Horror is a genre of speculative fiction which is intended to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle its readers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Literary historian J. A. Cuddon defined the horror story as "a piece of fiction in prose of variable length... which shocks, or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing". It creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere. Horror is frequently supernatural, though it can be non-supernatural. Often the central menace of a work of horror fiction can be interpreted as a metaphor for the larger fears of a society.
The horror genre has ancient origins with roots in folklore and religious traditions, focusing on death, the afterlife, evil, the demonic and the principle of the thing embodied in the person. These were manifested in stories of beings such as witches, vampires, werewolves and ghosts. European horror fiction became established through works by the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Romans. The well-known 19th century novel about Frankenstein was greatly influenced by the story of Hippolytus, where Asclepius revives him from death. Euripides wrote plays based on the story, Hippolytos Kalyptomenos and Hippolytus. Plutarch's "The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans: Cimon describes the spirit of a murderer, Damon, who himself was murdered in a bathhouse in Chaeronea.
Pliny the Younger tells the tale of Athenodorus Cananites who bought a haunted house in Athens. Athenodorus was cautious since the house was inexpensive. While writing a book on philosophy, he was visited by a spectre bound in chains. The figure disappeared in the courtyard; the following day, the magistrates dug it up to find an unmarked grave.
The earliest recording of an official accusation of Satanism by the Church took place in Toulouse in AD 1022 against a couple of clerics. Werewolf stories were popular in medieval French literature. One of Marie de France's twelve lais is a werewolf story titled "Bisclavret".
Much horror fiction derives from the cruellest personages of the 15th century. Dracula can be traced to the Prince of Wallachia Vlad III whose alleged war crimes were published in German pamphlets. A 1499 pamphlet published by Markus Ayrer is most notable for its woodcut imagery. The alleged serial killer spree of Giles de Rais have been seen as the inspiration for "Bluebeard". The motif of the vampiress is most notably derived from the real life noblewoman and murderess, Elizabeth Bathory, and helped usher in the emergence of horror fiction in the 18th century, such as through László Turóczi's 1729 book Tragica Historia.
The 18th century saw the gradual development of Romanticism and the Gothic horror genre. It drew on the written and material heritage of the Late Middle Ages, finding its form with Horace Walpole's seminal and controversial 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto. In fact, the first edition was published disguised as an actual medieval romance from Italy, discovered and republished by a fictitious translator. Once revealed as modern, many found it anachronistic, reactionary, or simply in poor taste — but it proved immediately popular. Otranto inspired Vathek (1786) by William Beckford, A Sicilian Romance (1790), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and The Italian (1796) by Ann Radcliffe and The Monk (1797) by Matthew Lewis. A significant amount of horror fiction of this era was written by women and marketed towards a female audience, a typical scenario being a resourceful female menaced in a gloomy castle.
The Gothic tradition blossomed into the genre modern readers call horror literature in the 19th century. Influential works and characters that continue resonating in fiction and film today saw their genesis in the Brothers Grimm's "Hänsel und Gretel" (1812), Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820), Jane C. Loudon's "The Mummy!: Or a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century" (1827), Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831), Thomas Peckett Prest's Varney the Vampire (1847), Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (1850), the works of Edgar Allan Poe, the works of Sheridan Le Fanu, Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man (1897), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). Each of these works created an enduring icon of horror seen in later re-imaginings on the page, stage and screen.
A proliferation of cheap periodicals around turn of the century led to a boom in horror writing. For example, Gaston Leroux serialized his Le Fantôme de l'Opéra before it was a novel in 1910. One writer who specialized in horror fiction for mainstream pulps such as All-Story Magazine was Tod Robbins, whose fiction deals with themes of madness and cruelty. Later, specialist publications emerged to give horror writers an outlet, prominent among them Weird Tales and Unknown Worlds.
Influential horror writers of the early 20th century made inroads in these mediums. Particularly, the venerated horror author H. P. Lovecraft, and his enduring Cthulhu Mythos pioneered the genre of cosmic horror, and M. R. James is credited with redefining the ghost story in that era.
The serial murderer became a recurring theme. Yellow journalism and sensationalism of various murderers, such as Jack the Ripper, and lesser so, Carl Panzram, Fritz Haarman, and Albert Fish, all perpetuated this phenomenon. The trend continued in the postwar era, partly renewed after the murders committed by Ed Gein. In 1959, Robert Bloch, inspired by the murders, wrote Psycho. The crimes committed in 1969 by the Manson family influenced the slasher theme in horror fiction of the 1970s. In 1981, Thomas Harris wrote Red Dragon, introducing Dr. Hannibal Lecter. In 1988, the sequel to that novel, The Silence of the Lambs, was published.
