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Horror is a genre of speculative fiction which is intended to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle its readers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Literary historian J. A. Cuddon defined the horror story as "a piece of fiction in prose of variable length... which shocks, or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing".It creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere. Horror is frequently supernatural, though it might be also non-supernatural. Often the central menace of a work of horror fiction can be interpreted as a metaphor for the larger fears of a society.
The horror genre has ancient origins with roots in folklore and religious traditions, focusing on death, the afterlife, evil, the demonic and the principle of the thing embodied in the person.These were manifested in stories of beings such as demons, witches, vampires, werewolves and ghosts. European horror fiction became established through works of the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Romans. The well-known 19th-century novel about Frankenstein was greatly influenced by the story of Hippolytus, where Asclepius revives him from death. Euripides wrote plays based on the story, Hippolytos Kalyptomenos and Hippolytus . Plutarch's "The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans": Cimon describes the spirit of a murderer, Damon, who himself was murdered in a bathhouse in Chaeronea.
Pliny the Younger tells the tale of Athenodorus Cananites who bought a haunted house in Athens. Athenodorus was cautious since the house was inexpensive. While writing a book on philosophy, he was visited by a ghostly appearing figure bound in chains. The figure disappeared in the courtyard; the following day, the magistrates dug it up to find an unmarked grave.
Werewolf stories were popular in medieval French literature. One of Marie de France's twelve lais is a werewolf story titled "Bisclavret".
The Countess Yolande commissioned a werewolf story titled "Guillaume de Palerme". Anonymous writers penned two werewolf stories, "Biclarel" and "Melion".
Much horror fiction derives from the cruellest personages of the 15th century. Dracula can be traced to the Prince of Wallachia Vlad III, whose alleged war crimes were published in German pamphlets. A 1499 pamphlet was published by Markus Ayrer, which is most notable for its woodcut imagery.The alleged serial-killer sprees of Gilles de Rais have been seen as the inspiration for "Bluebeard". The motif of the vampiress is most notably derived from the real-life noblewoman and murderess, Elizabeth Bathory, and helped usher in the emergence of horror fiction in the 18th century, such as through László Turóczi's 1729 book Tragica Historia.
The 18th century saw the gradual development of Romanticism and the Gothic horror genre. It drew on the written and material heritage of the Late Middle Ages, finding its form with Horace Walpole's seminal and controversial 1764 novel, The Castle of Otranto . In fact, the first edition was published disguised as an actual medieval romance from Italy, discovered and republished by a fictitious translator.Once revealed as modern, many found it anachronistic, reactionary, or simply in poor taste but it proved immediately popular. Otranto inspired Vathek (1786) by William Beckford, A Sicilian Romance (1790), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and The Italian (1796) by Ann Radcliffe and The Monk (1797) by Matthew Lewis. A significant amount of horror fiction of this era was written by women and marketed towards a female audience, a typical scenario of the novels being a resourceful female menaced in a gloomy castle.
The Gothic tradition blossomed into the genre that modern readers today call horror literature in the 19th century. Influential works and characters that continue resonating in fiction and film today saw their genesis in the Brothers Grimm's "Hänsel und Gretel" (1812), Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), John Polodori's "The Vampyre" (1819), Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer (1820), Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (1820), Jane C. Loudon's The Mummy!: Or a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century (1827), Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831), Thomas Peckett Prest's Varney the Vampire (1847), Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (1850), the works of Edgar Allan Poe, the works of Sheridan Le Fanu, Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man (1897), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). Each of these works created an enduring icon of horror seen in later re-imaginings on the page, stage and screen.
A proliferation of cheap periodicals around turn of the century led to a boom in horror writing. For example, Gaston Leroux serialized his Le Fantôme de l'Opéra before it became a novel in 1910. One writer who specialized in horror fiction for mainstream pulps, such as All-Story Magazine, was Tod Robbins, whose fiction deals with themes of madness and cruelty.Later, specialist publications emerged to give horror writers an outlet, prominent among them was Weird Tales and Unknown Worlds .
