The World is degenerating today; bribery and corruption abound, children no longer obey their parents, every man wants to write a book, and it is obvious the end of the world is fast approaching"
- Assyrian Tablet circa 2800BCE
I spend a lot of time talking with people about horror fiction. I've been a working editor for years now and I love my job and the horror community as a whole. So it's frustrating for me that not a year goes by without someone, somewhere declaring with great authority and conviction that once-and-for-all -- "Horror is Dead".
Each year some new film or book flops onto the scene that supposedly nails the coffin shut on what is said to be a failing and unappreciated subgenre. Without proof or provocation anyone can utter these three inflammatory words to instantly spice up any review or quasi-literary conversation.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if other genres were given the same treatment. What if there were articles that decreed: 'Romance - The Honeymoon is Over!' or 'Action: Don't Do it.' What if we reach our quota of bad SNL spin-off movies and comedy altogether is declared socially irrelevant?
Perhaps it's just an easy shot, to make a pun about horror being 'dead'. Maybe it just comes with the territory. But, to me, horror fiction will always be about storytelling at its best and in many instances most primal form. The word 'horror' itself elicits emotion in a way few other words can. And horror fiction is writing that can move you in ways other stories cannot. It is writing that can leave you sleeping with the lights on.
I would imagine the first tales of early man were horror stories; full of teeth and claws and the thrill of the hunt. Almost every mythological set of tales have horrific elements that are enough to turn your brain to mashed potatoes. In fact, if you really want to break it down for content, The Bible is the best selling horror hardcover and paperback of all times. I'd imagine something by Stephen King would probably be a very close second.
So how can something so ingrained in our humanity and in every culture on the planet be rendered obsolete simply because of the most recent Hollywood horror remake or teenage drama with sparkly vampires? The short answer - It can't be.
I am here to assure you horror fiction is alive and well.
I know this because I read through hundreds and hundreds of short story submissions at +Cutting Block Press+ to choose the absolute best for our anthologies. I've also been working in-depth with authors on their full-length horror manuscripts for The Editorial Department. I can promise you that people are still writing horror fiction. In fact, I know authors who make a living doing it. Being a horror author is like anything else, if you're good at it and work your ass off, you'll succeed on some level. I can make you a list of people who are doing that right now.
The best advice I could give any author would be to have an uncompromising vision of your career trajectory, but retain a willingness to learn and improve your craft. Read as much as you write, and don't let anyone dictate what you should or shouldn't write about. If talent and worth was dependent upon popular opinion, some of the best art in the world would never have been created.
In the same year that the Academy Awards ceremony had a video montage salute to horror films, we also saw an 800 page vampire epic as one of the most popular books of the summer. "Dexter" and "True Blood" are tops on cable. NPR's summer book list was at least half horror based novels and collections this year. And this same year saw Neil Gaiman, one of the most popular authors of our time, attend The World Horror Convention in Brighton, England as an unannounced guest speaking to a record setting turn-out.
Horror is everywhere. If all the major network and Hollywood selections aren't to your liking, whole new worlds of options are available in small genre press and independent and foreign horror films. A lot of great authors and filmmakers are out there right under the surface. You just have to look.
I should know. I've spent the last ten years of my life working with some of the most talented authors in the business. I chose to work in horror because it's the genre that first made me feel passionate about writing and while it took a lot of sacrifice and devotion over the years, working with horror writers is what I aspired to do. Naturally, it's important to me that horror fiction not be sold short. Or killed off simply by word-of-mouth.
There will always be people who want to illicit a reaction and will go about crying that things are at their absolute worst and nothing is as great as it used to be. But, in this day and age we have more access to more media than any other generation ever did. People can get their books out there and movies made in ways that were impossible even ten years ago and still manage to do so with integrity, artistry, and style.
There is no reason you shouldn't write horror fiction if it's what you want to write. Take it from a guy who knows, horror fiction is far from dead. Horror will never die.