Summer Scares 2019 Resources

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Friday, October 4, 2019

31 Days of Horror: Day 4- The Pull of Horror's Past

Most of my work in helping you to assist horror readers focuses on living, currently publishing  authors so that you can keep up to speed on the current state of the genre and its trends, while understanding what you should be ordering to create a collection you can use to make suggestions and for your horror readers to browse on their own.

However, I do want to peek into the past a little bit today because one of the biggest trends in horror is the pull of the past and its influence on the present. Specifically as seen in 2 HUGE Trends.

The first, is the return of the classic paperback horror titles from the 70s and 80s. The trend entered the mainstream with the publication of the award winning Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix, with help from Will Errickson from Too Much Horror Fiction. You can see what I said about this amazing book in my ALA Annual Read 'N Rave back in 2017. And since it's publication, people cannot get enough of these paperback titles.

In response to the demand for more of these books to come back into print, Hendrix and Errickson have teamed up with Valancourt to produce the "Paperbacks From Hell" reissue line. Now in its second year, the line pairs some of the best gems from this era, titles that have been out of print of decades and many, lost to history, with brand new introductions by Errickson and Hendrix.

As Hendrix told me, Valancourt was prepared for these to sell well and even they were surprised by the demand. The books are priced well and you can buy the entire set at once. I would highly suggest adding these vetted titles to your collections.

Even academic libraries are getting in on the trend. University of Indiana Librarian Rebecca Baumann has long been an advocate for these classic paperback pulps, and in the current issue of Fine Books Magazine, she has a fascinating, academic article about collecting paperbacks from hell and why these titles "bewitch" collectors. This article also addresses the appeal of these titles to readers.

This trend is worth noting not only because you should be aware of the reissuing of older titles that you can add to your collections, but also because you should be aware of new authors who write in this style. Understand that readers are looking for a modern, 21st Century take on the pulp horror experience too. For libraries, the best place to find quality [both in writing and book construction] works to satisfy these readers is through Flame Tree Press. Click through to see their authors, books, and read reviews. Of their crop of new authors, the best one for libraries [if you can only get a few] would be Jonathan Janz. But all are a great and appropriate choices for all library collections.

The other trend, and it is one I have written and talked about for a while now but it is still growing and gaining in momentum, is the reemergence of Lovecraft in horror fiction. Click here for a book talk I did a few years ago on the topic.

Look, it needs to be said that Lovecraft was an awful human being. He was a racist, sexist, anti-gay, basically, he hated everyone. But, he created themes, images, characters, and an entire subgenre of horror fiction whose influence can no longer be ignored.

As a result, today's authors who are writing in that Lovecraftian style are very open about contending with his problematic legacy. And it is the people Lovecraft hated the most who are leading the charge-- women, LGBTQ, and authors of color.

As I describe one of the best piece of modern Lovecraftian fiction, The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle in that book talk linked above, it is as if LaValle is both giving Lovercraft the middle finger and honoring him all in one great story.

Speaking of LaValle, over on Goodreads, he has this piece about Lovecraft's long lasting influence. It also has a great book list and a shout out to the new annotated collection of Lovecraft stories to which LaValle wrote the introduction. Add the titles you don't have and use LaValle's annotations to book talk the others.

Debut author, Shaun Hamill, whose novel A Cosmology of Monsters [which I am currently reading] also deals directly with Lovecraft, both the author and his influence, wrote this article about contending with the Lovecraft legacy for Crime Reads. Even if you don't enjoy horror, this essay will introduce you to the current spate of Lovecraft retellings and allow you to understand this trend better.

These are not the only instances where the pull of horror's past is effecting the present, but they are the most obvious.

If you want to know more about the history of horror and specifically how it plays out in our present, maybe even preemptively get in on a few trends, I would highly suggest following horror author Brian Keene's fantastic History of Horror Fiction series hosted by Cemetery Dance.

Eventually, it will all be gathered into a book, but for now you can read it online. What I like about this series is that it not only considers the history of the genre in the context of today, but it is also very readable. The essays themselves are fun to read and they are not presented in a typical order. The series itself makes for a very useful tool at understanding the appeal of horror in general, so it is a great resource for all of you library workers who are too afraid to try a book on your own.

To wrap up today, know that I understand the past's pull on the genre, but my place here on this blog is to help you stay current. Use the past to help you help readers, but do not only suggest Dracula or Frankenstein or Lovecraft. Today's post should help you reconcile the past's pull on the present, and give you some fresh collection development, display, and suggestion ideas.

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