Next week, I will begin with the main theme of this year's 31 Days of Horror: Why I love Dark Fiction/Horror. I posed this question to the authors more as why they like to write it, but also why they enjoy it too.
As a librarian and library educator in the field of readers advisory, I am constantly asking my students, colleagues, and myself, to question the "whys" behind what people like to read what they most like to read. When you understand why a type of story is appealing to a reader, you can better understand what else they should read. In the RA biz these whys are called the language of appeal.
In the second edition of my book, I wrote an entire chapter on the appeal of horror, but here on the blog you can use this link to get more info. The best crash course appears in this article entitled "Horror At the Service Desk: How to Serve Your Scariest Patrons" which I wrote for NoveList last year.
But that is why people in general love to read dark fiction. I wanted to probe deeper into the appeal this year by asking those who make a living writing it why they have devoted their careers to horror. As I was receiving back a flood of responses from authors, I realized that I too have spent a large portion of my professional career immersed in the world of horror, so it is only fair that I answer my own question.
So here is why I love dark fiction...
The world is predictable. Yes, sometimes very good things happen and you are elated, and other times very terrible things happen and you are despondent, but none of those things involve the supernatural. I know that zombies do not exist, but I read fiction to escape into a story, and a complex world where these things do roam, adds a level of unpredictability to the story. As a reader I love when anything truly can happen. It opens the story up.
But there is more. I love stories that have a macabre angle. The weird and dark things that happen in these stories keep me on edge and propel me to turn the pages. This is why I like literary fiction and psychological suspense too. I love the anxiety and the twists as the unreliable narrator changes the entire story in with one sentence (Atonement) or when a Survivor-esque reality show actually turns deadly (Castaways). In horror the good guys don't always make it through. I love that. In a mystery the detective will survive but in a novel like The Ruins, no one survives. Talk about unpredictable. Yes it is horrific, but it is not actual people dying. It is exhilarating to read a work where the ending is not a forgone conclusion.
I like feeling anxious when I read and I am looking to be scared. But more with books than movies. While my husband loves horror movies, I am not a fan. The visual form relies on blood and guts too much, I like to watch the tension build on the page. I am a nice, happy, and smiley person with a great life. I love that as my reality, but horror and darker fiction is a safe way for me to peek into a terrifying world and know that when I close the book, it will go away.
So this will be the theme of the month, Why I Love Horror. Posts will alternate between author guest posts and reviews of some of their work.
Please note that I review books for a public library audience. While I will give my personal opinion of the book in question, the goal of my reviews are to assess it from the perspective of "what type of reader will enjoy this book?" There is a reader for every book and my job is not to judge my readers' tastes, but rather to match their tastes to the book that is right for them. Click here to see an example of a book I disliked, but still was able to review for the reader who would most enjoy it.
I have books to give away too. And it all starts tomorrow.