"What happened to horror?"
I’ve been asked this question in various forms innumerable times over the last decade or so and I’m not sure that there is one decisive answer. But as a former bookstore manager, published author, and longtime book reviewer, I do have some thoughts on the subject.
It was a dismal failure. King, Koontz, and Straub continued to sell well but the increased exposure did nothing for the other releases. After a few months, I ended up merging Horror back in with Fiction. My conclusion? Readers who are fanatically into bestselling authors like King and Koontz aren’t necessarily into horror, per se. There was an undeniable stigma associated with reading horror back in those days. The perception at the time was that horror was largely literary bloodbaths, excessively gruesome works fixated on humankind’s most visceral elements. So much so that over the years, I began to see new horror releases losing the “horror” tag on their spines – publishers and publicists began promoting new releases as dark fantasy or horror fiction or just plain fiction. Anything but horror!
What happened to horror? It evolved – and is continuing to evolve – and the crème de la crème has become genre transcendent. Horror, for me at least, isn’t so much a category anymore as it is a narrative attitude. For those of you who think horror is dead or that it has lost its creepy, bladder-loosening edge, you're just not not looking in the right spots!
(FYI: Mark June 5, 2012, on your calendars – that is the day that Laird Barron's first novel, The Croning, comes out. After reading his first two short story collections The Imago Sequence and Other Stories and Occultation and Other Stories, I called him "Horror’s New Messiah." The guy is that good and I'm guessing that in 2012, he is going to become a household name...)
But that's next year. Here are my favorite look-under-the-bed-before-I-go-to-sleep releases of 2011…
• Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman
• Every Shallow Cut by Tom Piccirilli
• The Pumpkin Man by John Everson
• The White Devil by Justin Evans
• 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz
• Smite The Damned by Zack Kullis
• The Marbled Swarm by Dennis Cooper
• Belieber! by Cathleen Falsani
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
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