Horror and Monsters

All too often, you stumble across horror readers (and writers, bloggers, film makers and other creatives) who are too quick to tell you what is and what is not horror. Woe betide you if you inadvertently refer to a book, film, song or image as horror if it does not fall within their own personal definitions. They’ll quickly take you task and (usually from behind the safety of their keyboard) give you a bit of a (verbal) shoeing.

Of course, it’s the typical blinkered bullshit which exists in every genre (and, indeed, in every walk of life) and for me it is a good thing as it swiftly identifies people I truly cannot be arsed communicating with.

‘Call this horror?’ they snipe. ‘Stephen King / Dean Koontz / Clive Barker / Insert Name of On-Trend Horror Writer Here wouldn’t wipe their arse with this.’

In truth, I don’t mind if anyone wipes their arse with my work. If that’s what they feel they need to do, or if they’ve forgotten to stock up on bog roll, please feel free to wipe your arse with anything I’ve written … unless it’s an e-book. That might not be a smart move. Anyway, I digress…

One man’s horror is another man’s mild irritation. I have a friend who is petrified of cotton wool. Really. They’d rather have nails hammered into their feet than watch a drunk man eat cotton wool balls (okay, I only did it once but it was very funny watching them gag). They even walk around the supermarket to avoid the shelves with cotton wool products. They’ll sit through countless virgins being impaled or college kids being hacked up with circular saws, but put a wall of cotton wall between a character and their salvation, and my friend would be in a panic.

Not horror? It depends on what horrifies you.

One of the themes I tend to use in my horror stories is organised religion. It’s not the belief in some deity, nor adherence to texts and laws which emanate from some unsubstantiated source, which interest me. If people want to believe in some spiritual entity, fill your boots. It’s not for me. However, over the years organised religion has had plenty of dark periods, and there’s an on-going thread of horror running through their behaviour.

Organised religions of all flavours have vilified and demonised people, both believers and non-believers, and destroyed their lives, broken up families, forced people to leave their communities, and created more mental illnesses than drink, drugs and fornication ever could. They’ve tortured and murdered those who disagree with them in the most horrendous ways, and even invented crimes such as witchery to justify inflicting the most sadistic punishments on those who – for some nefarious reason – they didn’t like or trust.

Despite this, it’s not unusual for people to tell me The Devil’s Hairball isn’t a horror book. Interestingly, if I push them to explain what they mean, the answers vary by a huge degree. To be horror, they inform me, it requires supernatural elements, or monsters, or terror and fear to be increasingly heaped upon the characters, or some other bullshit which they have decided is a critical element of horror.

Of course, them dictating their believes as absolute truths is the same as the core ‘my way or the fires of hell’ dogma preached by the corrupt in organised religion. Odd that, isn’t it?

It’s true that horror has some well-established tropes, but it’s also true there are a growing throng of writers, film-makers and artists looking at new and exciting directions for the genre. If some people want to cling on to worlds inhabited by vampires, werewolves, zombies and malicious clowns, good luck to them. However, to criticise and harangue bloggers, reviewers, writers, artists and consumers because their idea of horror doesn’t exactly match up to yours simply marks you out as a fuckwad.


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