Guest Author - Chris Willis
As a horror writer and avid reader, I sometimes take a step back to see why I enjoy the subject so much. Is it the way things are written, or the characters which are chosen, or is it because I like to be frightened?
I think it is all of them. The imagination is a powerful tool, and horror impregnates our psyche with the ‘what-ifs’ of everyday life. When I think about my favour horror writers such as James Herbert, Graham Masterton and Stephen King, it is not their writing which touches me. It is their gardening.
Frankenstein is one of my favourite pieces of fiction and is timeless in nature. Today, the story deserves its own genre with the evolution of science fiction. It is not uncommon to classify a tale as a ‘Frankenstein story’, like H P Lovecraft’s “Re-animator”. Like many great horror stories, Frankenstein came from the place where the wild things grow.
It would be interesting to ask Mary Shelley what she thought of the Frankenstein revolution. The story is simple and spawned many more creations than the Frankenstein monster. In the realm of horror, it is disturbing to open the imagination to the wild things; to open Pandora’s Box and to see what happens (and, of course, how to get it back in!)
Horror is a raw emotion. It chills our bones and claws at the seat of our soul. I like to be scared. The mental cultivation of thought in horror is a broad one and many sub-genres have been born. I believe horror will continue to evolve, however, will always retain a slasher image in popular culture.
My personal horror favourites are those which bring the imagination to life. Books like Frankenstein and The Shining by Stephen King. Stories that are simple yet are written in a way which makes its reader sit up and think: what if?
What a burden life would be without the unknown. Without good horror writers and their wonderful ability to cultivate our imagination, I would have very little to do. I read horror because I want to be affected by the wild things; to be taken to a place which is scary and disturbing.
The word genre is French meaning ‘kind’ or ‘sort’. Is horror a genre? I think not. It is the product of emotion which, unlike the romance genre, is cultivated in another garden; in another speculative area of interest. Frankenstein is classified as horror, but it is science fiction. The concept of horror is to place people in situations, whether it is in the past, present, or future and to scare them. One can do this in any of the genres.
Many horror stories are not about the situations that people face, but the possible outcomes of those situations. Consider many books you have read: what keeps the pages turning? Is it the formation of characters, the places you want to go – or is it to see what happens next? Will Billy die at the hands of Ba’al? When will the dentist go mad?
My favourite novels can be described simply as planting thoughts in the garden where the wild things grow. The ideas are simple and they disturb me. Perhaps they disturb you, too.