It’s the spoo-kiest time of the yeeeaaar… that sounds better in my head. I’ll find a way to make it work. Anyway, it’s October and our theme this month at Fully Booked is perhaps unoriginal, but extremely appropriate: Horror, and to start off, we will dive a bit into the history of horror books.
Additionally, this month we’ll be tackling monsters, both human and supernatural. Whether you like monsters in the woods, haunted houses or real killers hiding in the bushes, we’ve got something for everyone. Time to grab your torch and pitchforks, and follow us out into the woods… at night… with no flashlight. Yes we should absolutely split up; what could possibly go wrong?
A Brief History of Horror Books
Horror stories themselves can be traced back through basically every culture; folk tales of monsters and specters passed down through generations to impart wisdom and lessons on the youth. The ancient Greeks and Romans made reference to demonic entities embodying people, and in turn inspired much of the religious and supernatural horror fiction that would come later – case in point being Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Shakespeare also had a hand ushering horror into the fictional world – and onto the stage – with tragedies like Macbeth and Titus Andronicus chocked full full of witches, murder and all manner of horrors inflicted upon it’s characters.
By the time the late 1700s rolled around, the quintessential gothic novel had begun to emerge. In 1816, a now famous retreat by Mary Wollenstonecroft Shelley, her husband, Lord Byron and others would ultimately lead to the publication of Frankenstein two years later. Dr. Polidori, another attendee at the retreat, would also create the idea of a vampire genre with The Vampyre one year later. It’s popularity would later be cemented when Bram Stoker published Dracula – the good old days of spooky, evil, non-sparkly vampires.
On the North American end of the spectrum, Massachusetts born writer Edgar Allen Poe penned multiple stories and poems in the gothic persuasion like The Raven and The Tell-Tale Heart. Poe even had an element of horror to his death; he was found deliriously wandering the streets days before he died under mysterious circumstances which have to this day never been completely understood or confirmed. Talk about a spooky legacy.
Contemporary and Modern Horror Stories
As time went on, horror found itself mainly in pulp fiction magazines. Thankfully, pulp fiction magazines led to H.P. Lovecraft blessing us with some of the best contemporary horror stories around. Shirley Jackson continued the gothic trend, cementing herself as a strong female voice in horror with The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. As the 1970s rolled around, authors like Stephen King gave new modern life to horror in literature (King himself was inspired by the likes of Lovecraft, one of many examples of authors being inspired by the classics), bringing us modern masterpieces like The Shining and It. This age feels like a time when modern horror fiction began to become less taboo and stepped into the spotlight as a genre to be celebrated and less hidden. No more reading these stories under cover of night; they could become an appropriate choice for book clubs and studies.
Beyond King’s work, other staples such as The Exorcist, Interview with the Vampire and Ghost Story would continue to provide thrills and chills to the reading public, spurring many popular film adaptations now considered classics.
While horror novel popularity dipped a bit in the 1990s, the past 15 or so years have seen quite the resurgence in the genre. This trend has also affected the non-fiction genre, with true crime becoming much more mainstream than many people would have predicted. As it stands today, horror is published regularly throughout the year, and feels as though it’s finally getting the credit it deserves.
What is the purpose of horror stories?
I think that the reason that horror fiction perseveres is the same reason that horror films do; people like to be scared. It’s escapism, an outlet for our deep seeded fears and insecurities. Even many colleges now offer entire courses dedicated to horror fiction and its influence on people. It makes this reader exceedingly happy to see horror getting the kind of recognition that it should. I can’t wait to see what we’ll get to read next. Join us this month, and prepare to be scared…