Not long ago I got an email from an author who was upset with me because I had talked about one of her books on this blog; and I had said her writing combines horror and mystery. In her email she said that she does not write horror. She continued to say that horror is all about blood and guts and shocking people and she doesn’t do that, what she writes is paranormal mystery. I replied to her that to me, paranormal falls into the horror genre and horror can be a lot of different things, not just blood and guts.
This lady’s email really got me thinking, What is horror? I asked people in the horroraddicts.net facebook group and several people responded. One of the people who commented was Chantal Boudreau who said horror is about a lot more than gore. Chantal wrote her own blog post on what horror is which you can read here. Most of the other responses on what horror is, said that it’s a broad topic that can be a lot of different things but basically horror is anything that scares you.
So even though one author sees paranormal mystery as not being horror, other people say paranormal does fit into the horror genre. Paranormal includes anything that doesn’t have a scientific explanation such as ghosts, psychic powers or extrasensory perception. People are scared of what they do not understand, and since paranormal deals with the unknown, I think its horror.
I would even go a little farther with this and say there are a lot of different sub genres to horror. Comedy such as The Addams Family or The Munsters fit into the horror genre. A lot of science fiction can also be classified as horror such as Alien or The Terminator. For me personally, I think hospitals can be scary places, so a show like ER can fit into the horror category for me. Even police dramas such as Criminal Minds or The Following can be horror because these shows deal with serial killers and that definitely fills most people with a sense of fear.
To me even though I would consider the Friday the 13th movies, which I never liked, and The Nightmare On Elm Street movies, which I loved, horror; I didn’t find them very scary. So to me something doesn’t have to be scary to be considered horror. As I’ve gotten older I find movies don’t scare me anymore but books still do. That being said I still enjoy watching horror movies but I look at them as more funny than scary. I would still throw them into the horror category though.
So to me horror just describes something that is dark, different or misunderstood, not necessarily shocking or scary. So to everyone out there, what do you consider horror? What scares you? Do you consider something horror if it doesn’t scare you? Can scary sounding music fit into the horror genre? Also what makes you love horror? Leave a comment and tell me what you think.
This season of the horror addicts podcast includes something a little different. Starting with episode 85 the podcast includes a continuing story by Dan Shaurette called Black Magic. Black Magic is an 11 part full audio production complete with sound effects and voice actors.
Black Magic takes place at the World’s Columbian Exposition that was held in Chicago during the summer of 1893. At the event there has been a violent attack by a mysterious creature. Supernatural detectives Matt Black and Andrew MacGillivray have been investigating the disappearance of several people, primarily women and it looks like the case may be related. These two men are used to dealing with strange creatures because of their off-again-on-again relationship with the Supernatural Affairs Department which they helped create during the Civil War.
The case also draws the interest of former journalist and friend L. Frank Baum. While following the case he witnesses magic that few have experienced and is inspired to write an American classic.
Black Magic is meant to be a prequel of sorts to a novel Dan is writing called Black City. The story for Black Magic takes place after Black City but Black Magic is the first appearance of Matt Black and Andrew MacGillivary who will be the stars of Black City. Dan describes Black Magic as The Dresden Files meets The Parasol Protectorate.
I asked Dan how he chose the time period for Black Magic, he said his first novel, LILITH’S LOVE, is set in Phoenix, AZ in 1993. It revolves around a character named Donovan who becomes a vampire, but it is also discovered that he had reincarnated from 1693, with other incarnations along the way. BLACK CITY and BLACK MAGIC are prequels to that and are set in 1893 because he wanted to flesh out what his incarnation from 100 years prior would have been like. As for the setting, 1893 was full of potential all over the globe. It was the Victorian era and in America we played host to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. As Dan became enamored with steampunk and weird westerns he felt the setting was ripe with possibility, where science and superstition could be found together.
The inspiration for BLACK MAGIC came from several events he discovered in his research on the Expo. The first was about a Midway attraction of a tethered balloon that safely took fairgoers up and down throughout the day. On Sunday, July 9, 1893, the balloon was wrecked by a mysterious funnel cloud that appeared on what was a peaceful day in Chicago. The other key inspiration was discovering that author L. Frank Baum lived in Chicago and was a frequent visitor to the Expo. Baum was inspired by the famous White City of the Expo to create his own Emerald City in the land of Oz. It took just a twist of artistic license to ponder what if Baum had witnessed the twister taking down the balloon ride at the Expo. This lead to the idea that other strange events and characters might also have given Baum ideas. Thus BLACK MAGIC has a witch and wizard, emeralds, magic lands, and more.
Once Dan picked the year 1893 to work with, he began researching everything he could about America in 1893. One book in particular he used as a primary resource was THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY
by Erik Larson. This is a non-fiction narrative, one that weaves the historic achievement of the building of the Expo with the murderous reign of terror perpetrated by Dr. H. H. Holmes. Holmes built a macabre “castle” which he opened to renters as The World’s Fair Hotel mere blocks from the Expo. He lured in the throngs of vulnerable tourists, many of which it is believed he killed. In both cases, Larson’s book describes American ingenuity at its most glorious and most heinous. The fact that most people today have never even heard of Holmes is what probably captured Dan’s attention the most.
I also asked Dan how Matt Black and Andrew MacGillivray started working together. He said the two met during the Civil War. Matt Black was there at the start of the war (lying about his age as he was only 16) and Andrew MacGillivray was a young doctor working during the war and saved Matt’s life. Matt came very close to death, and as a result he had disturbing visions. Mac realized they weren’t just the delusions brought on by pain, infection, and laudanum. They teamed up and uncovered sinister beings at work in the battles. They also found vampires feeding on soldiers on the battlefield. They went on to help create the supernatural affairs department which was the first secret service established. Its primary function was to combat the threat of supernatural forces like vampires, ghosts, demons, and the like.