Giving it the Old Horror Try

by Bruce Blake

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It’s no big news that a writer needs to read.

As a fantasy author, I spend most of my time reading within my genre. It’s important to be familiar with what’s going on, what’s popular, so I’ve 9780765303813pretty much limited myself to the various sub-genres of fantasy for a number of years. I’ve read epic fantasy from the likes of George RR Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss, and more, as well as urban fantasy by Neil Gaiman, Richard Cadrey, Jim Butcher, and Karen Marie Moning. Add into that a few bits of magical realism with authors like Charles DeLint and Erin Morgenstern, and a few novels that walk the line between fantasy and sci-fi like a tightrope walker, and I feel like I’ve got a pretty good overview.

Recently, however, I decided it was time to branch out. Sure, there have been a few out-of -genre readings mixed (like Hugh Howey’s Wool and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife…or is that fantasy?), but this time, I’m serious. I’ve decided it’s time to get back into horror.

Those of you who have read my other posts may remember that I started getting into ‘adult’ fiction with horror…I believe Stephen King’s Cujo was my first. Clive Barker followed, and Dean Koontz, Peter Straub and Robert R. McCammon.

So back to horror I go.

To determine my latest reading list, I Googled (don’t you love that it’s a verb now?) ‘best horror novels’. To be honest, I discounted the classics…no Poe, King, Lovecraft and the like. It’s not that I don’t value their contribution t the genre (and literature in general), I was simply looking for something either a little more modern or authors I simply haven’t tried before.

a0251abb3ba084a9aaaa5e3eca683048The first novel I located came off a list of the best modern horror…a slender volume entitled Piercing by Ryu Murakami. I have to admit, the description sucked me in–specifically this line from the list writer: Piercing is set in Tokyo and follows Kawashima Masayuki trying to come to terms with his overwhelming desire to stab his infant child with an Ice Pick. 

Sounds good, right?

Okay, maybe not for everyone, but I thought it might be interesting. Unfortunately, it turned out it wasn’t what I was looking for. Too much internal dialogue, not enough out and out scares. Sure, it’s screwed up and takes some good in depth looks at how what happens to us in our childhood effects how screwed up we turn out. It’s not a bad theme…I’ve written a short story on a similar subject, but it seemed a little heavy handed in this one. Could be there was something lost in translation.

Next up on the horror reading list is The Wasp Factory by the recently departed Iain Banks–described houseofleavesas violent and gory–then Richard Matheson’s classic I Am Legend. After that, I’m hoping to get my hands on Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves. Stay tuned and I’ll keep you updated on how things go.

And what about all of you? What do you read outside of the fantasy genre? And any suggestions of a good, scare-the-pants-off-you horror?

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Bruce Blake is the author of a bunch of books. you should buy them.

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