People also look at me sideways when I say I like horror because I am a reader who is drawn to character centered stories. Most library workers are confused, "Isn't horror about the terror?" And while it is to some extent, it is really a genre that requires you have characters that the reader is invested in or else, it all falls apart.
[Also, I wonder if we yelled out loud at the same scene in HORNS.]
You can read his full essay below. I know that all of you will understand the way he talks about the appeal of the genre no matter what your favorite genre is. I really think Glenn's essay will help you to help your horror readers better because he is speaking our RA language here. Who knew he knew us so well.
But first, my quick mini review of Land of Bones. From Goodreads:
Demon lights, granted wishes, strange things, and brutal love at the Lucky Lounge Motel. A haunted sister, desperate parents, a little human touch, and the end of the world…
These are the stories whispered among dead leaves, the script etched bare for all to see. When the chills sink deep and your heart begins to pound…are you alone?
Welcome to Glenn Rolfe’s LAND OF BONESAppeal: These are all stories with the theme of loss but all different types of loss. Also the ways Rolfe explores the theme through the lens of the horror genre runs the gamut from supernatural horror to straight out gore with everything in between. Literally, everything.
In terms of library patrons, what I like about this collection is that is showcases a great writer AND the breadth of the genre-- all the different ways "horror" is explored today. Readers can try all of the stories, or skip around. They also range in length from flash fiction to novella. This collection is a crowd pleaser.
Highlights for me were the twisted fairy tale "Little Bunny," the thought provoking "Fire," the weird and extremely compelling "Simon," and "The Fixer," which is a story you think you've read before- the trope of the guy who will give whatever you need if you just ask, but of course it has a terrible price-- yet Rolfe put his own twist on it.
Three Words That Describe This Book: loss, character centered, full range of scares
Readalikes: See Glenn's favorites listed below.
Rolfe is an author who gets better with each book. Find a way to add his stories to your library collections.
And now, why Glenn Rolfe loves horror...
“Why I Love Horror”
By Glenn Rolfe
I was seventeen when a buddy of mine lent me a copy of THE DARK HALF. Prior to that, my only horror-related reading was the BUNNICULA series when I was a kid. After reading King, this new dark world was opened to me and I knew I needed more. Since then, I’ve been devouring novels by writers like Anne Rice, Richard Laymon, Bentley Little, Jack Ketchum, Ronald Malfi, Brian Moreland, and many more.
I read horror, because I love characters. You can say, “Well, that’s in any book of any genre,” and you’d be correct, but horror has something the rest of the genres do not: no limits and no boundaries. A horror story, a good horror story, can have it all. We can have mystery, drama, tragedy, romance, science fiction, religion, history, and we can do it all while also getting to scare the bejesus out of you. And whether I’m reading or writing these stories, I love that.
As a writer, it is liberating. We can take our little shop of horrors with us anywhere we go in our minds. I can write a budding romance, or small-town mystery. I can write about an alien residue that seduces humans before turning them into a kidnapping task force. Was an American soldier in Vietnam with a new bride and a baby on the way back home bitten by a werewolf prior to being sent on his first tour? Imagine the horrors!
There can be creatures from a black lagoon, a blue moon, or the fiery red rivers of hell, but none of its going to matter if you don’t have the key ingredient: people. Horror stories, no matter the monster, are only as good as the characters we put in them. I don’t care how unique or cute your creature is, if I can’t get invested in the characters in the story, it’s not going to work. You’ll find that the writers that truly care about their art put forth at least twice as much effort creating the people in their stories. People for you and I to latch onto. People for us to care about. That way when the horror comes in, we are truly afraid for our new friends. We are invested.
I mean, who doesn’t like a good book that has you yelling out loud at the characters? Those are some of the best reading moments. There was one scene in Joe Hill’s HORNS that had me yelling from the backseat of my mother in law’s van. Luckily, she’s an avid reader and understood that I wasn’t really losing my mind. But that’s the power of a good story. It compels us to read on, to shout, to hope, and to be concerned for our friends. There are people like you and me in great peril, and that pulls us in even deeper.
People like us.
When I write, there are always pieces of my life scattered throughout my stories. It’s my way of making these characters into real people. And it’s not always easy. Art is a very personal and sometimes painful thing. And when we’re done, we then turn and share those scars and memories with the rest of the world. How much you’re willing to open up and just how much blood you’re willing to lay on that page is up to you, but I find the deeper I dig, the more real my characters become. Thus, the more effective the horror becomes.
For me, my favorite book achieves most of my above checklist. That book is Stephen King’s second novel, ‘SALEM’S LOT. You’ve a small town mystery, a spooky house on a hill, with a budding romance (Ben and Susan are two of my favorite characters ever), some religious themes, plenty of drama and tragedy, and not to mention vampires. Put it all together with a cast of very strong characters and who knows what little pieces of the man they refer to as uncle Stevie, and you ‘ve got yourself a top-notch horror classic. Speaking of which, this week, I’ll be diving back into King’s masterpiece for the fifth time.
Give me a whole lot of heart, some anguish, a dash of hope, and fear I can taste. I’ll read it every time.
That’s why I love horror.