Topic: Where's the horror?

(I originally posted this on a writing forum but wanted to get your thoughts)

So the other day I pick up an anthology that’s titled something like “Best new horror of 2009.”

The cover has a dark gargoyle/demon/angel thing on a ledge looking scary and promising me I’ll find scary in the book.

The first two stories I read were not horror. This is a problem I find too much.

One was about a school reunion that had some odd but definitely not scary doppelgangers in it. Just because Poe did a story involving Dopps doesn’t mean you can throw them in any story and its horror.

The next story involved a little girl pressured by her parents into donning a zombie costume that resembles her dead grandfather and then encouraged to get it on with her grandmother. Now just having a “zombie costume” does not make it horror. This story tried to be disturbing at least. But it tired through incest and child abuse which doesn’t inspire horror in me, more like anger.

Both of these stories were well written and the little bio at the beginning of each showed the writers had a long list of credentials. I think it was those credits that got the stories in and not the stories themselves.

Let me get to the point of this rant:

A lot of times especially with the short story, pieces get labeled horror just because they have a dark element, or a traditional monster (vampire, werewolf, etc..) This doesn’t make them horror stories. We get these stories all over the book shelf mislabeled and all due to either great writing and or the writer’s name. To me “genre” more so then any other type of fiction must have story in equal amounts to the good writing, if not more so. And that story needs to attempt to be “Spine-chilling, or blood-curdling” like the cover says.

Maybe I am just a boy in a man’s body chasing in vain those first feelings of delightful fright I felt when I was child staying up late to watch the midnight movie. But when someone says you can’t write scary for adults who know the real horrors of the world, I call BS. I want creaking doors, I want bloody disembodied heads, I want sounds coming from the cellar, and I am a reader with money to spend at the book store and or Amazon.
Any thoughts?

Re: Where's the horror?

Well, if you're into zombies, try, "The New Dead." Probably not too much that's going to truly scare you, but there's plenty of gore and mayhem. There's even a little horror-comedy. The gem of the book is Jonathan Maberry's, "Family Business." A truly awesome story. The book is worth the money for that story alone.

Anyway, that's just my .02

Re: Where's the horror?

The girl-dressing up sounds more like Psycho or something of which Alfred Hitchcock would do.

Re: Where's the horror?

Here’s the book that inspired the rant … 021929.jpg

sucks except for 1 or 2 ok stories.

Last edited by swollenguy (2011-03-08 15:57:08)

Re: Where's the horror?

Horror is a fickle thing among different people.  What scares me may or may not scare you.  Action, romance, horror- pretty much everyone can agree if they fall into their genre (now if they're good, well that's a different can of monkey worms). 

My mom freaks at spiders.  Vampy is scared of moths, of all things.  Snakes freak me out.  Same goes with horror.  Some people are freaked by a Jason type killer- no emotion or reason.  Some are scared by an intelligent, malevolent killer, ala 'Saw'.  Supernatural stuff scares some people.  And this is discounting the entire paranoid crowd (tin foil hats, alien abductions, etc).

Of course, there can be overlaps among they types of scary and people.  I don't have the time to read the book right now, but it could be that those authors did get by on previous works.  Or the editor(s) were moved by those stories you mentioned. 

Summary- eye of the beholder.

Re: Where's the horror?

I usually walk away liking only one or two stories in every anthology I read.  Not sure why -- I guess it's just a matter of personal taste.  Those BEST NEW HORROR anthologies are some of the worst offendors for me.

Just my opinion, of course.  Who am I to judge, when I've never had any stories appear in anything labeled "BEST OF".  wink

Re: Where's the horror?

JN and AZ, Yeah usually anthologies are a smorgasbord and you’re not going to find one that pleases all tastes with every story.  But sometimes you find one like the one I mentioned above that anyone would be hard pressed to find a trace of horror in 95% of the book.
Taste aside I think horror needs to at the very least (and I am leaving a lot of room here) give a mild sense that something negative happened to someone. The doppelganger story in that book didn’t even do that.

Re: Where's the horror?

Not having read it, I'll take your word on it.  You do have a point where sometimes, something is just not scary.  Speaking of which, if you read Dean Koontz, don't both with his Frankenstein series.  The idea(s) behind could be spooky, but I have a feeling he's just doing these books just for a paycheck.

Re: Where's the horror?

Swollen...I totally know what you mean.  I could take your exact complaint and apply it to movies though.  Non horror movies being considered horror.  Very irritating.  I have had it happen a couple times with books too.

Re: Where's the horror?

Ghostseeker wrote:

Swollen...I totally know what you mean.  I could take your exact complaint and apply it to movies though.  Non horror movies being considered horror.  Very irritating.  I have had it happen a couple times with books too.

I think lovers of this genre (more than any other) spend more time wading through the poop to find the hidden gem’s.