So-called “genre” fiction has had, since its inception, an issue with defining itself. Even the word itself is vague, coming from the same root as the less-flattering description “generic”. It implies a mass of different types, clustered together haphazardly and cowering beneath the monolithic purity of the much more proper literary fiction.
I used to avoid “funny” ghost stories. Humour seemed at odds with the effect I sought from reading about the supernatural. It dispelled the atmosphere, leaving the stories, and the reader, disenchanted. Later on, I learned that horror could be funny, and that funny things can be horrific.
Taken at face value it’s difficult to describe Richard Stanley’s adaptation of Lovecraft’s The Colour Out Of Space as a good film. The cast grind their way through a frankly abysmal screenplay and, although both Joely Richardson and Madeleine Arthur manage to tease out excellent performances, Nicolas Cage appears to cosplay Nicolas Cage.
From the moment the giant, snarling werewolf emerges from the floor, you can see where From Software’s Bloodborne takes its inspiration.
Julia Armfield’s short story collection salt slow opens with “Mantis”, a story about a teenage girl whose body is changing. But unlike her peers’, her body is changing in a more unexpected, more monstrous way.
Because I’m a woman who loves horror, people always ask me who my favourite women horror writers are, and I’m a little ashamed to admit I don’t always have the best response. Beyond the obvious choices like Mary Shelley or Shirley Jackson, sometimes it’s hard to come up with a comprehensive list when your bookshelf is made up of 90% white men.
Religion and horror on their own, separate terms can be deeply moving, if not outright life-changing. When the two intersect, something new, poignant and powerful emerges. Author Matt Cardin, who has his PhD in leadership and a master’s in religious studies, recently published theological horror fiction collection To Rouse Leviathan, and he understands the importance and beauty of this intersection better than most.
The past decade has seen a spike in meta-horror, particularly in film. Tucker & Dale vs Evil, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and The Cabin in the Woods all bring a comedic self-referential vibe to a genre known for its tropes. But what about books? Below, find a list of some of the best in meta-horror literature. From classics to contemporary fiction, there is something to haunt everyone. But be warned, reading this list may have consequences…
In the convention program book for the 1983 World Fantasy Convention, Stephen King wrote: “What [Robert] Bloch did with such novels as The Deadbeat, The Scarf, Firebug, Psycho, and The Couch was to rediscover the suspense novel and reinvent the antihero as first discovered by James Cain.” A screenwriter and novelist of German Jewish descent from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Bloch was the youngest member of The Lovecraft Circle, or the writers who followed H. P. Lovecraft and published their short fiction in Weird Tales, a pulp horror outlet that circulated through the Great Depression. But Bloch is probably best remembered for his novel Psycho that served as the basis for one of the most iconic horror films of the 1960s. While Bloch was hardly the first to lend a psychological perspective to the horror novel (a feat that many initially attribute to Edgar Allan Poe, but can also arguably be found in Gothic and speculative literature since its inception), his unique true-crime slant to storytelling set the tone for both speculative fiction and psychological horror for the latter half of the twentieth century.
Helen Marshall is a World Fantasy Award-winning author. She has previously published two short story collections, Hair Side, Flesh Side and Gifts for the One Who Comes After, as well as two collections of poetry. The Migration is her first novel and it deftly combines horror, fantasy, and science fiction to tell an imaginative post-apocalyptic story. I spoke to Marshall about her new book, its themes and influences, the state of weird fiction, as well as her work as a creative writing teacher.