The Horror Writers Association is a non-profit organization that promotes horror writing and sponsors the Bram Stoker Awards for achievements in horror literature. Administrator Brad Hodson answered a few questions about the genre of horror. Brad gave me a disclaimer reiterating that it is key to remember that “the horror genre, as well as the horror community, is large and varied.” He said that while he can't speak for the Horror Writers Association as a whole in answering these questions as they “try to avoid taking an official stance on subjective matters related to the genre,” he can answer them as a horror writer, reader, and general fan.
Allison: How do you think horror is transforming as a genre as technology advances?
Brad: Horror is a fascinating genre in that it's simultaneously forward looking and has an eye to the past.
It's forward looking in that it's always one of the first genres to tackle social commentary and taboo subjects head-on. Yet it's always looking back into history and tradition as well, probably more so than any genre aside from historical fiction. As this relates to technology, horror writers are quick to embrace changes in the tech landscape but I don't feel it's having much of an impact on what they write so much as how they write it. And publish it, of course.
Allison: Is this transformation a good thing?
Brad: Self-publishing, e-books, mobile devices - all of this has been embraced in the genre. That is a very good thing, but the core of what's being written doesn't change much. Though we are seeing a bit of a growth in the novel series as a result of the e-book boom, horror writing is still about characters and plot and language just as it's been for centuries.
Allison: Do you think less is more in terms of reading horror novels or even watching scary movies? Is "the unknown" truly the most terrifying aspect in life?
Brad: I think "less is more" should be tattooed on the back of my hands. To me, the most frightening novels and films are the ones that have mastered suggestion over explicitness. But there are times where the explicit not only works but is required. I couldn't imagine John Carpenter's 1982 film "The Thing" with even one frame less blood and viscera than it has now. Monsters, gore, violence - these are all spices that every writer has to use to their own taste. Still, I tend to find the unknown far more terrifying than the known. I agree with what Stephen King said on the matter (even if he doesn't always follow it in his own work): "Nightmares exist outside of logic, and there’s little fun to be had in explanations; they’re antithetical to the poetry of fear."
Allison: I read on your website that horror is unique because it is a human emotion, not just a genre. How do you view this as being linked to aspects such as survival and the will to live?
Brad: Horror is deeply rooted in survival instincts and the will to live. In fact, I'd say that's why we love horror: experiencing the fictional death (or near-death) of a character is a reaffirmation of our own survival. We evolved to experience fear on a regular basis and, as a result, I think we need to experience it as a sort of psychological CrossFit. It's much safer to do so through a novel or film than in real life. We don't just see this in horror fiction, either. Action, mystery, contemporary literature - most genres deal with death, fear, and/or danger, albeit in different ways. Horror is just the most direct and, in many ways, the most honest. And for horror fans like myself, the most fun.