On Writing Horror (Ed. Mort Castle)

Natalee Caple keeps calling me a “slipstream” writer, so I’ve been trying to learn more about genre writing — I like the idea of existing where Chabon situated himself in his book I read earlier this year, in the “borderlands” that lie between so-called mainstream/literary and genre work. I’ve been trying to get my book Ex Machina reviewed by science fiction magazines — so far no takers — and I read this book to get a sense of where the horror field might stand these days.

What I discovered is that horror writers consider themselves to be no different from writers of any stripe, and that nobody derides tasteless slasher-dom better than a horror writer. The best article here was an essay by Tracy Knight on common errors in psychological character profiling, like confusing psychotics and psychopaths when writing, or populating one’s work with senseless, illogical “crazies” — there is also a great interview with Harlan Ellison on what’s wrong with the horror field, and the book reprints Ellison’s short story “Quiet Lies the Locust Tells.” Otherwise, this is just like any book of writing tips and exercises, only slanted slightly, so there is some good general advice for fiction writers.

One of the more interesting inclusions, well worth reading and also online, is Stephen King’s acceptances speech from the National Book Awards.

— Jonathan Ball

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