Influential horror writers of the early 20th century made inroads in these mediums. Particularly, the venerated horror author H.P. Lovecraft, and his enduring Cthulhu Mythos transformed and popularized the genre of cosmic horror, and M.R. James is credited with redefining the ghost story in that era.[ citation needed ]
The serial murderer became a recurring theme. Yellow journalism and sensationalism of various murderers, such as Jack the Ripper, and lesser so, Carl Panzram, Fritz Haarman, and Albert Fish, all perpetuated this phenomenon. The trend continued in the postwar era, partly renewed after the murders committed by Ed Gein. In 1959, Robert Bloch, inspired by the murders, wrote Psycho . The crimes committed in 1969 by the Manson family influenced the slasher theme in horror fiction of the 1970s. In 1981, Thomas Harris wrote Red Dragon , introducing Dr. Hannibal Lecter. In 1988, the sequel to that novel, The Silence of the Lambs , was published.
Early cinema was inspired by many aspects of horror literature, and started a strong tradition of horror films and subgenres that continues to this day. Up until the graphic depictions of violence and gore on the screen commonly associated with 1960s and 1970s slasher films and splatter films, comic books such as those published by EC Comics (most notably Tales From The Crypt ) in the 1950s satisfied readers' quests for horror imagery that the silver screen could not provide.This imagery made these comics controversial, and as a consequence, they were frequently censored.
The modern zombie tale dealing with the motif of the living dead harks back to works including H.P. Lovecraft's stories "Cool Air" (1925), "In The Vault" (1926), and "The Outsider" (1926), and Dennis Wheatley's "Strange Conflict" (1941). Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend (1954) influenced an entire genre of apocalyptic zombie fiction emblematized by the films of George A. Romero.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the enormous commercial success of three books - Rosemary's Baby (1967) by Ira Levin, The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty, and The Other by Thomas Tryon - encouraged publishers to begin releasing numerous other horror novels, thus creating a "horror boom".
One of the best-known late-20th century horror writers is Stephen King, known for Carrie , The Shining , It , Misery and several dozen other novels and about 200 short stories.Beginning in the 1970s, King's stories have attracted a large audience, for which he was awarded by the U.S. National Book Foundation in 2003. Other popular horror authors of the period included Anne Rice, Brian Lumley, Graham Masterton, James Herbert, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, and Peter Straub.
Best-selling book series of contemporary times exist in genres related to horror fiction, such as the werewolf fiction urban fantasy Kitty Norville books by Carrie Vaughn (2005 onward). Horror elements continue to expand outside the genre. The alternate history of more traditional historical horror in Dan Simmons's 2007 novel The Terror sits on bookstore shelves next to genre mash ups such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009), and historical fantasy and horror comics such as Hellblazer (1993 onward) and Mike Mignola's Hellboy (1993 onward). Horror also serves as one of the central genres in more complex modern works such as Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves (2000), a finalist for the National Book Award. There are many horror novels for teens, such as The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey (2009). Additionally, many movies, particularly animated ones, use a horror aesthetic. These are what can be collectively referred to as "children's horror".Although it's unknown for sure why children enjoy these movies (as it seems counter-intuitive), it is theorized that it is the grotesque monsters that fascinate kids. Tangential to this, the internalized impact of horror television programs and films on children is rather under-researched, especially when compared to the research done on the similar subject of violence in TV and film's impact on the young mind. What little research there is tends to be inconclusive on the impact that viewing such media has.
One defining trait of the horror genre is that it provokes an emotional, psychological, or physical response within readers that causes them to react with fear. One of H.P. Lovecraft's most famous quotes about the genre is that: "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."the first sentence from his seminal essay, "Supernatural Horror in Literature".
