Sunday, April 10, 2011

The State of Horror

It seems like everyone is talking about the state of horror fiction lately; trends, and which direction the genre is moving in.  So I thought I would write some of my views for what they're worth.

I have been an avid fan of the macabre for as long as I can remember.  Looking back, I suppose it was the emotional reaction that drew me into horror's embrace.  As a youth films that aren't supposed to be scary like Ghostbusters and Beetlejuice scared the hell out of me.  It was the strange and unnatural I suppose, but it now seems foolish that those films once instilled fear within me.  I was but a child.  As a young teen I watched everything from Hellraiser to Night of the Living Dead to A Nightmare on Elm Street.  There are scary parts in these films, but I was more attracted to the horror, and it snowballed when I discovered Stephen King and HP Lovecraft.

Once I began reading horror it was over.  I never looked at entertainment the same.  There's so much to offer in a book, worlds that are far more vivid and interesting that that of a film, and the possibilities are endless.  Just so long as the writing is good and the ideas are fresh, right? Sure.

As any avid reader, I have read a shit-load of crap (pardon the pun), but with that comes works of absolute brilliance, which makes all the shoveling of the crap well worth it.  Now we live in the age of the Internet, e-readers and POD (print-on-demand) publishing, which allows any old shmo to self publish their book and promote it all over blogs, forums, facebook, twitter, myspace, and who knows what other avenues.  Maybe one in several hundred of these self published books are gems.  Maybe not.  Point is, I for one don't want to waste my time reading self published drivel to get to the good book that should have been picked up by a small press publisher at the very least.  I don't see self publishing going anywhere soon, because authors who cannot find a break or those who are writing absolute garbage will take the easy road and self publish, though most if not all of them will later realize what an error that was being that the success rate of self published authors is very low.  There are some out there who have signed major book deals, but they are far and few between.

As for the small press scene, I think it will grow, primarily due to technology, i.e. POD publishing, e-readers, etc.  This is a good thing, though an overabundance of small press publishers can easily lead to unqualified people publishing books without any know-how and pushing poor quality books for the sake of making a buck.  This hurts authors and the industry, but it is a fact of life and a very good reason we as authors should do our research before querying a publisher.

As for the major publishers, they are going nowhere, for the most part, but I have to assume they will stay "safe" and publish books that either ride the latest trend (sparkling vampires, anyone; zombies) or emulate the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz.  Maybe enough buzz will be created with the small press to cause the big guys to take a chance on some brilliant new authors who write quality horror that stretches the bounds, but I'm not holding my breath.  Some of us will make it to that New York publisher and see our names on the cover of hardback books in a brick and mortar bookstores, but more of us wont, and that's just the reality of it.

Now, what about trends?  Where are they going?  Well, it's safe to say that emotional vampires have been a trend and it can't go away too soon, in my opinion.  Zombies seem to be a trend that has been slowly rising (from the grave!), though I fear what will become of the zombies when they become emotional and, God forbid, sparkly.  At my local book store over the past holiday season I was stunned at how many zombie parody books were available at the counters as I walked in the store.  There was nothing serious containing zombies, but there sure were a lot of humorous books and children's books featuring the undead.  Take that how you like, but we're one step away from zombies in a love triangle, and I'm afraid of where that will lead.

What I see as a trend in the small press is ultra violent and erotic horror.  I'm all for the ultra violent as long as it's a good story and not a senseless gore fest, but I have to say the erotic element that seems to be rearing it's head in horror is something that I don't enjoy reading.  It does seem like a trend, though, and I can't do anything about that.  There are a lot of extreme horror anthologies that have come out in the past couple of years, and many more on the way, and, unfortunately, extreme means genital mutilation and sexual deviance to far too many horror authors.  I suppose there's a market for this, but I'm sad to see so much of it.

What I want to see: well written tales filled with dreadful mood and atmosphere that thrill and scare and aren't afraid to shed some blood.  Fortunately, there's a lot of this out there, and that makes me happy.  Where the next decade will take us, only time will tell.

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