Horror fiction is, broadly, fiction in any medium intended to scare, unsettle or horrify the reader. Historically, the cause of the "horror" experience has often been the intrusion of an evil, or occasionally misunderstood, supernatural element into everyday human experience. Since the 1960s, any work of fiction with a morbid, gruesome, surreal, exceptionally suspenseful or frightening theme has come to be called "horror." Horror fiction often overlaps with science fiction and/or fantasy, all of which have sometimes been placed under the umbrella category speculative fiction. See also supernatural fiction.
Early horror fiction
Fictional characters have found themselves in horrifying situations from the earliest recorded tales. Many myths and legends feature scenarios and archetypes used by later horror writers. Tales collected by the Grimm Brothers are often quite horrific.
Modern horror fiction found its roots in the gothic novels that exploded into popularity in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, typified by Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho and Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto. A variation on the Gothic formula that remains one of the most enduring and imitated horror works is Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's novel Frankenstein (1818, revised version 1831). Frankenstein has also been considered science fiction or a philosophical novel by some literary historians. Later gothic horror descendants included seminal late 19th century works like Bram Stoker's Dracula and Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. Early horror works used mood and subtlety to deliver an eerie and otherworldly flavor, but usually eschewed extensive explicit violence.
Other early exponents of the horror form number such luminaries as H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, who were considered to be masters of the art. Among the writers of classic English ghost stories, M.R. James is often cited as the finest. His stories avoid shock effects and often involve an Oxford antiquarian as their hero. Algernon Blackwood's The Willows and Oliver Onions's The Beckoning Fair One have been called the best ghost stories. Lovecraft and Sheridan le Fanu called some of their writing weird fiction or weird stories.
Some stories in highbrow literature could arguably be regarded as horror fiction: examples include Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung) and In the Penal Colony (In der Strafkolonie).
Contemporary horror fiction
Modern practitioners of the genre have often resorted to progressively greater extremes of violence, often recalling grand guignol theatre. (See splatterpunk) This has given horror fiction a stigma as base entertainment devoid of literary merit. Other writers, such as Ramsey Campbell and Thomas Ligotti, are cited as rejecting such violence in favor of more subtle, psychological writing.
Nevertheless, contemporary writers such as Clive Barker in The Books of Blood and Stephen King in his more considered works, such as Misery, are capable of bringing off the horror effect without the excessive violence that characterises much of the current mainstream of this genre.
The rise of the Internet has allowed horror authors and fans to create new subsets of the genre. Numerous Web-based fanzines and podcasts have provided a market for both amateur and professional writers, which is unfettered by the tastes and judgments of the professional publishing houses.
- Horror Reader, blog and podcast dedicated to horror fiction
- "Monsters in film" Details of cinematic monsters
- "Supernatural Horror in Literature" essay by H. P. Lovecraft on horror fiction antecendents
- The Harrow horror zine
- International Horror Guild Awards
- Most Honored Horror Books at Book Award Annals
- Carnival of Wicked Writers
- The Modern Monster or The Dismantlement of Old Monster Archetypes
- Storytellers Unplugged: 30 Horror novelists combine to create one interesting blog
Original Wiki source: Wikipedia