Name one of your favourite pieces of writing on the horror genre.
I think my Danse Macabre by Stephen King was a really great book. I also really enjoyed Adam Rockoff’s recent book on the slasher genre, Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978 to 1986. I highly recommend the book over the accompanying documentary that was made. Rockoff’s book is not particularly thought provoking but it is engaging. It certainly brought back a lot of memories of long forgotten movies. It’s clear that Rockoff is a fan of the genre and that shines through in the book.
Hands down, Return of the B Science Fiction and Horror Heroes (The Mutant Melding of Two Volumes of Classic Interviews) by Tom Weaver. For old sci-fi/horror fans like me this is hard to beat. Great interviews with the actors, actresses, directors, producers, and writers involved in the making of the wonderful B films of yesteryear, and written by a man with an obvious passion for the genre. Good stuff.
Oh, writing ON the horror genre? I thought I’d get to say “Clive Barker’s Books of Blood” and be done with it. Oh well, in that case I’ll say it’s a toss-up between Noel Carroll’s The Philosophy of Horror and H.P. Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror in Literature. Combine the two and you’ve basically got my own POV on the genre.
My all-time favorite piece of writing about horror/film is Stephen King’s DANSE MACABRE. I wish he’d do an update!
There was a good long stretch of time in college when I always had my stolen-from-the-library copy of Men, Women and Chainsaws by Carol Clover on me. The sexual politics of the slasher film proved endlessly fascinating to me. Still does, although it’s all become so self-aware these days (thanks to writing like Clover’s) that it’s become tougher to find movies so raw, stripped down to nothing but id, as we used to get. Every so often a movie like Hostel or Haute Tension slips through the cracks though, and I feel myself mentally flipping through Chainsaws again.
Even though it may be a way too obvious answer, I have to go with Stephen King’s Danse Macabre. When I read it as a teenager it really opened up my eyes, not only to the larger history of horror but also to the many possibilities of interpretation. Suddenly the world that I loved didn’t begin and end in Haddonfield, Illinois. I have just recently re-read the book and although I don’t agree with everything he says (particularly his criticism of Kolchak:The Night Stalker! ), I still found it fascinating and its conversational style to be the literary equivalent to sitting around with an old friend and discussing the genre over many beers.
The definitive book on my chosen little corner of the horror-verse is Adam Rockoff’s Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978 to 1986. This is the first book I would recommend to anyone interested in horror films… however, after careful consideration, it is not my favorite piece of writing on the horror genre. Somewhat embarrassingly, that honor goes to Peter Bracke’s Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday The 13th. While not as ambitious, academic or as relevant to the horror genre as a whole as Rockoff’s work, my love of Jason Voorhees and his cinematic exploits cannot be denied.
H. P. Lovecraft’s SUPERNATURAL HORROR IN LITERATURE. It’s not just a survey of what he considers the finest horror through the ages; he also articulates a vision of what horror should be that has influenced me a great deal.
Favorite work of fiction is a tie: GONE SOUTH by Robert R McCammon and the brilliant FADE by Robert Cormier. Non fiction has to be DANSE MADABRE by Stephen King
As a horror editor, I have one and only one book to recommend to anybody who has any aspirations towards writing horror. If you’re a horror writer, it’s likely that you already own a copy, but if not, you have no excuse. Go directly to Amazon or your favorite bookseller and purchase a copy of _On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association_, edited by Mort Castle.
Inside this unassuming tome you will find dozens of essays by experienced horror writers, including some of the biggest and most respected names in the business: Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Joe R. Landsdale and Jack Ketchum all contribute. You’ll learn the history of horror fiction. You’ll learn the tropes and clichés of the genre, and how to use, avoid and subvert them. You’ll learn what editors want and don’t want. You’ll even learn about writing horror for other media, including film, comics and video games.
Buy this book, study it, and send me submissions.
Good Lord, how did it get to be Friday already?
I don’t know if it’s in fact my favorite piece of genre writing but the first thing this question brought to mind was Jack Kerouac’s essay on NOSFERATU, published originally in The New Yorker Film Society Notes in 1960 but made more widely accessible in the collection of critical writings FOCUS ON: THE HORROR FILM (Prentice-Hall, 1972). The King of the Road and the Lord of the Undead in one 3-page article. Koo-Koo-Crazy-cool!
Kerouac has a folksy, unfussy style whose occasional awkwardness works in his favor to make the piece read like a snatch of folk testimony:
Nosferatu is an evil name suggesting the red letters of hell — the sinister pieces of it like “fer” and “eratu” and “nos” have a red and heinous quality like the picture itself (which throbs with gloom), a masterpiece of nightmare horror photographed fantastically well in the old grainy tones of brown-and-black-and-white.
There was always something childlike about Kerouac’s bop prosdy, informed as it was by the Old World superstitions he got from his mother, and that naive quality is very much in evidence here as he refers to Graf Orlock as a “throat-ogre” who rises up out of his coffin “like a plank.” That is such a perfect description of how Orlock comes to life each night that I’ve never forgotten it. I love how Kerouac obsesses about minor things about the movie, like how Orlock’s coach horses are hooded and about the tile floors of his castle:
The castle has tile floors – somehow there’s more evil in those tile floors than in the dripping dust of later Bela Lugosi castle where women with spiders on their shoulders dragged dead muslin gowns across the stone.
Wouldn’t it be great if more film bloggers aspired to this kind of poetry?
Even though I spend tons of time in the horror genre, I actually can’t remember all that much that I’ve read ABOUT the horror genre, aside from the occasional histories and short articles; even then, those are more often than not just a collection of interesting facts rather than anything particularly in-depth or insightful. I’ll probably think of a hundred better examples immediately after I send this in, but the foremost piece of writing that I’ve read on the genre itself was Stephen King’s ‘Danse Macabre,’ and I read that a loooong, long time ago. I won’t be surprised if I’m not the only person with this answer.
Now don’t you feel silly, Retropolitian? Thanks to all the eggheads who contributed to this week’s Roundtable. Why not reward their scholarly pursuits by visiting their respective sites? And if you have anything you’d like to recommend, please do so in the comments below.