The Horror Genre and its Babies
by Su Halfwerk
Horror fiction generates a deliberate and imminent sense of foreboding that leaves little hope of a happy ending. It creates an eerie atmosphere caused by either otherworldly (demons and monsters) or natural elements (mental illness or mutations cranked up to the umpteenth power.) Readers' responses vary between emotional, physiological, and psychological; it all depends on how much they can take and how gory the story is.
The division of horror subgenres (babies) is a debatable topic people tend to argue about. I've drawn the examples below from my readings and books on my TBR pile. Let's have a look at these subgenres to gauge how deep is horror's reach and how dark is your little soul (depending on your preference, of course.) Shall we?
Soft horror is based mainly on dark mood and subtle hints at fear rather than shock and gore. Example: Haunted by James Herbert.
Dark fantasy is fantasy with a horrific touch that highlights good vs. evil. Example:
series by Stephen King. Dark Tower
Supernatural or paranormal is about unreal monsters (zombies, ghosts, demons, giant insects, etc) who isolate normal humans and make them suffer or simply eat them. Example: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.
Sci-fi horror is a concoction of science fiction and horror genres where the science fiction elements (space and time travel, biotechnological organisms, extraterrestrial beings, and automatons) are used to infuse the horror factor. Example: Infected by Scott Sigler.
Psychological is based solely on the characters' psychological fears. It might have gore and mutilation but mostly it is subtle until it is revealed that the view point character might've been raving mad. Example: Intricate Entanglement by Su Halfwerk. (Me *waves*)
Lovecraftian is also known as Cathulhu mythos. The basis of H.P. Lovecraft's fiction is that thousands of years ago, the world was populated by a race of immense powers that still reside, unseen, in the center of the earth or somewhere unknown to us. Example: The Book of Cthulhu anthology.
Gothic is written in literary fashion that involves the intrusion of the POV character's insanity. It might include specters, crypts, and hexes set in haunted and decaying mansions. The atmosphere is gloomy and coiled in a sense of doom. Example: Works by Edgar Allan Poe like The Fall of the House of Usher.
Suspense/Thriller is mystery (whodunit) where the horror element isn't supernatural but involves real people (like serial killers and sociopaths) who generate the menace factor in these tales. Example: Die for Me by Karen Rose.
Satanic or Occult focuses on deals with the devil or demons. Examples: Hellbound by Su Halfwerk, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and Zuphreen by Su Halfwerk :-).
Weird Fiction or bizzaro as a term was coined by Weird Tales magazine. A bizzaro novel might have a combination of supernatural and mythical stories that share a sense of unrealism and strangeness. Because of its uncanniness, this fiction can border on humorous. Example: Attic Clowns by Jeremy C. Shipp.
Holocaust involves mass destruction of life due to an epidemic outbreak, human slaughter—like the German Nazi Holocaust—, experiments gone awry, or monsters. Example: The Stand by Stephen King.
Erotic Horror is horror with explicit sexual content essential to the original story; take the sex out and the story will be incomplete and choppy. Typically, that sex is not gratifying. Example: Coven of Celsus - Elizabeth: an erotic horror by Randy V.
Splatterpunk is extreme horror with vividly described gory and violent actions. Examples: Vile Things: Extreme Deviations of Horror and Splatterpunks: Extreme Horror anthologies.
Cutting Edge's meaning as a subgenre differs from one person to another. For me, it takes place in modern settings and encompasses more than one of the previous genres in one place. Example: Purity by Douglas Clegg.
This is how I separate horror subgenres and pick my reading materials accordingly. In any case, horror should be entertaining (yes, it should. Really!) and it must have an intriguing plot. I hope you enjoyed this quick run through horror's subgenres.
So, what's your favorite subgenre? And what genres will you be trying out?
Lisa, thank you so much for the opportunity to share with your readers the darker side of fiction and its kiddies.
About Su Halfwerk:
Su Halfwerk writes in the horror and paranormal romance genres. From a tender age, the written word left a strong impression on her, later on terrifying, blood-chilling books became the object of her interest. Su’s style in horror combines shuddery terror with elements of surprise; some would even call it an enigmatic twist. In the world of paranormal romance, she transforms the desire to scare into a quest to seduce and tantalize.
Books by Su Halfwerk:
- His to Possess (Finalist in 2011 EPIC Awards in the Paranormal Romance category)
- Zuphreen (Horror/Urban Fantasy)
- Intricate Entanglement (Horror/Thriller)
- Seeker Book 1 of Unsettled series (Paranormal Romance)
- Hellbound (Horror)
When not writing, Su is designing book trailers for herself and other authors.