Friday, October 31, 2014

Why Horror Literature?

Halloween Trick or Treat:  Part Two on Speculative Lit

In honor of Halloween, let’s discuss horror fiction--or dark fantasy as it now is often euphemistically called. Why does it continue to fascinate readers? Why do readers love what terrifies them? It appears that vampires never die. Zombies can be found in movie theatres, TV shows, commercials, books, and short stories. Programs like The Living Dead have higher ratings than ever before.

When people talk about horror fiction, they might let out an involuntary shudder. However, horror fiction isn’t just about the gruesome. It’s not only about such supernatural creations as: ghosts, goblins, ghouls, gremlins, etc. No, it’s really about what we fear, what we dread most, what strikes terror into our hearts and souls. These things may be ordinary, like a pit bull off the leash running toward us, or extraordinary, like meeting a vampire in a neighborhood bar at midnight. Our fears are both usual and unusual.

Horror fiction will not be going away any time soon because it is human nature to feel fear as an emotion. Horror fiction actually helps us handle these feelings, helps us cope with and confront our terrors, those within us and those in the environment around us. Writers like Stephen King and Dean Koontz have recognized this. They reach into their worst fears and nightmares to help us come to terms with our own. As we find ourselves in real life forced to face horrors like Ebola outbreaks and violent terrorist attacks, there is comfort in paranormal solutions.

In my co-authored novel, THE THIRD EYE: A PINE BARRENS MYSTERY, a boy and his mother, writing alternating viewpoint chapters, come to terms with their own greatest fears while solving several connected murders. The novel’s setting is real but eerie. Legends of the Jersey Devil still seem to fascinate. Fans of both mystery and horror relate to this novel.

THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER also has a paranormal, allegorical edge:

is a sensual Regency romance with elements of both horror and mystery.

Readers of GONE GIRL may enjoy THE BAD WIFE, a mystery suspense thriller with lots of plot twists that features a psychic sleuth.

Do you read horror literature? Why or why not? Do you have favorite authors that you would recommend to fellow readers? If you are a writer, do you write horror or paranormal lit? Tell us something about your most recent work in the genre. Comments welcome!


  1. Great post, Jacqueline. People like horror, I believe, because it increases their sense of security and safety. I liked your point about there being so many real, unescapable horrors in the world that horror literature gives us a sense of control - after all, we can simply close the book or turn off the movie. I write some horror, but mine is more psychological than physical. Both can be scary, though! Susan, sometimes known as Janis

    1. Hi, Susan,

      My horror tends to be psychological as well. I prefer subtle writing with a few twists in the tale.

  2. Great post, Jacqueline :) I used to read horror more than I do now...for some reason, at this time in my life, I'm trying things a little less horrific:);) Maybe it's all the "bad" that's going on, I don't know. But, I used to always rush for Stephen King's work:) I grew up reading him and Anne Rice religiously :)

    1. Hi, Loretta,

      To be honest, I read less horror fiction these days as well. I'm more into mystery and romance but often with a paranormal twist.

  3. Very good post, Jacquie. I seldom read horror--maybe because there is so much horror everyday in the news--ISIS beheading aide workers and journalists, for example. But I like psychological fiction--unhappy but "right" endings that both frighten and sadden me. Now and then I like magical realism in which a tragedy is told with black humor yet scares the heck out of one. Aristotle agrees with you, of course, by saying that we welcome a bad outcome as a sort of vindication. We're glad it happened to someone else--"not to me."

  4. Hi, Nancy,

    I like your reference to Aristotle. Of course, one can write horror fiction that has a happy ending as well as a bad one.

  5. Jacquie: I, too, write paranormal fiction. So many folks have had other-world experiences and the rest of us are wondering--"Could it happen to me?" Makes for a full reading audience, eh? Thanks for posting.

  6. Hi, Susan,

    Thanks for stopping by and for commenting. I love a bit of the paranormal mixed in with realistic fiction. Spices up the read.

  7. Enjoyed the post. I love Dean Koontz books. Good vs. Evil and always chilling, but usually have a happier ending. Good wins! Edgar Allan Poe is another favorite though more gloomy. Love Mary Shelley's Frankenstein also. What a great read.

    Hope your Halloween was frightfully good!

  8. Hi, Karen,

    All good choices! Good year round.

  9. Fascinating Jacquie!
    I also think there's that side to us that recognises the darkness within and which we hope our innate goodness will overcome.