such a visceral way. And only when viewers and readers react to a story as though they’ve been personally wounded, is horror doing its job.
Run away if you like, gentle reader.
We’ll get you in the end.