Early cinema was inspired by many aspects of horror literature, and started a strong tradition of horror films and subgenres that continues to this day. Up until the graphic depictions of violence and gore on the screen commonly associated with 1960s and 1970s slasher films and splatter films, comic books such as those published by EC Comics (most notably Tales From The Crypt) in the 1950s satisfied readers' quests for horror imagery that the silver screen could not provide. This imagery made these comics controversial, and as a consequence they were frequently censored.
The modern zombie tale dealing with the motif of the living dead harks back to works including H.P. Lovecraft's stories "Cool Air" (1925), "In The Vault" (1926), and "The Outsider" (1926), and Dennis Wheatley's "Strange Conflict" (1941). Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend (1954) influenced an entire genre of apocalyptic zombie fiction emblematised by the films of George A. Romero.
One of the best-known late-20th century horror writers is Stephen King, known for Carrie, The Shining, It, Misery and several dozen other novels and about 200 short stories. Beginning in the 1970s, King's stories have attracted a large audience, for which he was awarded by the U.S. National Book Foundation in 2003. Other popular horror authors of the period included Anne Rice, Brian Lumley, James Herbert, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, and Peter Straub.
Best-selling book series of contemporary times exist in genres related to horror fiction, such as the werewolf fiction urban fantasy Kitty Norville books by Carrie Vaughn (2005 onward). Horror elements continue to expand outside the genre. The alternate history of more traditional historical horror in Dan Simmons's 2007 novel The Terror sits on bookstore shelves next to genre mash ups such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009) and historical fantasy and horror comics such as Hellblazer (1993 onward) and Mike Mignola's Hellboy (1993 onward). Horror also serves as one of the central genres in more complex modern works such as Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves (2000), a finalist for the National Book Award. There are many horror novels for teens, such as The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey (2009).
One of the defining traits of the genre of horror is that it provokes a response; emotional, psychological or physical, within readers that causes them to react with fear. One of H.P. Lovecraft's most famous quotes about the genre is that: "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." the first sentence from his seminal essay, "Supernatural Horror in Literature".
In her essay "Elements of Aversion", Elizabeth Barrette articulates the need by some for horror tales in a modern world:
The old "fight or flight" reaction of our evolutionary heritage once played a major role in the life of every human. Our ancestors lived and died by it. Then someone invented the fascinating game of civilization, and things began to calm down. Development pushed wilderness back from settled lands. War, crime, and other forms of social violence came with civilization and humans started preying on each other, but by and large daily life calmed down. We began to feel restless, to feel something missing: the excitement of living on the edge, the tension between hunter and hunted. So we told each other stories through the long, dark nights...when the fires burned low, we did our best to scare the daylights out of each other. The rush of adrenaline feels good. Our hearts pound, our breath quickens, and we can imagine ourselves on the edge. Yet we also appreciate the insightful aspects of horror. Sometimes a story intends to shock and disgust, but the best horror intends to rattle our cages and shake us out of our complacency. It makes us think, forces us to confront ideas we might rather ignore, and challenges preconceptions of all kinds. Horror reminds us that the world is not always as safe as it seems, which exercises our mental muscles and reminds us to keep a little healthy caution close at hand.
In a sense similar to the reason a person seeks out the controlled thrill of a roller coaster, readers in the modern era seek out feelings of horror and terror to feel a sense of excitement. However, she adds that horror fiction is one of the few mediums where readers seek out a form of art that forces themselves to confront ideas and images they "might rather ignore ... [to challenge] preconceptions of all kinds."
One can see the confrontation of ideas readers and characters would "rather ignore" throughout literature, in famous moments such as Hamlet's musings about the skull of Yorick and its implications of the mortality of humanity and the gruesome end that bodies inevitably come to. In horror fiction, the confrontation with the gruesome is often a metaphor for the problems facing the current generation of the author.
