I’ve always been a fan of horror movies. Old school horror movies anyway. The Shining is one of my favorite movies ever. Alien and Aliens were both great. Psycho! What a movie. I also enjoy a good scream-queen fronted b-level horror or slasher film. The Nightmare on Elm Street series, for example. I am not a fan of the more modern gore and gross-out centered “torture-porn” kind of movie though. Assume I’ve never and will never watch most things that fall in that category. Until last year though, I’d never really read horror.
I don’t know why that is. Before 2012 I think I had read exactly two horror novels: The Shining by Stephen King and Dean Koontz’s From the Corner of His Eye, and one of those may not even really qualify as horror. While I didn’t hate either of them I didn’t love them either. I’d also read a handful of short stories that could be considered horror – all written by Harlan Ellison. That was the extent of my literacy in horror prose. 2012 was the year that changed.
The reason for this change can be traced back to kickstarter. Last year the prolific anthologist and editor John Joseph Adams launched a kickstarter for Nightmare Magazine. I like to support fiction magazine kickstarter projects whenever possible because I believe it is an investment in my own career. The more markets out there paying pro-rates then the more opportunities for writers to get their work out there. Also, I love short stories and more magazines means more stories for me to dive into. So obviously I got on board the Nightmare project. After funding, JJA put out a call to the magazines backers looking for slush readers*. I thought this was a great opportunity to get a look at the other side of the publishing equation and jumped at the chance.
Now part of the deal in reading slush for a magazine being run by Mr. Adams is we are not allowed to talk about the stories we read in any public/online place so I’m not going to go into details of any sort. But what I will say is that if you are a writer in the early part of your career like me and see an opportunity to read slush you should take it. Reading other people’s work with a critical eye can really help you see your own work in new ways.
Anyway, so I found myself reading through short horror fiction fairly regularly and decided that I’d like to increase my exposure to published horror fiction in general. In deciding where to start I quickly settled on Stephen King’s Carrie. Might as well go for the master himself and if this was going to be my beginning then why not start with his? I liked Carrie and will definitely be looking to read more classic King this year. I’m thinking It might be next.
Of course I didn’t just want to read King novels, as I was looking for a wider education in horror, so I also went out and picked up a kindle collection of H.P. Lovecraft’s work. I’m working my way through it, but slowly. I think it’ll get better when I get into his mid and later career works. I haven’t really hit the Cthullu stuff yet. To go along with classic Lovecraft I also picked up The Book of Cthulhu II when I saw Matt Wallace plugging it. I’m about a third of the way through that collection.
Wondering where to go next for a horror novel I was rescued by a weird bit of synchronicity when the overlords of Nightmare Magazine, John Joseph Adams and R.J. Sevin, teamed up with Worlds Without End to put out a list of “Nightmare Magazine’s Top 100 Horror Books”. I’ll be going back to that well quite a few times. So far I’ve gone with Richard Matheson’s classic Hell House as an audiobook and John Wyndham’s even more classic (read: older) The Day of The Triffids. I really liked the audiobook of Hell House. I’m a little stalled on Triffids.
I would be remiss if I didn’t close out by adding that a couple of the blogs I have listed on my blogroll go to writers of horror fiction. You should stop by and see what they’ve got going on too.
So that’s how 2012 shaped up as my year of really diving into horror writing. Do you have a favorite book to recommend? Share with us in the comments.