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Friday, October 2, 2015

31 Days of Horror: Day 2-- Understanding the Appeal of Horror

Before we get too far into this daily horror onslaught, I want to make sure everyone is on the same page. The last few years I went straight into the posts and specially planned content for the month, but this year, I wanted to back it up a bit because despite all the work I do to advocate for horror and its fans, I still regularly receive questions from library workers asking me to explain why readers who ask for horror titles enjoy them.

Look I get it, if you do not love a genre, it is hard to help patrons who do. But if you understand why they love it, you can use your skills and their enthusiasm to have a successful RA interaction. Don’t believe me. Follow my exploits as I work very hard to overcome my personal dislike for the Romance genre to be GREAT at providing RA service to Romance readers.

This year, I took the frequency of this question about the appeal of horror to heart as I planned this month of posts. I need to help you to help horror readers better. That is my mission. It is why I put all of this effort in. Therefore, it needs to be the first stop on this terrifying tour.

So today, I have an explanation on the general appeal of horror, followed by my personal statement of why I love the genre. It’s a 1-2 punch of the academic explanation followed by my personal one.

I think this will help you not only to gain the confidence you need to help the hordes of hungry horror readers as they descend upon your service desks this month, but also, to have a stronger foundation for everything else that I have planned to come this October.

First, here is an excerpt from my first 31 Days of Horror Post-- ever-- where I outline why readers who love horror enjoy it. It contains a link to a longer article I have written on the topic, plus a plea to buy my book [which would be the most helpful to you]. is important to note from the start how I define horror.  In my forthcoming book, I define horror as "a story in which the author manipulates the readers' emotions by introducing situations in which unexplainable phenomena and unearthly creatures threaten the protagonists and provoke terror in the reader."
Okay, so enough introduction, let's get this Halloween party started.  I want to kick it all off with an article I wrote for NoveList entitled, "Horror at the Service Desk: How to Help Your Scariest Patrons."
This article is a summary of Chapter 3 of my upcoming book (see the big book just to the right of this post).  It is part of the NoveList RA News.  Although NoveList is a subscription based service, the newsletters are free to all.
In the article I talk about why people love horror and give a few sure bet authors and titles. Here is the introduction:
"It seems like everywhere you turn these days, there is another zombie, vampire, or werewolf popping up in books, on television, or at the movies. It is hard for the average person to keep up with the sheer volume of horror-related material available to the public. When you add the haunting Halloween season into the mix, it is easy to see how librarians might be overwhelmed by hordes of readers, shambling in mass to the library, hungry for some tales of terror.
With so many choices, it is actually more difficult for us to help match our horror readers with their next good read. How do you sift through it all, from classics to old favorites and from new stars to paperback-only gems in order to find the correct book for the reader craving a good scare? All you need is a little preparation. By increasing your understanding of why readers are looking for horror and arming yourself with the right questions to ask these patrons, even the most horror-averse librarian can tame the monsters and save the day. In this article, I will break down the appeal of horror, gently leading you down the dark trail of terror, and escort you safely back to the desk fully prepared for the Halloween rush."

Second, here is an excerpt from a post from 2012’s 31 Days of Horror when I shared why I personally love horror:
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.
Finally, throughout this month, look for more posts by horror authors as they share their love for the genre. As well as using the 31 Days of Horror tag, these posts will also include the Why I Love Horror tag too.  use that tag to find many more posts on the blog where librarians and authors have shared their deepest, darkest, scariest reasons for loving this vibrant genre.

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