Stephanie Demetrakopoulos illustrates a common interpretation of one of the benchmarks of the canon of horror literature. Tina Broussard in an annotated bibliography of Dracula surmises Demetrakopoulos' thesis:
This scholarly journal article explores sexuality in Dracula, including overtones of sexuality in the typical aggressive male and female sexuality which is either reflective of the chaste woman or the sexually aggressive female vampire. Demetrakopoulos suggests Dracula was an outlet for Victorian society, breaking through sexual norms with symbolic group orgies, male desire for sexually aggressive women, denial of motherhood, etc. She highlights ways in which the females defy gender boundaries by embodying masculine traits such as intelligence.
It is a now commonly accepted viewpoint that the horror elements of Dracula's portrayal of vampirism are metaphors for sexuality in a repressed Victorian era. But this is merely one of many interpretations of the metaphor of Dracula. Judith Halberstam postulates many of these in her essay Technologies of Monstrosity: Bram Stoker's Dracula. She writes:
[The] image of dusty and unused gold, coins from many nations and old unworn jewels, immediately connects Dracula to the old money of a corrupt class, to a kind of piracy of nations and to the worst excesses of the aristocracy.
Halberstram articulates a view of Dracula as manifesting the growing perception of the aristocracy as an evil and outdated notion to be defeated. The depiction of a multinational band of protagonists using the latest technologies (such as a telegraph) to quickly share, collate, and act upon new information is what leads to the destruction of the Vampire. This is one of many interpretations of the metaphor of only one central figure of the canon of horror fiction, as over a dozen possible metaphors are referenced in the analysis, from the religious to the anti-semitic.
In addition to those essays and articles shown above, scholarship on horror fiction is almost as old as horror fiction itself. In 1826, the gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe published an essay distinguishing two elements of horror fiction, "terror" and "horror." Whereas terror is a feeling of dread that takes place before an event happens, horror is a feeling of revulsion or disgust after an event has happened. Radcliffe describes terror as that which "expands the soul and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life," whereas horror is described as that which "freezes and nearly annihilates them."
Modern scholarship on horror fiction draws upon a range of sources. In their historical studies of the gothic novel, both Devandra Varma and S.L. Varnado make reference to the theologian Rudolf Otto, whose concept of the "numinous" was originally used to describe religious experience.
Achievements in horror fiction are recognized by numerous awards. The Horror Writer's Association presents the Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement, named in honor of Bram Stoker, author of the seminal horror novel Dracula. The Australian Horror Writers Association presents annual Australian Shadows Awards. The International Horror Guild Award was presented annually to works of horror and dark fantasy from 1995 to 2008. The Shirley Jackson Awards are literary awards for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror and the dark fantastic works. Other important awards for horror literature are as subcategories included within general awards for fantasy and science fiction in such awards as the Aurealis Award.
Some writers of fiction normally classified as "horror" nevertheless dislike the term, considering it too lurid. They instead use the terms dark fantasy or Gothic fantasy for supernatural horror, or "psychological thriller" for non-supernatural horror.
Stephen King, brand-name writer, master of the horror story and e-book pioneer, has received an unexpected literary honor: a National Book Award for lifetime achievement.
"A Reminiscence of Dr. Samuel Johnson" is a short story written in 1917 by American horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft. It was first published in the September 1917 issue of the United Amateur, under the pseudonym Humphrey Littlewit, Esq.
The story is a spoof of Lovecraft's antiquarian affectations. Littlewit, the narrator, is born August 20, 1690–200 years to the day before Lovecraft's birthdate—making him nearly 228 years old as he writes a memoir.
Critic Daniel Harms writes, "While not one of the most inspired of his pieces, it at least
shows that HPL realized his pretensions... of being an older, cultured
gentleman of an earlier era, and could make fun of himself."Bloody Disgusting
Bloody Disgusting is an American horror genre website covering horror films, video games, comics, and music, especially known for producing the V/H/S trilogy of anthology horror films.Dark fantasy
Dark fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy literary, artistic, and cinematic works that incorporate darker and frightening themes of fantasy. It also often combines fantasy with elements of horror or has a gloomy, dark (or grimdark) atmosphere, or a sense of horror and dread.A strict definition for dark fantasy is difficult to pin down. Gertrude Barrows Bennett has been called "the woman who invented dark fantasy". Both Charles L. Grant and Karl Edward Wagner are credited with having coined the term "dark fantasy"—although both authors were describing different styles of fiction. Brian Stableford argues "dark fantasy" can be usefully defined as subgenre of stories that attempt to "incorporate elements of horror fiction" into the standard formulae of fantasy stories. Stableford also suggests that supernatural horror set primarily in the real world is a form of "contemporary fantasy", whereas supernatural horror set partly or wholly in "secondary worlds" should be described as "dark fantasy".Additionally, other authors, critics, and publishers have adopted dark fantasy to describe various other works. However, these stories rarely share universal similarities beyond supernatural occurrences and a dark, often brooding, tone. As a result, dark fantasy cannot be solidly connected to a defining set of tropes. The term itself may refer collectively to tales that are either horror-based or fantasy-based.
