Saturday, January 18, 2014

Why I Like Horror

In a recent email exchange, a friend expressed surprise that Horror is one of my favorite genres in fiction. Here's how I explained why:

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I have an odd fascination with archetypal good vs. evil (or, God vs. Satan) stories. I guess it's because, even though I don't really believe in good and evil in the Biblical or religious sense, others' unwavering belief in them seems like the primary driving force behind most human behavior and societal frameworks. Whether you're talking about education, politics, law, economics, or even entertainment, notions of what's good and what's evil are in there somewhere.

I don't go for ALL Horror, though. For example, I was never a fan of the zombie sub-genre and I can't wait for that trend to peter out. I don't find stories where it's basically a bunch of people running/fighting for their lives against some destructive horde very interesting.

The kind of Horror I'm drawn to is the sort where the stakes aren't just about saving one life, or even thousands of lives, but saving the souls of all of mankind. It's a very rich literary vein, dating all the way back to Dante's Inferno.

Horror can be tremendously inventive (see Neil Gaiman's American Gods, for example: it's a sort of fantasy/horror hybrid) without getting too sprawling (like traditional Fantasy or Sci Fi often does), and there's a lot of catharsis in it. Seeing one guy, or an unlikely team, defeat evil-with-a-capital-E definitely keeps my experiences with internet trolls, red-tape-loving government workers and rude drivers in perspective.

Also, what character could possibly be more interesting, or relatable, than Satan? According to the Bible's version of events, he was (and still is) an angel. He was banished for mutiny, essentially. He thought it was unfair of God to place mortal man above the angels, it was ultimately a fight for angelic civil rights. How many of our worldly political revolutions and wars have been built on similar foundations? To me, any Horror that traces its roots back to that first big Biblical throwdown has a lot of built-in depth, whether the creators of the piece intended it or not.

So I'm a sucker for archetypal good vs. evil stories (Constantine, The Ninth Gate, The Exorcist, The Shining, The Stand, etc.) and vampire stories, because vampires are considered to be no less "fallen" than Satan.

I don't write in the Horror genre because I don't think I have the right sensibilities or skills for it. But I'm very glad that others do.

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