Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Is It Horror? Dark Fantasy? Urban Fantasy?

Seems that some stories cannot be labeled with a simple tag as clearly cut as other stories. What I call horror someone else will call dark fantasy, but where is the dividing line? I suppose a horrific story without supernatural elements could be classified as straight horror, whereas the same story with an element of the supernatural could be classified as dark fantasy. Some people use those very classifications (I recall someone referring to Stephen King's non-supernatural stories as his only horror stories--everything else being labeled Dark fantasy--which is ridiculous), but that doesn't sit well with me. Not at all. King's Pet Sematary is a horror story. Bentley Little's The House is horror. To label dark supernatural stories as dark fantasy would be to put all ghost stories under that label,
which would pretty much be a crime by my standards.

I've been wary of labels, however, to a certain degree, I like them. My issue is that micro-labeling the genres becomes confusing. This is something seen heavily in music. You have rap, hip-hop, gangsta rap, crunk, freestyle, yadda yadda. On the other hand you have heavy metal, groove metal, grindcore, nu metal, black metal, death metal, yadda yadda yabba dabba doo. It's just too goddamned much, and I wonder if the world of speculative fiction is on its way to having so many ridiculous labels. In trying to find out exactly what slipstream is, I ran across a website that defines a number of spec-fic labels, one of which was "paranormal". I've heard of paranormal romance (a label I'm perfectly comfortable with considering that I have absolutely no interest in that type of fiction), but I had never considered that a "paranormal" story was worthy of a category all its own. For me, that's cutting the deck to thin.

So that brings me to my own books. I've always called them horror, though in a blurb for my novel THROUGH THE IN BETWEEN, HELL AWAITS, Daniel I. Russel calls the novel "...a fat slice of urban horror." When I read that I thought, "Yeah, that sounds about right. I kinda like that." And the more I thought about it the more I realized that HELL AWAITS could be just as easily classified a dark fantasy as it could a horror story, perhaps even an urban fantasy, though a considerable hunk of the story takes place in an unearthly realm. It certainly starts out as an urban fantasy. Or perhaps a dark urban fantasy.

Take my second novel PEOPLE OF THE ETHEREAL REALM. It's a horror story, maybe even a ghost story, or perhaps it could be classified as a paranormal story. Well now, let's hold on a second. Let's think this through. It's a very urban story, much more so that HELL AWAITS, so maybe it could be labeled a dark paranormal urban horror story.

I have a love-hate relationship with labels. They're necessary, but can be over examined. I certainly
wish my local Barnes & Noble would do a little more categorizing, maybe bring back the damn horror section. Buuuut, that's another rant for another blog.

On a final note, the two novels above can be purchased from all major online retailers. I've noticed quite a jump in visitors to this blog from all around the world, so, in addition to the amazon links embedded above, here is a link to my books on smashwords, where you can find formats for a variety of e-readers including kobo and Sony. Why not give them a read and let me know how you would categorize 'em.

-- Robert

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