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Horror 101: The Doublestandard

Note: This is a repost from my old blog. This is also MY experience with the doublestandard. I'll talk more about stereotypes and other examples in my history of horror posts.

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear, is the fear of the unknown." -H.P. Lovecraft

Horror is a fascinating genre for a lot of reasons, but mostly because of its relationship with other types of fiction or literature.

Horror is most often held on the bottom of the ladder. Most of this is due to the fact that history does have a long history of being pulp, or cheap (think of the penny dreadfuls, horror novels that were literally sold for a penny), and yet many grand works of literature, stories that are on reading lists in high schools and colleges across the nation are also horror (Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, and all of Poe.). Hell, even Alice in Wonderland had some horror elements in it, and it was written FOR CHILDREN. But even so, even with so many great pieces of work within the genre, whenever I tell people that I write horror, especially other writers or people in the literature world, I get snubbed.

When we aren't focusing on the cheap thrills that horror brings, we discuss the same 4 known horror writers over and over again (I'm still talking classical, I'll get to Stephen King another time). H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley. But the truth is, many writers have dabbled in the genre at least once in their careers. These include: Faulkner, Dickens, Melville, and even Virginia Woolf (side note: I took a Virginia Woolf class during undergrad because I needed to take a lit class and that was the only one available and haaaaated it. A year later, I discovered a short story of hers that was about a haunted house, and LOVED it).

This could probably be because of the shift from the Gothic novel to a more contemporary view of horror, but I'll get into the Gothic stuff later when I discuss Southern or American Gothic Literature.

Horror is a two sided coin. You either love it, or you hate it. I rarely hear people say "oh, horror is okay." or "there are a few horror writers that I enjoy." It's either "I LOVE horror." or "I can't stand horror."

Well, except for the one month a year that people like horror.

It's so weird. We as a society allow horror during October. We love haunted houses and scary movies and spooky stories during Halloween. But the rest of the year it is off limits. It's the double standard. And something that other genres, even other "poo-pooed" genres such as sci-fi or fantasy, they don't have the same issue. There is not appropriate season for fantasy, romance, or sci-fi. They are allowed all of the time. Horror is only allowed during October.


As a horror writer, I know that not everyone will like my work. I know that I can't change the literature world, no matter how many times I have to defend myself and tell people that what I write is "real" (whatever that means). But what I CAN do is try to understand the genre as best I can, to try to fight for it, to teach people about it, to avoid tropes and cliche, and continue to proudly say that yes, I write horror.

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