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Reader's Advisory: Horror

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  • Fear and Loathing in your library
  • What is Horror? An intense, painful feeling of repugnance or fear. That which excites horror or dread, or is horrible, gloomy or dreary. A shuddering with terror and detestation; the feeling inspired by something frightful and shocking.
  • What is horror fiction? Broadly defined, a story intended to scare, unsettle or horrify the reader. On the most basic level horror fiction contains a monster, whether it be supernatural, human or a metaphor for the psychological torment of a guilt-ridden human.
  • A guided nightmare ride that can shock, educate, illuminate, threaten, shriek, and whisper before it lets the readers loose. - Robert McCammon
  • Horror is not a genre like mystery or science fiction or the western. It is not a kind of fiction meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion. Douglas Winter, Prime Evil
  • Did You Know? Horror is one of the most pervasive literary types. Elements of horror can be found in almost every genre: romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, even westerns. Not considered a separate genre until about 1985 when the beginnings of the Horror Writers Association was formed.
  • Appeal Factors Provokes a emotional/physical response in the reader. Allows a safe exploration of The Dark Side. Encourages escape from everyday reality. Validates a belief in supernatural. Provides a place to face our fears.
  • Some Early Milestones 1764 The Castle of Otranto Horace Walpole 1798 Wieland, or the Transformation C. B. Brown 1818 Frankenstein Mary Shelly 1835 Berenice Edgar Allen Poe 1847 Barney the Vampire A penny dreadful 1847 Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte 1851 The House of the Seven Gables N. Hawthorne 1872 Carmilla Sheridan Le Fanu 1891 The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde 1897 Dracula Bram Stoker 1908 The House on the Borderland W. H. Hodgson
  • Topics and Themes Ghosts & Haunted Scientific & Medical Houses Horror Mythological Evil Psychological Demonic Horror Possession Mind Control Witches & Warlocks Small Town Horror & Black Magic Dark Fantasy Vampires Splatterpunk Werewolves Detective Horror Mummies, zombies, Comic Horror and golems Classics
  • Ghosts and Haunted Houses Most often involves tales of buried guilt. Ghost or haunted house is usually a portent to the guilty party or even to someone innocent. Examples: The Turn of the Screw The Haunting of Hill House The Shining Nazareth Hill Mammoth Book of Haunted House Stories
  • Mythological Evil Often based on monsters from religion or mythology. Monster derives from the Latin monstere, to show. Often involves divine warnings about consequences of human action. This type of evil often threatens entire populations. Examples: The Shadow Out of Time Lovecraft The Servant of the Bones Rice The Descent Jeff Long Phantoms Koontz The Oath Frank Peretti
  • Possession, Witches, Black Magic Innocents possessed by demons or even Satan. Witches and Warlocks may or may not be evil. Pacts made with Dark Powers. Modern examples often involve Catholics in faith crisis. Examples: The Exorcist William Blatty Rosemarys Baby Ira Levin The Omen David Seltzer Dark Fall Dean Koontz The Bible Gospel of Mark A Ship Possessed Alton Gansky
  • Scientific & Medical Horror The fear of technology. The perils of scientific investigation. Close parallels with real life concerns. Examples: The Invisible Man H. G. Wells Toxin Robin Cook Demon Seed Dean Koontz Floating Dragon Peter Straub
  • Psychological Horror Horror with an explicable cause. Torment from mental illness, child abuse, etc. Questions the very nature of our world. Examples: Silence of the Lambs Psycho Robert Bloch Misery Stephen King Church of Dead Girls Stephen Dobyns Beasts Joyce Carol Oates A Graveyard for Lunatics Ray Bradbury
  • Mind Control Brainwashing, hypnosis, telekinesis. Based on our fears of being controlled by others. Often has outcasts with gifts going postal. Examples: Carrie Stephen King Firestarter Stephen King The Lecturers Tale James Hynes Dragon Tears Dean Koontz
  • Small Town Horror Isolated settings. Untouched by our civilized values. Where no one can hear you scream. Reminds us of our powerlessness and dependence on others. Examples: The Stepford Wives Ira Levin Desperation Stephen King The Hungry Moon Ramsey Campbell Unhallowed Ground Gillian White
  • Splatterpunk More a style of writing than a theme. Characterized by a grotesque decadence. Graphic sex and violence for their own sake. No reluctant monsters or anti-heroes. No taboos. Examples: Every Dead Thing John Connelly Ghoul Michael Slade American Psycho Brett Ellis
  • Detective Horror A detective investigating the supernatural Plot often secondary to the eerie background Examples: Legion William Peter Blatty Mystery Peter Straub Children of the End Mark Clements Primal Scream Michael Slade Whispers Dean Koontz
  • Comic Horror Laughing at our fears Comic characters Off-the-wall situations Ridiculous monsters Examples: Lunatic Caf Laura Hamilton American Gods Neil Gaiman Ticktock Dean Koontz
  • Short Story Collections Annual Anthologies The Years Best Horror Stories; Best New Horror: 10th Anniversary ed. General Anthologies Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural; A Touch of Chill: Tales for Sleepless Nights Theme Anthologies Penguin Book of Vampire Stories; Stories of the Walking Dead; Werewolf! Individual Authors The Darkest Part of the Woods by Ramsey Campbell; Duel: Terror Stories by Richard Matheson
  • Printed Resources Hooked on Horror: A Guide to Reading Interests in Horror Fiction. Libraries Unlimited, 2003. Horror Readers Advisory: The Librarians Guide to Vampires, Killer Tomatoes, and Haunted Houses. ALA, 2004 Horror: The 100 Best Books. Carroll & Graf, 1998. 2nd ed. (new edition forthcoming) Genreflecting: A Guide to Reading Interests in Genre Fiction. Libraries Unlimited, 2000.
  • Online Resources HCPL homepage Books Lists Novelist Harriet adult services Readers Advisory Tools For Adults Bram Stoker Awards. Horror Writers of America/Horror Writers Association (includes a link for librarians). www.horror.org International Horror Guild Award. www.ihg.org August Derleth Award (best novel). www.bristishfantasysociety.org.uk
  • Personal Picks An early A post- Mathesons For the YAs effort of apocalyptic 1954 novella Gaiman Siddons and battle about a lone opens the her only between mans last door into a venture into good and stand against creepy horror. A evil by a a plague of alternate Stephen modern vampires. reality. King favorite. master
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