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You Keep Using That Word...
modern lit
catvalente
So I'm having this conversation on Twitter about this "list" of books which will save horror and indicate that we are in the middle of a horror golden age which is not a list because it is two books, and because more ink is expended on Paolo Bacigalupi as the savior of SF than on either of the horror authors mentioned, and also because it is stupid.

First of all, House of Windows was merely meh. It was OH SO STRAUB circa Ghost Story and not very innovative or interesting at all besides featuring the WORST FATHER/HUSBAND EVER who totally deserved to be ghoststomped. Also it is not about a haunted house and the house is just like: whatever, I'm old. Those people were fucked up when they got here. Except not because the house is not haunted.

Second, a list of two dudes and no The Red Tree is talking out of its ass to begin with. (Two books is not a golden age, yo. I feel you and all, it must suck to have lived through the heady 80s and now be like...a shelf of King and Koontz reprints and some LA Banks. But come on. TWO?)

Horror is not dead. It's just reshelved. SO MANY people are writing horror these days, by any definition--books that have vampires and werewolves are literally propping up the rest of the publishing industry, and even if you consider those not horror by dint of...something, I guess. Not being scary enough? 80s horror is often not scary at all or the fear is in the eye of the beholder--I find a lot of the implied rape in the mildest vampire fiction to be pretty scary. (Look, I don't like paranormal romance either but you can't discount it out of hand--chances are, if you're a writer, some paranormal romance writer's success is paying your elegant literary novel's advance.) Even if you cut out the vamp/were stuff, a WHOLE LOT of what's called dark fantasy is horror with a cover in a color other than black.

The problem? It's girls writing it. And people of color, and queer folk, and all those undesirables. And as soon as I realized that, it hit me.

I think "dead" is always code for "OMFG girls (POC, gays) are doing that thing we like to do! Kill it! Kill it with fire!"

I mean, that's what they mean when they say the American novel is dead, right? No one with a teaspoon of sanity could look at the sagging bookshelves and actually call the novel dead. They mean girls are writing novels and maybe better novels and so it's not cool anymore and we can't smoke and drink and fuck and chalk it all up to I'M AN ARTIST YOU CAN'T JUDGE ME anymore and EW do we have to COMPETE with them now? Let's use our ancient powers of Shunning the People What Are Not Like Us and write screeds about how the novel is dead because our white dude friends haven't written any good ones lately and everyone will believe us and nod because if it's in the New Yorker it must Be Real! Cool? Cool. WONDERDOUCHE POWERS ACTIVATE.

I feel like I have understood an essential part of the universe. Whereas before I was all: what do you mean, science fiction the print novel the American novel horror is dead? Like EVERYONE EVER still wants to be a writer and ALL THE BOOKS EVER are being written constantly and lots of them are really good! But when I say books and when they say books we do not mean the same thing. I mean printed narratives bound in covers, or sometimes pixels. They mean that, but only written by white dudes. When girls and POC and gay people write them, they are not books. They're just like...coloring books or something. You might think a kid is clever and cute for staying in the lines, but you don't give them a Pulitzer. You take it off the fridge as soon as their widdle feelings won't be hurt.

Horror isn't dead. (Neither is SF, GAWD.) We do not need dudes to save us from this terrifying dystopia. Trust me. The kids are gonna be all right.


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"I think "dead" is always code for "OMFG girls (POC, gays) are doing that thing we like to do! Kill it! Kill it with fire!""

This! Exactly. Thank you for articulating something that's been stewing in my brain for awhile. I've been so thrilled by current writing -- never before have I seen so many POC, or queer characters, or awesome women in novels. But, then, I suppose the powers that be don't find those traits especially appealing and so, you know, woe is the state of publishing today.

I'll go back to university in September armed with this knowledge. I've never quite understood why I only ever get to study dead white straight men (sometimes they'll even still be alive, if I'm especially lucky), but now I get it. I always knew there were some icky reasons that somehow excluded anyone on the 'outside,' but it was never articulated quite so clearly.

Hegemony -- it's an ass.

THIS, seconded. My god, all of a sudden everything makes sense. Not in a particularly pleasant way, but seriously EVERYTHING. Because those (sometimes not dead) white men can always go create or reinvigorate another genre/print medium/etc. if they kill any particular one that's suddenly more accessible and less exclusive/hegemonic than they'd like. It's like burning down a plague-infested house or something... *shudders*

My usual response to “x is dead” assertions is “If x is dead, then why does my In stack of well-recommended new x books keep getting taller faster than I can read them?”

Dude, you've revolutionized my Friday with the word 'ghoststomped.'

Great post! It really nailed that "it's only cool when a select group of people are doing it" thing that is such a problem. As soon as it becomes done by kids who aren't in the club (whatever club that is) the kids in the club don't want to play with it because it's not just their special little toy anymore. Lame.

Isn't the "Is horror dead?" conversation dead yet? I heard that the first HWA I ever attended over 13 years and the first World Horror Con I attended some 10 year ago.

This debate gets dragged up ever year. Horror writing will never die. It just won't get as big as people want it to be in the book market. Mainly because their favorite author or them are not being tauted as the big author of the time.

I feel the topic is just a zombie that everyone is sick of talking about.

-S

Apparently not. No one is ever sick of talking about how x is the next big thing, especially when x is the author themselves or his friends.

Also, Sarah motherfucking Langan.

