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What is Horror?
• An intense, painful
feeling of repugnance or
• That which excites horror
or dread, or is horrible,
gloomy or dreary.
• A shuddering with terror
and detestation; the
feeling inspired by
something frightful and
What is horror fiction?
Broadly defined, a
story intended to
scare, unsettle or
horrify the reader.
On the most basic
level horror fiction
contains a monster,
whether it be
or a metaphor for the
of a guilt-ridden
A guided nightmare ride
that can shock,
and whisper before
it lets the readers
loose. - Robert
“Horror is not a genre like
mystery or science fiction or the
western. It is not a kind of fiction
meant to be confined to the
ghetto of a special shelf in
libraries or bookstores. Horror is
– Douglas Winter, Prime Evil
Did You Know?
Horror is one of the most pervasive
literary types. Elements of horror can
be found in almost every genre:
romance, fantasy, science fiction,
mystery, even westerns.
Not considered a separate genre until
about 1985 when the beginnings of
the Horror Writers Association was
Provokes a emotional/physical
response in the reader.
Allows a safe exploration of The Dark
Encourages escape from everyday
Validates a belief in supernatural.
Provides a place to face our fears.
Some Early Milestones
1764 – The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole
1798 – Wieland, or the Transformation – C. B. Brown
1818 – Frankenstein – Mary Shelly
1835 – Berenice – Edgar Allen Poe
1847 – Barney the Vampire – A “penny dreadful”
1847 – Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
1851 – The House of the Seven Gables – N. Hawthorne
1872 – Carmilla – Sheridan Le Fanu
1891 – The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
1897 – Dracula – Bram Stoker
1908 – The House on the Borderland – W. H. Hodgson
Topics and Themes
• Ghosts & Haunted • Scientific & Medical
• Mythological Evil • Psychological
• Demonic Horror
Possession • Mind Control
• Witches & Warlocks • Small Town Horror
& Black Magic • Dark Fantasy
• Vampires • Splatterpunk
• Werewolves • Detective Horror
• Mummies, zombies, • Comic Horror
and golems • Classics
Ghosts and Haunted Houses
• Most often involves tales of buried guilt.
• Ghost or haunted house is usually a portent
to the guilty party or even to someone
• Examples: The Turn of the Screw
The Haunting of Hill House
Mammoth Book of Haunted
• Often based on monsters from religion or
• “Monster” derives from the Latin monstere, to
• Often involves divine warnings about
consequences of human action.
• This type of evil often threatens entire
• Examples: The Shadow Out of Time – Lovecraft
The Servant of the Bones – Rice
The Descent – Jeff Long
Phantoms – Koontz
The Oath – Frank Peretti
Possession, Witches, Black Magic
• Innocents possessed by demons or even Satan.
• Witches and Warlocks may or may not be evil.
• Pacts made with Dark Powers.
• Modern examples often involve Catholics in faith
• Examples: The Exorcist – William Blatty
Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin
The Omen – David Seltzer
Dark Fall – Dean Koontz
The Bible – Gospel of Mark
A Ship Possessed – Alton Gansky
Scientific & Medical Horror
• The fear of technology.
• The perils of scientific investigation.
• Close parallels with real life concerns.
• Examples: The Invisible Man – H. G. Wells
Toxin – Robin Cook
Demon Seed – Dean Koontz
Floating Dragon – Peter Straub
• Horror with an explicable cause.
• Torment from mental illness, child abuse, etc.
• Questions the very nature of our world.
• Examples: Silence of the Lambs
Psycho – Robert Bloch
Misery – Stephen King
Church of Dead Girls – Stephen
Beasts – Joyce Carol Oates
A Graveyard for Lunatics – Ray
• Brainwashing, hypnosis, telekinesis.
• Based on our fears of being controlled by
• Often has outcasts with gifts going “postal”.
• Examples: Carrie – Stephen King
Firestarter – Stephen King
The Lecturer’s Tale – James Hynes
Dragon Tears – Dean Koontz
Small Town Horror
• Isolated settings.
• Untouched by our civilized values.
• Where no one can hear you scream.
• Reminds us of our powerlessness and dependence
• Examples: The Stepford Wives – Ira Levin
Desperation – Stephen King
The Hungry Moon – Ramsey Campbell
Unhallowed Ground – Gillian White
• More a style of writing than a theme.
• Characterized by a grotesque decadence.
• Graphic sex and violence for their own sake.
• No reluctant monsters or anti-heroes.
• No taboos.
• Examples: Every Dead Thing – John Connelly
Ghoul – Michael Slade
American Psycho – Brett Ellis
A detective investigating the supernatural
Plot often secondary to the eerie background
Examples: Legion – William Peter Blatty
Mystery – Peter Straub
Children of the End – Mark Clements
Primal Scream – Michael Slade
Whispers – Dean Koontz
• Laughing at our fears
• Comic characters
• Off-the-wall situations
• Ridiculous monsters
• Examples: Lunatic Café – Laura Hamilton
American Gods – Neil Gaiman
Ticktock – Dean Koontz
Short Story Collections
Annual Anthologies – The Year’s Best Horror
Stories; Best New Horror: 10th Anniversary ed.
General Anthologies – Great Tales of Terror and
the Supernatural; A Touch of Chill: Tales for
Theme Anthologies – Penguin Book of Vampire
Stories; Stories of the Walking Dead; Werewolf!
Individual Authors – The Darkest Part of the
Woods by Ramsey Campbell; Duel: Terror Stories
by Richard Matheson
• Hooked on Horror: A Guide to Reading
Interests in Horror Fiction. Libraries Unlimited,
• Horror Reader’s Advisory: The Librarian’s Guide
to Vampires, Killer Tomatoes, and Haunted
Houses. ALA, 2004
• Horror: The 100 Best Books. Carroll & Graf,
1998. 2nd ed. (new edition forthcoming)
• Genreflecting: A Guide to Reading Interests in
Genre Fiction. Libraries Unlimited, 2000.
• HCPL homepage – Books Lists
• Harriet – adult services – Reader’s Advisory
Tools For Adults
• Bram Stoker Awards. Horror Writers of
America/Horror Writers Association (includes
a link for librarians). www.horror.org
• International Horror Guild Award. www.ihg.org
• August Derleth Award (best novel).
An early A post- Matheson’s For the YA’s
effort of apocalyptic 1954 novella Gaiman
Siddons and battle about a lone opens the
her only between man’s last door into a
venture into good and stand against creepy
horror. A evil by a a plague of alternate
Stephen modern vampires. reality.
King favorite. master