11.10.2009

Anti-Intellectualism in Horror?

The Internet Review of Science Fiction has a new column called Dead Air. In the first two installments of what I hope will remain a fixture at IROSF, Nicholas Kaufman tackles the notion that an air of anti-intellectualism pervades the horror field. His article is based, in part, on an interview with Jack Haringa.

The discussion treads into both the scope of horror production (scant, since its publishing high tide in the '80s) and the tropes that have marked the field in recent years (namely, paranormal romance and the zombie craze).

I understand Haringa's angst and I agree with a lot of Kaufman's analysis. I mean, as a fan of the genre I can only communicate the impact that quality reads like Peter Straub's Ghost Story and Stephen King's Salem's Lot had on me. Here were novels of literary merit--novels that stood among the best of the work done by the world's best wordsmiths--that tackled larger issues than things that go bump in the night. I didn't get into them for their popularity (these are two of the best sellers of an era), but for their quality and subtlety.

I like mundane horror. I like quiet horror. I'm more interested in the shuttered house at the end of the street than the drooling madmen that exist all too realistically in this, the age of the twenty-four-hour news cycle. I'd much prefer a story like C.P. Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" to the schlock you can find posted up on the latest Friday the 13th fanzine. That said, I do think that the attitude about horror that exists right now in mainstream publishing (I base this on talks with my agent, reading industry news online, chatting with other writers in the genre) is one geared toward either creature features or paranormal romance.

Yeah, the Twilight thing has had a bit of a shift on what the larger presses have been doing in terms of how they purchase and market "horror," I think. Is that anti-intellectualism? I'm just a horror writer, so I'm too stoopid to answer that right now, but maybe...just maybe, Haringa and Kaufman have a point there.

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