In her essay "Elements of Aversion", Elizabeth Barrette articulates the need by some for horror tales in a modern world:
The old "fight or flight" reaction of our evolutionary heritage once played a major role in the life of every human. Our ancestors lived and died by it. Then someone invented the fascinating game of civilization, and things began to calm down. Development pushed wilderness back from settled lands. War, crime, and other forms of social violence came with civilization and humans started preying on each other, but by and large daily life calmed down. We began to feel restless, to feel something missing: the excitement of living on the edge, the tension between hunter and hunted. So we told each other stories through the long, dark nights. when the fires burned low, we did our best to scare the daylights out of each other. The rush of adrenaline feels good. Our hearts pound, our breath quickens, and we can imagine ourselves on the edge. Yet we also appreciate the insightful aspects of horror. Sometimes a story intends to shock and disgust, but the best horror intends to rattle our cages and shake us out of our complacency. It makes us think, forces us to confront ideas we might rather ignore, and challenges preconceptions of all kinds. Horror reminds us that the world is not always as safe as it seems, which exercises our mental muscles and reminds us to keep a little healthy caution close at hand.
In a sense similar to the reason a person seeks out the controlled thrill of a roller coaster, readers in the modern era seek out feelings of horror and terror to feel a sense of excitement. However, Barrette adds that horror fiction is one of the few mediums where readers seek out a form of art that forces themselves to confront ideas and images they "might rather ignore to challenge preconceptions of all kinds."
One can see the confrontation of ideas that readers and characters would "rather ignore" throughout literature in famous moments such as Hamlet's musings about the skull of Yorick, its implications of the mortality of humanity, and the gruesome end that bodies inevitably come to. In horror fiction, the confrontation with the gruesome is often a metaphor for the problems facing the current generation of the author.
There are many theories as to why people enjoy being scared. For example, "people who like horror films are more likely to score highly for openness to experience, a personality trait linked to intellect and imagination."
Stephanie Demetrakopoulos illustrates a common interpretation of one of the benchmarks of the canon of horror literature.Tina Broussard in an Horror Stories - Ghost Stories of Dracula surmises Demetrakopoulos' thesis:
This scholarly journal article explores sexuality in Dracula, including overtones of sexuality in the typical aggressive male and female sexuality which is either reflective of the chaste woman or the sexually aggressive female vampire. Demetrakopoulos suggests Dracula was an outlet for Victorian society, breaking through sexual norms with symbolic group orgies, male desire for sexually aggressive women, denial of motherhood, etc. She highlights ways in which the females defy gender boundaries by embodying masculine traits such as intelligence.
It is a now commonly accepted viewpoint that the horror elements of Dracula's portrayal of vampirism are metaphors for sexuality in a repressed Victorian era.But this is merely one of many interpretations of the metaphor of Dracula. Judith Halberstam postulates many of these in her essay Technologies of Monstrosity: Bram Stoker's Dracula. She writes:
[The] image of dusty and unused gold, coins from many nations and old unworn jewels, immediately connects Dracula to the old money of a corrupt class, to a kind of piracy of nations and to the worst excesses of the aristocracy.
Halberstram articulates a view of Dracula as manifesting the growing perception of the aristocracy as an evil and outdated notion to be defeated. The depiction of a multinational band of protagonists using the latest technologies (such as a telegraph) to quickly share, collate, and act upon new information is what leads to the destruction of the vampire. This is one of many interpretations of the metaphor of only one central figure of the canon of horror fiction, as over a dozen possible metaphors are referenced in the analysis, from the religious to the anti-semitic.
Noël Carroll's Philosophy of Horror postulates that a modern piece of horror fiction's "monster", villain, or a more inclusive menace must exhibit the following two traits:
In addition to those essays and articles shown above, scholarship on horror fiction is almost as old as horror fiction itself. In 1826, the gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe published an essay distinguishing two elements of horror fiction, "terror" and "horror." Whereas terror is a feeling of dread that takes place before an event happens, horror is a feeling of revulsion or disgust after an event has happened.Radcliffe describes terror as that which "expands the soul and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life," whereas horror is described as that which "freezes and nearly annihilates them."
Modern scholarship on horror fiction draws upon a range of sources. In their historical studies of the gothic novel, both Devandra Varmaand S.L. Varnado make reference to the theologian Rudolf Otto, whose concept of the "numinous" was originally used to describe religious experience.
