I’m a member of the Books of Horror Facebook page. They are mostly a good crowd of modern readers, but I have been feeling alienated. Out of touch with the new trends. There is so much talk of grossout fiction. People crave disgusting, perverted, vomit-inducing horror stories.
I’m not pointing fingers. How can I?
I’ve been a horror fan all my life. The initial attraction for me was the possibilities horror presented to my young mind. Movies and stories offered hope for life after death, for more than the tedious world I saw before me.
I embraced the slasher movies that came in the early ’80s. These mostly lowbrow productions helped me grasp the fragility of life and to accept the inevitability of death.
My early horror reading consisted of writers like Charles Grant, Ramsey Campbell, F. Paul Wilson, and of course Stephen King and Peter Straub. The stories they wrote were largely literary in nature, and while there was a lot of violence, most of the writing was devoted to character, plot, place, and mood.
Then came the Splatterpunks. These guys — Skipp, Spector, Schow, Garton, Collins, etc. — shook the pillars of the genre. There was violence and shock such as never seen before, but the books by these fine writers were a lot more than just explicit situations. There was metaphor, and reflections of the human condition, along with plain old good storytelling. As well as a hearty up yours to the older generations.
I was one of the original gorehounds. Give me some Fulci, Deodato, Argento, De Ossorio , or Franco and I was happy.
I read a lot of the extreme fiction of the ’90s. Edward Lee was laying the groundwork for new depths ahead. I was an early Necro Publications (RIP Dave Barnett) customer and I got single-digit numbered copies of Header, The Bighead, and Goon.
For me it never got better than Poppy Z. Brite’s Exquisite Corpse. This literate yet horrifyingly disturbing novel set the standard for extreme horror. I’ve yet to see any other writer top it.
Somehow over the years I began to change. I began to feel repulsed by the idea of fiction as ipecac. I no longer wished to be nauseated by horror.
I tried newer extreme writers, and mostly found them lacking in literary merit or entertainment value. Or maybe it’s just me.
The users at the Books of Horror page are mostly young readers. Young people usually want sensation. They like to break ground. And they want to go further than the previous generation before them. It’s no different than the way I was.
I’ll let them have their deviant fun, but I don’t think I’ll join in. I am currently reading Sarah Langan’s Good Neighbors, and this is the kind of thing that excites me these days. I’m damned excited for upcoming books from Grady Hendrix, Stephen King, Richard Chizmar, Tom Deady, Catriona Ward, Ronald Malfi, and F. Paul Wilson.
There’s room for all of it, and I’m just glad horror continues to flourish in today’s uncertain world.
Mark Sieber learned to love horror with Universal, Hammer, and AIP movies, a Scholastic edition of Poe’s Eight Tales of Terror, Sir Graves Ghastly Presents, The Twilight Zone, Shirley Jackson’s The Daemon Lover, The Night Stalker, and a hundred other dark influences. He came into his own in the great horror boom of the 1980’s, reading Charles L. Grant, F. Paul Wilson, Ray Russell, Skipp and Spector, David J. Schow, Stephen King, and countless others. Meanwhile he spent as many hours as possible at drive-in theaters, watching slasher sequels, horror comedies, monster movies, and every other imaginable type of exploitation movie. When the VHS revolution hit, he discovered the joys of Italian and other international horror gems. Trends come and go, but he still enjoys having the living crap scared out of him. Cemetery Dance recently released his collection He Who Types Between the Rows: A Decade of Horror Drive-In. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and at www.horrordrive-in.com.