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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2012 Year in Review and 2013 Preview

Later this morning I will be taping an episode of the podcast Circulating Ideas. Steve Thomas, the host has invited me to talk about what happened in horror in 2012 and to preview 2013.

I have written this post as a companion to the interview.

Let's talk about 2012 first.
  • 2012 was a year in which horror broke through to the mainstream.  The Walking Dead was one of the most watched television shows of the year, and it was the best-sellling comic of 2012 too! Horror movies came out all year long to big box office numbers.  But in print, this was a year in which it was easy to find a wide range of horror titles, one for just about every type of reader.  I detailed these in Library Journal back in October, and you can use the link to see more, but from this group there are 2 standouts I want to mention:
    • Brett Talley's The Void.  Talley is a new writer, only on his second book, but he is already a force to be reckoned with.  The Void specifically harkens back to the science fiction tinged horror of H.P. Lovecraft. Enter a world were people can easily travel through space while sleeping. There is a catch however. Travelers are held hostage to their nightmares while in flight; nightmares customized to their own fears; nightmares that have been know to drive people mad. Six travelers, each with a secret encounter an abandoned aircraft, and bad things begin to happen. But is it a dream, their paranoia, or a monster?  Talley creates a creeping sense of unease from the start of The Void, an anxiety that never lets up, continuously builds, and leaves the reader looking over his or her shoulder while frantically turning the pages to find out how it all ends. 
    • The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle. La Valle's literary horror tale made many of 2012's best lists.  Imagine One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets Frank Peretti’s Monster.  Pepper is unjustly committed into a Queens mental hospital. He quickly realizes that not only are the inmates more sane than the staff, but an animal headed monster is stalking and killing the patients at night. Characters are king here as the action comes in quick spurts between Pepper’s interactions with others and his internal struggles. The omniscient narration is also very eerie. It mostly follows Pepper, but it does switch occasionally, including an unsettling turn showing things through the eyes of a rat.  This novel is terrifying, but it also asks you to ponder larger societal questions of race, class, and madness; just keep the lights on while thinking about it all.
  • As with all fiction, the YA audience grew exponentially for horror in 2012.  Many adult authors are writing YA novels, and many of them are quite good.  In fact, after having too many excellent YA novel options, last year, the Bran Stoker Awards officially added a YA category so those books could be honored.  The best of the bunch is Jonathan Maberry's award winning YA Rot and Ruin trilogy, the final book of which, Flesh and Bone came out in 2012.  Here some other 2012 YA titles that are worth a read:
  • Paperback horror came back because independent publishers emerged as its savior.
    • In 2011 things looked bad for horror. Leisure books, one of the biggest publisher of horror paperbacks for the mainstream market went under in late 2010.  Many publishers were switching to all ebooks to try to survive, but horror readers love their paperbacks.  Yes, they read ebooks, but it was not their preferred format. Amazon snapped up the rights to Leisure's back catalog and has started a sf, fantasy and horror imprint (47North), but so far the horror writing community (and with them follow the readers) is not behind this new Amazon venture.  After a few books, I would say only Seed by Ania Ahlborn has looked promising. But it is worth keeping an eye on.  
    • The real reason the paperback horror title returned from the dead in 2012 is because of the diligence of independent publishers.  Leading the pack is JournalStone. I spent a lot of time talking about JournalStone during my 31 Days of Horror feature here, so click through for more details. But if you just want the short version, what JournalStone has done is to go out and find the best horror to publish and then they promote the heck out of it. In 2012 they got multiple titles in the hand of reviewers for BookList, Library Journal, and PW, with the spectacular Brett Talley leading the way in their catalog. And once these reviewers were made aware of the titles, they really liked them.  JournalStone also runs a fiction contest and publishes the winner.  This year's winner, The Devil of Echo Lake, was a fantastic read (my review here) and got picked up in the mainstream review journals where it also received positive reviews. However, they did not only fight for niche popularity or online book store sales.  JournalStone also succeeded in getting some of its paperbacks to be placed on the shelves at Barnes and Nobel's throughout the country. By focusing on the printed book and not ebooks, JournalStone has made a name for themselves in 2012, and this can only help drive more interest in horror.
    • Horror readers like the paperback format. After a premature obituary in 2011, it is back and in 2013, I predict it will continue to rebound and grow.

Now let's look forward to 2013....
  • 2013 has a lot for librarians to look forward to.  First, under the leadership of dark fiction writer J.G. Faherty, the Horror Writers Association has made working with libraries part of their 2013 goals.  They have secured a booth at ALA Midwinter in Seattle and ALA Annual in Chicago. They want to work with us. I foresee an increase in library interest in managing and improving their horror collections. If you are at either conference, stop by the HWA booth.  I will be at the booth in Chicago, but more on that later this year.
  • This increase in interest will also be fueled by the fact that there are some HUGE releases coming in 2013, releases that will have many readers talking about horror.  Here is short preview:
    • Jonathan Maberry has a brand new entry into his New York Times best selling  Joe Ledger horror-esque technothriler series coming in March.
    • Joe Hill has a busy 2013
    • And the most anticipated horror release of 2013, Stephen King's long awaited sequel to The Shining (still the best "start here option for people new to King) is coming out -- Dr. Sleep (9/24/13).  Even people who stopped reading King years ago will be flocking to this one.  Make sure you have enough copies available.  I would also suggest preparing readalike lists and other horror suggestions to help to promote your other horror offerings while people wait for this one. In August I will have multiple posts to help you get ready here on RA for All: Horror.
I am looking forward to a great year for horror in 2013.  Check back here regularly for more horror news, tips, resources, and reviews throughout the year.

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