A recent survey reports how often horror media is consumed:
To assess frequency of horror consumption, we asked respondents the following question: “In the past year, about how often have you used horror media (e.g., horror literature, film, and video games) for entertainment?” 11.3% said “Never,” 7.5% “Once,” 28.9% “Several times,” 14.1% “Once a month,” 20.8% “Several times a month,” 7.3% “Once a week,” and 10.2% “Several times a week.” Evidently, then, most respondents (81.3%) claimed to use horror media several times a year or more often. Unsurprisingly, there is a strong correlation between liking and frequency of use (r=.79, p<.0001).
Achievements in horror fiction are recognized by numerous awards. The Horror Writer's Association presents the Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement, named in honor of Bram Stoker, author of the seminal horror novel Dracula .The Australian Horror Writers Association presents annual Australian Shadows Awards. The International Horror Guild Award was presented annually to works of horror and dark fantasy from 1995 to 2008. The Shirley Jackson Awards are literary awards for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic works. Other important awards for horror literature are included as subcategories within general awards for fantasy and science fiction in such awards as the Aurealis Award.
Some writers of fiction normally classified as "horror" tend to dislike the term, considering it too lurid. They instead use the terms dark fantasy or Gothic fantasy for supernatural horror,or "psychological thriller" for non-supernatural horror.
Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. It introduced the character of Count Dracula and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy. The novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and a woman led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.
Gothic fiction, which is largely known by the subgenre of Gothic horror, is a genre or mode of literature and film that combines fiction and horror, death, and at times romance. Its origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled "A Gothic Story". Gothic fiction tends to place emphasis on both emotion and a pleasurable kind of terror, serving as an extension of the Romantic literary movement that was relatively new at the time that Walpole's novel was published. The most common of these "pleasures" among Gothic readers was the sublime—an indescribable feeling that "takes us beyond ourselves." The literary genre originated in England in the second half of the 18th century where, following Walpole, it was further developed by Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe, William Thomas Beckford and Matthew Lewis. The genre had much success in the 19th century, as witnessed in prose by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the works of Edgar Allan Poe as well as Charles Dickens with his novella, A Christmas Carol, and in poetry in the work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Lord Byron. Another well known novel in this genre, dating from the late Victorian era, is Bram Stoker's Dracula. The name Gothic, which originally referred to the Goths, and then came to mean "German", refers to the Gothic architecture of the medieval era of European history, in which many of these stories take place. This extreme form of Romanticism was very popular throughout Europe, especially among English- and German-language writers and artists. The English Gothic novel also led to new novel types such as the German Schauerroman and the French roman noir.
Robert Albert Bloch was an American fiction writer, primarily of crime, horror, fantasy and science fiction, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is best known as the writer of Psycho (1959), the basis for the film of the same name by Alfred Hitchcock. His fondness for a pun is evident in the titles of his story collections such as Tales in a Jugular Vein, Such Stuff as Screams Are Made Of and Out of the Mouths of Graves.
The undead are beings in mythology, legend, or fiction that are deceased but behave as if they were alive. A common example of an undead being is a corpse reanimated by supernatural forces, by the application of either the deceased's own life force or that of another being.
Ramsey Campbell is an English horror fiction writer, editor and critic who has been writing for well over fifty years. He is the author of over 30 novels and hundreds of short stories, many of them widely considered classics in the field and winners of multiple literary awards. Three of his novels have been filmed.
Kim James Newman is an English journalist, film critic, and fiction writer. Recurring interests visible in his work include film history and horror fiction—both of which he attributes to seeing Tod Browning's Dracula at the age of eleven—and alternate fictional versions of history. He has won the Bram Stoker Award, the International Horror Guild Award, and the BSFA award.
Peter Francis Straub is an American novelist and poet. His horror fiction has received numerous literary honors such as the Bram Stoker Award, World Fantasy Award, and International Horror Guild Award.
The Bram Stoker Award for Best Non-Fiction is an award presented by the Horror Writers Association (HWA) for "superior achievement" in horror writing for non-fiction.