Some writers also use "dark fantasy" (or "Gothic fantasy") as an alternative description to "horror", because they feel the latter term is too lurid or vivid.Dark romanticism
Dark Romanticism is a literary subgenre of Romanticism, reflecting popular fascination with the irrational, the demonic and the grotesque. Often conflated with Gothicism, it has shadowed the euphoric Romantic movement ever since its 18th-century beginnings. Edgar Allan Poe is often celebrated as one of the supreme exponents of the tradition.Diablero
Diablero is a Mexican television web series produced by Morena Films for Netflix. The series is based on the book by Mexican writer Francisco Haghenbeck entitled El Diablo me obligó. The series premiered on 21 December 2018. The series was renewed for a second season on February 1, 2019.Divya Drishti
Divya Drishti is an Indian television series, which premiered on 23 February 2019. It airs on Star Plus and streams on Hotstar. Produced under Fireworks Productions, it stars Nyra Banerjee and Sana Sayyad.Dread Central
Dread Central is an American website founded in 2006 that is dedicated to horror news, interviews, and reviews. It covers horror films, comics, novels, and toys. Dread Central has won the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award for Best Website four times and was selected as AMC's Site of the Week in 2008.Horror and terror
The distinction between horror and terror is a standard literary and psychological concept applied especially to Gothic and horror fiction. Terror is usually described as the feeling of dread and anticipation that precedes the horrifying experience. By contrast, horror is the feeling of revulsion that usually follows a frightening sight, sound, or otherwise experience.
Horror has also been defined by Noel Carroll as a combination of terror and revulsion.Horror fiction magazine
A horror fiction magazine is a magazine that publishes primarily horror fiction with the main purpose of frightening the reader. Horror magazines can be in print, on the internet, or both.Japanese horror
Japanese horror is Japanese horror fiction in popular culture, noted for its unique thematic and conventional treatment of the horror genre in light of western treatments. Japanese horror tends to focus on psychological horror and tension building (suspense), and supernatural horror, particularly involving ghosts (yūrei) and poltergeists, while many contain themes of folk religion such as: possession, exorcism, shamanism, precognition, and yōkai.LGBT themes in horror fiction
LGBT themes in horror fiction, also known as queer horror, refers to sexuality in horror fiction that can often focus on LGBT characters and themes. It may deal with characters who are coded as or who are openly LGBT, or it may deal with themes or plots that are specific to homosexual people. Depending on when it was made, it may contain open statements of sexuality, same-sex sexual imagery, same-sex love or affection or simply a sensibility that has special meaning to LGBT people.List of horror fiction writers
This is a list of some (not all) notable writers in the horror fiction genre.
Note that some writers listed below have also written in other genres, especially fantasy and science fiction.List of horror television programs
The following is a list of horror television programs. Programs are listed in chronological order.Psychological horror
Psychological horror is a subgenre of horror and psychological fiction that relies on mental, emotional and psychological states to frighten, disturb, or unsettle readers, viewers, or players. The subgenre frequently overlaps with the related subgenre of psychological thriller, and it often uses mystery elements and characters with unstable, unreliable, or disturbed psychological states to enhance the suspense, drama, action, and paranoia of the setting and plot and to provide an overall unpleasant, unsettling, or distressing atmosphere.Splatterpunk
Splatterpunk was a movement within horror fiction in the 1980s, distinguished by its graphic, often gory, depiction of violence, countercultural alignment and "hyperintensive horror with no limits." The term was coined in 1986 by David J. Schow at the Twelfth World Fantasy Convention in Providence, Rhode Island. Splatterpunk is regarded as a revolt against the "traditional, meekly suggestive horror story".
