October 30, 2014 by Laird
In his introduction to A Book of Horrors, editor Stephen Jones asks, “What the hell happened to the horror genre?”
Considering that we live in a small press horror renaissance, this gambit seems a sort of peevish rhetorical device more concerned with preserving a narrow slice of tradition, and Jones’ related curatorial credentials, than raising a legitimate question.
I recently sat on the Shirley Jackson Awards jury and subsequently edited, alongside Mike Kelly, the inaugural volume of Year’s Best Weird Fiction. I’ve read a staggering amount of contemporary dark fiction these past several years. Stephen Jones, Paula Guran, and Ellen Datlow continue to put forth year’s bests without substantial overlap. In the case of Year’s Best Weird Fiction, a second volume could have arisen from the 2013 crop. A crop that contained a lot of horror. So, yes, I take strong exception to Jones’ rhetoric. It raises the question of why he bothers with his own best of if the situation is so dire. If anything is wrong, it’s that the tide might be rising too high for some who find themselves stuck in the mud.
Horror is ascendant, if not on the New York Times Best Seller List, then in quality and abundance throughout the industry. It is written by established pros, as A Book of Horrors ably demonstrates, and it is written by a slew of emerging authors. Look no further than the changing ToC of Datlow and Guran year’s bests, or recent anthologies by Ross Lockhart and Michael Kelly.
I don’t have to point to veterans such as Gemma Files, Joe Pulver, Paul Tremblay, or Nathan Ballingrud to bolster my case that horror is in good hands. I need not resort to other big guns, such as John Langan, Kelly Link, or Michael Cisco, or stalwarts such as Brian Keene, Conrad Williams, and Norm Partridge. I can show you fear in a handful of authors who’ve appeared on the scene in the last ten years, and in some cases far more recently–these are writers who are already helping reshape the contours of modern horror.
Damien Angelica Walters
Stephen Graham Jones
This isn’t comprehensive, it barely nicks the surface. These writers are attacking the genre from different angles. Some of them venerate tradition, others remold it, and a couple upend it and shred it completely. We live in a time of plenty, my friends.
What the hell happened to horror, Mr Jones? Apparently it’s moving on without you.
Six book recommendations:
Burnt Black Suns by Simon Strantzas
Ana Kai Tangata by Scott Nicolay
After the People Lights Have Gone Off by Stephen Graham Jones
The Moon Will Look Strange by Lynda Rucker
Engines of Desire by Livia Llewellyn
Knock, Knock by S.P. Miskowski