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The H Word

Nonfiction

The H Word: But Is It Scary?

That seems to be the litmus test to which horror is most often held. When you get back from the latest movie about ghosts or serial killers, put down your favorite horror novel, or mention a spooky story on social media, it’s the first question that you’re likely to be asked. In our eternal struggle to find the boundaries of this vast and often contradictory territory called horror, I’ve seen more than one writer resort to “it aims to scare you” as a working definition.

Nonfiction

The H Word: Fairy Tales: The Original Horror Stories?

In many ways, fairy tales could be seen as the first horror stories, full of terrors such as the death of a parent, being eaten alive or of being abandoned. In Hansel and Gretel, the children are left to their fate in the forest because there isn’t enough for the family to eat. The parents in Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin trade away their babies. Bluebeard tests his wives’ obedience and murders them when they fail. There is enough betrayal, jealousy, murder, cannibalism and cruelty in the stories to satisfy any horror fan.

Nonfiction

The H Word: Shifting Away From the Common

When it comes to shapeshifters, werewolves are at the top of the heap. There are more stories involving werewolves than any other shifter out there. While I like a good werewolf story, I’m tired of them. Their archetypical stories have been told and retold until they are rote. But I’m not going to say it’s time to give them a rest. Like all the classic monsters (vampires, zombies, mummies, et al.) they will never be put down for good.

Nonfiction

The H Word: A Horde of Holiday Horror

Christmastime. Cold white snow outside, warmth from a glowing fire and loved ones inside. A tree beaming with decorations and tinsel. Brightly wrapped presents beneath. A veritable feast of turkey and all the trimmings. The hope of a new year ahead and treasured memories of the year coming to an end. And somewhere, lurking in the shadows, a vicious murderer in a Santa Claus suit, wielding a blood-soaked axe . . .

Nonfiction

The H Word: In My Restless Dreams—A Study of Horror in Video Games

Short of physically walking through a haunted house, there is no narrative experience more immersive in the horror genre than modern video games. […] I could never have imagined the bright colorful worlds of video games and the gaudy darkness of horror fiction interacting, until the day I lead the intrepid members of the Special Tactics and Rescue Service into an abandoned mansion deep in the woods . . .

Nonfiction

The H Word: A Good Story

Earlier this year, I asked Facebook friends to leave comments if they (or those they love to read) are queer horror authors. It was a popular post. While remarks like “Me! I’m gay!” or “Heck yes! Clive Barker is my favorite!” dominated the thread, there were also several comments like this: “I don’t care about the author’s sexuality; I just want a good story.” A good story. Doesn’t every reader of popular fiction want that?

Nonfiction

The H Word: H is for Haunted Houses

Every house is haunted. The question is, by what? Walk into a new house; some are happy, some are not. Like a fine wine, old houses are much more complex. In the summer of 2013, I was sent to Ireland to serve as the resident faculty member for the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing program. I was grateful for the chance to travel and eager for the experience, but I have to confess that prior to arrival, Ireland had never been on my bucket list.

Nonfiction

The H Word: Following the Symptoms

Have you heard of the Black Death? I’d be willing to wager that you have, since it’s taught as a major part of European history, and European history is one of those subjects that’s virtually impossible to avoid (although the Black Death did enormous amounts of damage in Asia and the Middle East as well as in Europe; this was not a disease which respected borders). Most people know it as another name for the bubonic plague, that flea-borne disease that still haunts the West Coast of the United States.

Nonfiction

The H Word: The Politics of Horror

To riff on a George Orwell quote: no literary, film, or artistic mode or genre is free from political bias. That said, the political baggage of horror is considerable, and oftentimes, problematic. Many a smart person has argued, and convincingly so, that the horror genre is a conservative/reactionary one, too often with the ugliest political shades on display; misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, ruling class re-imaginings of the other as invading monsters. From Freud’s uncanny to the gender politics of the final girl, perhaps no other genre is as fraught with such political anxiety.

Nonfiction

The H Word: Why Do We Read Horror?

When I was asked to contribute to this column, I thought I’d probably write about cosmic horror — after all, I edit and publish a Lovecraftian magazine (THE LOVECRAFT EZINE). That article was almost completed, however, before I realized that my heart wasn’t in it. So for better or worse, I jotted down what was really on my mind. It’s not fun stuff, but we are talking about horror.