Strangely, I’ve never been a huge fan of horror stories. Some are good, some are bad, but it’s never been a genre that I went out of my way to read. Of course, I’ve read a lot of Stephen King’s works and found his stories to be entertaining and well read. It is a great book and I loved The Stand. Thing is, though, while they were all good books I didn’t find any of them particularly scary. I mean scary in the way that tingles run up and down your spine for hours after you’ve read them.
I’d like to say I’m immune to being scared but Poltergeist still freaks me out lo these many years later. When I first saw it I was nervous for weeks and I still have a thing about clowns. But, let’s be frank here, clowns are kind of freaky as Too Much Joy taught us back in the 90s.
Aside from Poltergeist and a handful of other movies, I just don’t find a lot of horror movies to be all that horrifying. Maybe it’s because my mom let me watch Alien when I was 9 and it burned out any fear receptors I might have had.
Why the discussion of horror movies in a post titled Genres? Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. I’ve had Henchmen and Arise set up freebies on Amazon over the past couple of days and both of them crawled into the top 10 in Horror:Occult. I swear, I didn’t set out to write a horror story. I honestly thought I was writing action/adventure. So, I stopped and pondered it while I was grilling burgers tonight and wondered how either of those books would be considered horror. Sure, the government captured a god who could control people with his shadows, there’s a monster guarding a secret installation, one of the protagonists is a Valkyrie, you’ve got guys who can flick in and out of reality, and a guy that just won’t die.
So, okay, there are some elements that you could consider horror-related, and those are just in Henchmen. Arise ramps it up a bit further. Still, it never dawned on me that I was writing a horror story. I started out writing a story about a supervillain (Eve) and her henchmen (the rest of the folks). I wanted to ground them a bit more in reality rather than having people running around in tights. Once I placed a Valkyrie on the page, the rest just kind of flowed into place.
I’m going to digress for a moment, but I’ll do my best to wrap it all back together again shortly.
One of the earlier horror stories I read was Lovecraft’s The Statement of Randolph Carter. It’s one of the few Lovecraft stories that has stuck with me over the years. The story is pretty short and straightforward and recounts the death of Harley Warren. In the story, Warren and Carter find a temple in the middle of a swamp and crack it open. Inside they find a set of stairs descending into darkness. For some reason Warren – armed only with a lantern and a length of telephone wire – decides to see where the stair go.
Climbing down the stair of a mysterious temple armed with a flashlight is the literary equivalent of this cartoon:
In case you hadn’t guessed Warren finds a mysterious underworld filled with horrible marvels and meets his untimely demise at the hands of something really bad.
I always thought that it would be interesting to see what would happen if someone faced down the nameless horrors that twist reality and was actually somewhat prepared for it. It covered this to a certain degree; but what if the horrors met a horror of their own. That seemed to me to a pretty good idea. Thus was born the action and the horror of Henchmen and Arise. Start out with the idea that there are monsters out there and put together some characters that can face them down, mix in a bit of gun play, and shake gently.
So, there you go. Accidental genre-bending fiction. Or is it genre-defying fiction?