I am lucky enough to be in a group called TESSpecFic, a group of speculative writers, and we are the writers of weird. We are also the writers of horror, dark fantasy, and many other genres.
Our leader and group creator, Marie Loughlin, suggested we tackle the question, what is horror, and how does it differ from dark fantasy?
Oh, the delicious idea of horror, and oh, the dark and twisted and avenues we can meander down. There are many categories and subtle sub-categories of horror to explore--but I am going to reduce them to two.
For some, horror is very direct, shocking, and gory:
A group of unsuspecting and vulnerable teens is chainsawed, hung on meat hooks and destroyed...
Kidnapped victims are forced to run through razor wire, remove their own eyes, or cut off their limbs...
If there are no blood and guts, some do not consider it to be "true" horror. The fluff and psychological inferences do not fly as anything but boring. This faction of people likes nothing left to the imagination. They live for the cringe factor--the more in-your-face, the better. Zombies eating intestines, werewolves ripping throats, serial killers dismembering, and psychopaths torturing fit neatly into this category.
For others, horror is a subtle and divine head-trip. Not always as direct, and sometimes teetering on the verge of another category, this horror can be reminiscent of those fuzzy-vague nights of our teens...exciting, thrilling, heart-pumping, yearning, and sometimes terrifying.
A dismantling of reality is slowly replaced with a growing realization of madness...
A boy commits suicide by shooting himself in the head, and his surviving brother is given the horrible weapon as a birthday present by his parents...
When something is seductive and beautiful, we cannot help but look at it. When that something is slowly torn down, ruined, changed, and broken--we are riveted. When our inner voices morph and we question what is sane and what is madness, we ponder our own sanity, and we need to know more. When we watch a villain suffer and we feel a tingle of joy, we question our morals and we question our decency.
Whether you like subtle or in your face horror the need and satisfaction is all the same--we experience things we could never experience otherwise, revenge, murder, suicide, torture, sadism, masochism, cannibalism and a host of other treats from the safety of a theater, our living room couch, or our favorite chair as we read a book in the dark.
Fantasy is a category of writing where medieval myths and concepts are the main focus. I think it could be easy for a dark fantasy book to cross the line into the horror-zone simply because of the direction of the story. For instance, a queen kidnapped and tortured in a very Hostel-like environment would still, in my opinion, be considered dark fantasy and not horror because of the medieval premise.
But I am also a believer in sub-sub-sub categories that cannot be found on Amazon.
For example, where does possession fit? Is it horror? A memoir? Occult?
So dark fantasy should have more branches below it on the flow chart. Horror fantasy, black comedy, dark memoirs, and non-fiction occult are a few categories I would love to see added to our genre choices.
I also think that all genres can bleed into almost any other genre, no pun intended--and I don't want to take the magic out of the topic by dissecting (sorry) it too much.
Please visit the other members of TESSpecFic and read their views of horror.
* http://jonathandallen.com/ What is horror? Baby Don't Hurt Me...
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Monday, May 14, 2012
Horror--Pick Your Pleasure
Posted by Penelope Crowe at 4:58 PM
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I can buy into those two categories, Penelope. And I think you nailed my frustration with, "...I don't want to take the magic out of the topic by dissecting it too much." I think a lot authors resent having to put a narrow label on their work or, even worse, having to write to a restrictive set of parameters for a subgenre. Still, I don't know a way around it, if you want to find readers.ReplyDelete
It is so true Marie!ReplyDelete
We are only allowed to choose 2 on Amazon, and I found that utterly annoying.
And I agree we have to put it somewhere--but not everything fits neatly.
This was really neat and great fun--thought provoking in a way I did not imagine at first.
Folks like to pigeonhole art, which simply can't be done, for pity's sake. I suppose, for a place like Amazon, where you're forced to split yourself into two genres like Solomon gone mad, you have to make really good use of tags to make your stuff sort of available to those experimental readers who'd be happy to give your stuff a read, if only they could find it! :-)ReplyDelete
Some Dark Romantic
Solomon fone mad--love it!ReplyDelete
Mina you always have such a neat way of putting things--so imagy and accurate, too.
Amazon should have an experimental readers section!
What a great idea!!
I think there would surely be a great of people, myself included, who would love to look there just for the novelty and variety factor.
Mina--let's start this! Viva le Revolution led by Mina! (love your name by the way--son't know if I ever told you..)
Should be Solomon GONE mad and a GROUP of people.ReplyDelete
I need to sloooow down....
This is a lovely post, Pen.ReplyDelete
In passing, you mention the aspect of taking vicarious pleasure from seeing evil punished, and how that makes us wonder if there might not, possibly, be a monstrous evil harbored in our own heart. That sense of dichotomy, of dark possibility is probably a large part of horror's appeal.
I think that what we call genre bleed is really the inevitable flow of creativity. The creative powers can't be bottled, boxed, or shoved into one particular label. Tendrils poke out here, snake around there and before you know it you have cross-overs and things that give literary agents fits because, "How can I sell this!?"
Marie is right that we have to give labels to help readers find our work. This is especially true in the electronic market, where there is no chance of someone just wandering by a book on a table and feeling compelled to pick it up. Yet the labels are themselves a confining artifice. Language has long been lamented for its shortcomings: a word can never contain the essence of the thing it describes. Yet without words, we have no chance of bridging the gap between us, or crossing time to communicate to those who come long after us.
I guess I'll stick with using words, but still help campaign for that Experimental Readers section on Amazon!
I wish you would invite me to your club. It sounds lovely.ReplyDelete
Hi Miss Red :)ReplyDelete
I sent you a DM.
Looks like you guys had a BALL at Disney--i was jealous--it is one of my favorite places.
I took an art class in animation--it was the best--learned how to draw Jack Skellington.
I almost fainted--Tim Burton is a fave.
"For others, horror is a subtle and divine head-trip. Not always as direct, and sometimes teetering on the verge of another category, this horror can be reminiscent of those fuzzy-vague nights of our teens...exciting, thrilling, heart-pumping, yearning, and sometimes terrifying."- I loved this.ReplyDelete
And while I've loved the first definition of leaving nothing to the imagination (cinematically, it's what I grew up on), I find I appreciate this definition more when it comes to my reading and my own horror writing.
And sub-sub-sub genres? Sweet Moses. Perhaps for readers' sake, we should just bump some of these up to their own genres, eh? :)
Great way to wrap up the topic.
Paul D. Dail
www.pauldail.com- A horror writer's not necessarily horrific blog
They deserve their own genres.
It was a bit of an exaggeration on my part, because I really don't think we need to go crazy here...slasher romance and sci-fi steampunk need to fit somewhere though...
I like the more subtle too as a general rule. But I will never turn down a good old fashioned zombie romp.
Great post Penelope!ReplyDelete
Again you have given another element of Horror that gives one food for thought.
I especially loved: "When something is seductive and beautiful, we cannot help but look at it. When that something is slowly torn down, ruined, changed, and broken--we are riveted. When our inner voices morph and we question what is sane and what is madness, we ponder our own sanity, and we need to know more. When we watch a villain suffer and we feel a tingle of joy, we question our morals and we question our decency." So true!
I also agree with you that a lot of genres tend to "bleed" into each other which is when it is difficult to pinpoint the exact genre.
Thanks for rounding out the discussion!
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