Splatterpunk has been defined as a "literary genre characterised by graphically described scenes of an extremely gory nature."Michael Shea's short fiction "The Autopsy" (1975) has been described as a "proto-splatterpunk" story.Splatterpunk provoked considerable controversy among horror writers. Robert Bloch criticised the movement, stating "there is a distinction to be made between that which inspires terror and that which inspires nausea". William F. Nolan and Charles L. Grant also censured the movement. However, critics R.S. Hadji and Philip Nutman praised the movement, the latter stating splatterpunk was a "survivalist" literature that "reflects the moral chaos of our times".Though the term gained some prominence in the 1980s and 1990s, and, as a movement, attracted a cult following, the term "splatterpunk" has since been replaced by other synonymous terms for the genre. The last major commercial endeavor aimed at the Splatterpunk audience was 1995's Splatterpunks II: Over the Edge, an anthology of short stories which also included essays on horror cinema and an interview with Anton LaVey. By 1998, one commentator was stating that interest in splatterpunk was declining, noting such interest "seemed to have reached a peak" in the mid-1990s. The term is still sometimes used for horror with a strong gruesome element, such as Philip Nutman's novel Cities of Night.Writers known for writing in this genre include Clive Barker, Poppy Z. Brite, Jack Ketchum, Richard Laymon, J. F. Gonzalez, Joe Lansdale, Brian Keene, Monica J. O'Rourke, Matt Shaw, Bryan Smith, Richard Christian Matheson, Robert McCammon, Shane McKenzie, Wrath James White, David J. Schow
(described as "the father of splatterpunk" by Richard Christian Matheson), John Skipp, Craig Spector, Edward Lee, and Michael Boatman. Some commentators also
regard Kathe Koja as a splatterpunk writer.Supernatural Horror in Literature
"Supernatural Horror in Literature" is a long essay by American writer H. P. Lovecraft, surveying the topic of horror fiction. It was written between November 1925 and May 1927 and revised during 1933–1934. It was first published in 1927 in the one-issue magazine The Recluse. More recently, it was included in the collection Dagon and Other Macabre Tales (1965).
Lovecraft examines the beginnings of weird fiction in the gothic novel (relying greatly on Edith Birkhead's 1921 survey The Tale of Terror) and traces its development through such writers as Ambrose Bierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe (who merits his own chapter). Lovecraft names as the four "modern masters" of horror: Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, M. R. James, and Arthur Machen.
An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia terms the work "HPL's most significant literary essay and one of the finest historical analyses of horror literature." Upon reading the essay, M. R. James proclaimed Lovecraft's style "most offensive". However,
Edmund Wilson, who was not an admirer of Lovecraft's fiction, praised the essay as a "really able piece of
work...he had read comprehensively in this field—he was strong on the Gothic novelists—and
writes about it with much intelligence". David G. Hartwell has called "Supernatural Horror in Literature", "the most important essay on horror literature".The Beast in the Cave
"The Beast in the Cave" is a short story by American horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft. The first draft was written in the Spring of 1904, with the final draft finished in April 1905, when Lovecraft was fourteen.
It was first published in the June 1918 issue of the amateur press journal The Vagrant.The Transition of Juan Romero
"The Transition of Juan Romero" is a short story by American horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft, written on September 16, 1919, and first published in the 1944 Arkham House volume Marginalia.Weird fiction
Weird fiction is a subgenre of speculative fiction originating in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. John Clute defines weird fiction as a "Term used loosely to describe Fantasy, Supernatural Fiction and Horror tales embodying transgressive material". China Miéville defines weird fiction thus: "Weird Fiction is usually, roughly, conceived of as a rather breathless and generically slippery macabre fiction, a dark fantastic ("horror" plus "fantasy") often featuring nontraditional alien monsters (thus plus "science fiction")." Discussing the "Old Weird Fiction" published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock says, "Old Weird fiction utilises elements of horror, science fiction and fantasy to showcase the impotence and insignificance of human beings within a much larger universe populated by often malign powers and forces that greatly exceed the human capacities to understand or control them." Weird fiction either eschews or radically reinterprets ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and other traditional antagonists of supernatural horror fiction. Weird fiction is sometimes symbolised by the tentacle, a limb-type absent from most of the monsters of European folklore and gothic fiction, but often attached to the monstrous creatures created by weird fiction writers such as William Hope Hodgson, M. R. James, and H. P. Lovecraft. Weird fiction often attempts to inspire awe as well as fear in response to its fictional creations, causing
commentators like Miéville to say that weird fiction evokes a sense of the numinous. Although "weird fiction" has been chiefly used as a historical description for works through the 1930s, the term has also been increasingly used since the 1980s, sometimes to describe slipstream fiction that blends horror, fantasy, and science fiction.
Speculative fiction portal