little love for horror

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
#1
One thing I've noticed by looking at the greatest fantasy novels lists on this website is that there is very few horror novels on it. The only horror authors who seems to get much credit is Stephen King. I remember a little while back there was some discussion addressing the fact that people don't view horror under the same umbrella as fantasy. Unfortunately the lists on this website seem to perpetuate this ignorance. I haven't read much horror but I've seen other greatest fantasy novel lists that had plenty of horror novels on them... I read Summer of Night a few months ago and thought it was a great novel - certainly a lot better than a lot of the novels on the greatest fantasy novels list. It was chilling, terrifying, vivid, and there was plenty of sophisticated details on top of that. It did everything that a great horror novel should. But it was full of impossibilities therefor making it a fantasy novel. I doubt that all horror novels can technically be classified as a fantasy novel, but this topic certainly warrants some discussion. I would like to here all of your opinions about this subject.
 

Hand of Fear

Journeyed there and back again
#2
I tend to agree that horror is totally different to fantasy and should therefore be separate. The only crossover to me would be fantasy horror and the only book I have ever read that had this that I really enjoyed was a Ravenloft book called Vampire of the Mists by Christie Golden, there's probably better examples than that though.
 

Sneaky Burrito

Crazy Cat Lady
Staff member
#3
It's an interesting point. I can see both sides. There are some books with definite crossover appeal that people could miss with further categorization (e.g. separate sci fi/fantasy/horror/etc. sections). On the other hand, I hate all the vampire/werewolf/etc. novels that show up in the fantasy section of the bookstore and wish they could permanently be moved somewhere else so I don't have to look at them them. Similarly, I guess I can see why steampunk books end up in the sci fi/fantasy section, but I have no interest in those, either.

This is not to say that I think all vampire books are horror. Certainly not. Many of them are some flavor of "paranormal romance," and I am sure there are other classifications as well. Wouldn't want to generalize since I don't read them. All I'm trying to do is give an example of how a fan of one type of fantasy reacts when the fantasy umbrella expands to cover other types of books.

I think you're right, not all horror is fantasy. But if the only qualification is that something be full of impossibilities to be labeled "fantasy," I can think of plenty of mainstream fiction that fits the bill, as well. Including some that is neither fantasy nor horror.
 

Amaryllis

Journeyed there and back again
#4
I know I posted something about this in the Pseudo-Medieval Settings thread. It would obviously require some discernment, as not all horror (or fiction in general) with 'fantastic elements' necessarily qualifies as fantasy. It's really a case by case basis, but there IS a fair amount of horror (and fiction in general, though horror is closer by design) that could or does fit in fantasy, but is not considered it. I think the main point is to question why this is so. I've rarely been scared by any book, regardless of genre, so what is it, besides arbitrary categorization, that excludes some of these books (and authors) from cross-pollinating?

Clive Barker is a very good example. A good half of the material he puts out is 'out there' enough to be fantasy. For example, there's Imajica, which literally IS fantasy (and is, I believe, actually on at least one of the lists on this site), but still sits squarely in the horror section with no hints whatsoever about what it is you're picking up. But there's also Weaveworld, Cabal, the Abarat Quintet, both 'Books of the Art' (The Great and Secret Show, Everville), Mr. Maximillian Bacchus and his Traveling Circus, the Tortured Souls novella, and maybe even The Thief of Always. The guy is more of a fantasy writer than a fair number of the people you can find in the fantasy section, but the fact that he's into squicky, horrific imagery prevents him from being there for some reason (despite the fact that he is no more explicit than R. Scott Bakker, and may even be less).

H.P. Lovecraft, and in fact, all of the people associated with him. The only one considered fantasy is Robert E. Howard, because of Conan and Kull. Why is this? Lovecraft's work certainly wasn't scientific, and some of it (his 'dreamworld cycle') was more fantasy than most of today's fantasy. Because, I mean, seriously, dog mountains and a city ruled by cats and sky cities you get to by galloping off the edge of the earth. Same with Clark Ashton Smith (who as far as I'm concerned was a straight fantasy author with almost no hints of anything else). These guys all even had their own fantasy world, with its own functioning rules and pantheons.

These guys, and plenty of others, belong on some best of lists, but they aren't on them.
 