Thomas Ligotti is a contemporary American horror writer. His writings have been noted as being rooted in several literary genres – most prominently weird fiction – and have overall been described by many critics as works of philosophical horror, often formed into short stories and novellas in the tradition of gothic fiction. The worldview espoused by Ligotti in his fiction and non-fiction is pessimistic and nihilistic. The Washington Post called him "the best kept secret in contemporary horror fiction."
Weird fiction is a subgenre of speculative fiction originating in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Weird fiction either eschews or radically reinterprets ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and other traditional antagonists of supernatural horror fiction. Weird fiction is sometimes symbolised by the "tentacle". The tentacle is a limb-type absent from most of the monsters of European folklore and gothic fiction, but often attached to the monstrous creatures created by weird fiction writers such as William Hope Hodgson, M. R. James, and H. P. Lovecraft. Weird fiction often attempts to inspire awe as well as fear in response to its fictional creations, causing commentators like China Miéville to say that weird fiction evokes a sense of the numinous. Although "weird fiction" has been chiefly used as a historical description for works through the 1930s, the term has also been increasingly used since the 1980s, sometimes to describe slipstream fiction that blends horror, fantasy, and science fiction.
George Oliver Onions, who published under the name Oliver Onions, was a British writer of short stories and over 40 novels. He wrote in a variety of genres but is perhaps best remembered for his ghost stories, notably the highly regarded collection Widdershins and the widely anthologized novella "The Beckoning Fair One". He was married to the novelist Berta Ruck.
Fantasy literature is literature set in an imaginary universe, often but not always without any locations, events, or people from the real world. Magic, the supernatural and magical creatures are common in many of these imaginary worlds. Fantasy literature may be directed at both children and adults.
Theodore "Eibon" Donald Klein is an American horror writer and editor.
Elements of the supernatural and the fantastic were an element of literature from its beginning. The modern genre is distinguished from tales and folklore which contain fantastic elements, first by the acknowledged fictitious nature of the work, and second by the naming of an author. Works in which the marvels were not necessarily believed, or only half-believed, such as the European romances of chivalry and the tales of the Arabian Nights, slowly evolved into works with such traits. Authors like George MacDonald created the first explicitly fantastic works.
Dallas William Mayr, better known by his pen name Jack Ketchum, was an American horror fiction author. He was the recipient of four Bram Stoker Awards and three further nominations. His novels included Off Season, Offspring, and Red, which were adapted to film. In 2011, Ketchum received the World Horror Convention Grand Master Award for outstanding contribution to the horror genre.
LGBT themes in horror fiction refers to sexuality in horror fiction that can often focus on LGBT characters and themes. It may deal with characters who are coded as or who are openly LGBT, or it may deal with themes or plots that are specific to homosexual people. Depending on when it was made, it may contain open statements of sexuality, same-sex sexual imagery, same-sex love or affection or simply a sensibility that has special meaning to LGBT people.
The Dracula Society is a London-based literature and travel group with an interest in supernatural and macabre works of fiction, as exemplified by Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Urban Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic fiction, film horror and television dealing with industrial and post-industrial urban society. It was pioneered in the mid-19th century in Britain, Ireland and the United States and developed in British novels such as Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), and Irish novels such as Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). In the twentieth century, urban Gothic influenced the creation of the subgenres of Southern Gothic and suburban Gothic. From the 1980s, interest in the urban Gothic revived with books like Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles and a number of graphic novels that drew on dark city landscapes, leading to adaptations in film including Batman (1989), The Crow (1994) and From Hell (2001), as well as influencing films like Seven (1995).
John Edgar Browning is an American author, editor, and scholar recognized internationally for his nonfiction works about the horror genre and vampires in film, literature, and culture. Previously a Visiting Lecturer at the Georgia Institute of Technology, he is now Professor of Liberal Arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, Georgia.
Centipede Press is an American independent book and periodical publisher focusing on horror, weird tales, crime narratives, science fiction, gothic novels, fantasy art, and studies of literature, music and film. Its earliest imprints were Cocytus Press and Millipede Press.
Stephen King, brand-name writer, master of the horror story and e-book pioneer, has received an unexpected literary honor: a National Book Award for lifetime achievement.
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