Actually, Matt Cardin (The Teeming Brain guy) does mention Sarah Langan and also Barbara Roden in his piece.

He also doesn't present the pair of books he talks about as an exhaustive list. I agree with Cat here, but I don't think Matt was either running down paranormal romance or women writers by exclusion. He was just writing about the sort of thing—basically 'weird fiction' and the modern-day descendants of the nineteenth century ghost story—he enjoys.

I went to a writing conference where the whole conference was like that. The novel is dead, the publishing industry is moribund, doom doom doom.

I discovered, when I heard the readings by authors they considered "good," why they might think so. Every time somebody writes yet another novel about middle-class, middle-aged white people fucking up their relationships, God kills a kitten.

"Every time somebody writes yet another novel about middle-class, middle-aged white people fucking up their relationships, God kills a kitten."

I kind of want that on a sticker, which I would do misbehavior with at bookstores.

My first thought was "Hear-hear" -- but your first commenter already said that. So then I was going to comment on the stack of books to read and the longer list of things recommended to me -- but someone else pointed that out. Hell, one of my 2004 Clarion buddies, Marjorie M. Liu, is putting out paranormal romances faster than I can read them -- and they're great fun.

So since SF is dead, Fantasy is dead, Horror is dead, Print is dead -- the whole dead meme is, well, dead... then that leaves your thesis that "someone" is afraid that "the others" are doing it. Heavens to Betsy, Saints Preserve Us, Said It Ain't So.

I, for one, look forward to reading all the swell new stuff coming out by our new "other" alien overlord masters. (evil grin)

Dr. Phil

A list of two and one of them WASN'T 'The Red Tree'? Madness!
...
Hallucinatory dog-people living under a tree are scary as hell.

Hallucinatory dog-people living under a tree

Ok, I need this.

Thanking you for making me laugh and pretty thoroughly explaining that the problem isn't a problem.

*throws horns*

RAWK!

Preach it, sister!

Well, since ladies and queers ruin everything, I guess I shouldn't be so excited about Dust then, huh?

(The Red Tree was one of the scariest things I've read in ages. I love that book.)

Importantly, I could name more than just these two in support of my Golden Age hypothesis. Simon Strantzas’s short-lived first book Beneath the Surface — short-lived because the publisher went under immediately after it came out — is about to be released in a new edition from Dark Regions Press (with an introduction by yours truly; I love that book), and his second, Cold to the Touch, has drawn praise and even raves. Richard Gavin’s The Darkly Splendid Realm, also from Dark Regions, has received some excellent press, and I know from having reviewed Richard’s first book Omens for Dead Reckonings #2 that he’s a horror writer’s horror writer, with chops galore and a vision to boot. Mark Samuels, Kim Paffenroth, Nick Mamatas (who sometimes, but not always, writes horror), Sarah Langan (whom I haven’t read, but whose work promises to be wonderful when I finally do), Barbara Roden (I’ve read a single excellent story, and simply get her debut collection) — I could name these and more as examples of authors who are presently producing some seriously high-quality horror fiction.

He uses those two authors as two examples, but then goes on to state this longer list of other writers who he thinks rocks. Just wanted to bring that point up that his "list of two people" is actually a bit longer than that.

I have nothing cogent to add beyond "YES! YES, THIS!" accompanied by a lot of nodding and a brimming-over sense of fond admiration.

In the somewhat improbable event that you should happen to find yourself in Bangkok over the next twelve months, I should very much like to buy you a tasty beverage of your choice, in a sheepish manner, by way of solidarity. (I realise that's as likely as an unlikely thing, but the sentiment stands.) Because, yes, the kids ARE going to be all right. Even the ones who are currently besotted with 'Twilight', bless 'em. Probably.

&hearts

Clearly, Livejournal is also DEAD.

;-)

I definitely agree. This last year I've been trying to remedy my "reading "classic" sci-fi" stage, that lasted throughout my teens and a bit over. Because, as far as I knew, Ursula Le Guin wrote fantasy and fantasy was "for girls" (my couple of dips into what I thought of as fantasy had been books with dragons, stuff pastiched by the Tough Guide to Fantasyland (see: heroine/hero with improbably coloured eyes) and Harry Potter. Which meant I didn't read Diana Wynne Jones til I was seventeen and a friend was a fan, hardly ever read books with female protagonists and didn't discover Octavia Butler until a couple of months ago when someone posted about not having discovered Octavia Butler for too long a time.

Which brings me to my second point- I'm halfway through the second book of Butler's Seed to Harvest/Patternmaster series, and that is one of the scariest things I have read, but like I said, I hadn't heard of Octavia Butler despite being a sci fi and horror geek until the age of 21, and yes, I have heard an awful lot of horror is dead in the time before that. (quite often by geek guys about Twilight)

I agree with Nick's response above. One thing I'd add is that I also would not have included The Red Tree if I'd written that article. Not because the book isn't awesome (it is), not because The Red Tree wasn't marketed as horror (it was), but because Caitlín has often said that she isn't a horror writer. Lady doesn't want to be called a horror writer, I don't call her a horror writer. Now, a "Golden Age of Weird Fiction," that'd be a shoggoth of a different color...

Have I told you lately that I love you?

I think it's a truism that any time someone says something equivalent to " was so much better X ago" they are really saying "I don't get where has gone to. Why can't it be like when I was young?"

This applies especially for music, and then next most for books, and probably for a gazillion other things too.

You speak the true words. Love it!

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