Sneaky Burrito

Crazy Cat Lady
Staff member
#5
As you say, some authors just get pigeonholed into one genre or another because they've had a string of successes in that genre. Doesn't make it right, of course. But I guess the marketing logic is that people are more likely to pick up a book by an author they know, and they're more likely to haunt particular sections of the bookstore (or categories on Amazon, if you prefer) over and over again. Not that I've been to B&N for awhile, but I don't stray too far outside of the fantasy/sci fi section. So if an author I like would be to suddenly write, I don't know, literary fiction or horror, I would have no idea, if it got stuck in a different section of the store. People (customers as well as booksellers) got comfortable with the categories along the way, and perhaps things haven't been updated to reflect the modern market for books (complete with e-books and Amazon). Clive Barker has a fan base already, and since bookstores/libraries/whatever don't have the room to put the same books in two sections, they stick him where they think people will find him. Of course, there's no reason that websites can't put a book in TWO categories, and there's no reason websites have to stick to the traditional bookstore categories. Except that many people have grown used to the "old way," and people tend to complain about change because that's just how people are.

Some people, like Daniel Abraham, use different names (James S.A. Corey) when they write in different genres. I'm not sure of his motivation for doing so, but I guess it's one way to avoid strict categorization. Of course, people could also do what J.K. Rowling did and become successful in children's/YA fantasy, then write a book using the same name, only for adults. That was different enough to get put in an entirely different section of the store, but there were a fair number of negative reviews for Casual Vacancy from fanboys (or fangirls) who were shocked at some of the content. No one's going to argue against the fact that she used her real, well-known name to promote sales of the book. It wouldn't have gotten nearly the attention with a different name on the cover. And Casual Vacancy was different enough (I assume, not having actually read it) from Harry Potter that there was not a lot of crossover appeal (other than among people who just generally read bestsellers without a lot of discrimination).

One thing the horror fans could always do is make and promote their own lists on the main site that mix horror (and/or fantasy by authors who get stuck in the "horror" category) and fantasy. A list that mixes better-known stuff (at least, better known to this crowd) with stuff you think doesn't get the attention it deserves, might make someone who's read some of the titles might be motivated to read the others. I know that, back before I started posting here, and before there were user-created lists, I bought a lot of books because the main site recommended them. I knew I liked, say, Erikson and Donaldson, so I tried some of Ben's other suggestions.
 

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
#6
Hm.... I see a lot of interesting points here. For the most part I agree. It needs to be kept in mind that both horror and fantasy are under the umbrella of speculative fiction so obviously overlap is unavoidable. But I think I have to agree to disagree. I see horror more as a writing style and less as a genre. The ultimate goal of horror is to scare people which some novels do very effectively while others don't, but does fantasy have a specific goal? Does Science Fiction? I don't think so. So it could be argued that horror is just a sub genre of fantasy.
 

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
#7
Personally I think they should just put horror in the same category with sci fi/fantasy in book stores. Recently I was at Barnes and Noble and noticed that Dan Simmons horror novels were separate from the fantasy/sci fi section which is understandable considering that he is a genre hopper and a very popular author, but I still think horror belongs in the fantasy/sci fi section. It doesn't matter whether or not horror is fantasy. It's all speculative and thus belongs together. I know different books stores categorize differently, but this was just my observation. How many horror fans do we have here anyway?
 

btkong

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#8
I agree that "horror" is a distinct genre and not really classed (usually) as fantasy. Yes, there IS crossover in the fact that "fantasy" generally deals with a universe in which magic is possible (but not always). Horror often, but not always, includes elements of the supernatural which make it easy to class it as a "fantasy work" (Think Koontz or King here with their myriad of supernatural or the uncanny packed into their books). However, horror includes other elements like suspense, atmosphere (sometimes gothic, sometimes not), and of course horror. The purpose of "horror" is to scare which is not necessary the same as "fantasy."

Of course there are all those distinct sub-genres of fantasy that can overlap that add to the confusion:

Gothic Fantasy
Fantasy Horror
Paranormal (and all the sub-subgenre) <-- I'd almost argue the paranormal-romance books is becoming it's own category, with all the vamp romance twilightly fiction coming out these days.

The publishers certainly don't help things by classic horror writers under fantasy and maybe vice versa, depending on what sort of fiction the author usually writes.

This issue is muddled even more in that both fantasy, horror, and science fiction could technically be classed under Speculative Fiction, for which book stores might use the catch all phrase Science Fiction and Fantasy and lump horror books into that area, sometimes.

As was suggested, creating specialized user lists on the Listiverse about "Fantasy Horror" or "Horror" or something related might help out. If there is enough interest in the future, I might even have a crack at making a sister version of the site only about horror. This genre is much smaller than fantasy and science fiction, so I don't know if the general interest there would merit the months of work it would take though.
 

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
#9
Summer of Night is the novel that got me interested in horror so would like some good horror recommendations (which is partly why I created this thread). So, yeah, I think a sister version of the site about horror would definitely be worth your time.