So no bites on reading the stories I’ve posted lately, alright. There could be a variety of reasons for that and not much point speculating and self doubting, but it did put me in mind of cultural shift that happened in my lifetime. Horror fiction rose to become a giant market in the eighties, then collapsed so utterly there is no longer a horror section in most book stores.
I sometimes encounter this with people I know. I say, hey, check out this thing over here. And they say they aren’t into horror. This makes me wonder what’s different, between now and the ’80s. Because right now we really are living the cyberpunk dystopia the ’80s predicted, a world of trash and fire and capitalism ripping through everything left that’s good in the world, politics so removed from reality that every apocalyptic thing that happens is just so many data points in the botox’d heads. Even nuclear holocausts are back on the table of possibilities. This is the ’80s on speed. Where’s the interest in horror?
The ascendance of horror back then is often attributed to the dark undertones of the plastic pop universe, but other causes are possible. The relatively uncensored images of the Vietnam War stained a lot of minds, and our equivalent wars were heavily, heavily filtered. Desert Storm is a video game and a theme song in a lot of minds. You could find images of graphic violence from that time if you searched for them, but you would not see them on the evening news. The military industrial complex learned its lesson, and the reward was a US public very willing to go to war after that point.
There may be other demographic and market factors. Westerns and other manly genres had a big collapse, almost like men just stopped reading anything? That’s certainly the case now. The vast majority of readers are women. By that theory, it’s like men stopped reading until horror briefly lured them back in, then they fell off again in the late nineties – right as video games became so dominant in boy culture.
One person in my household read horror in the ’80s, but does not now. She gives a reason which is just counterfactual – that the books got more cruel or violent over time. She read Stephen King when he was relatively new, and talks like his later work was more violent? Dude was as skeevy and creepy as anything from day one. I think this lady’s just one of the blithe readers that somehow didn’t process the pedo content in It. So I interrogated her a bit more and it seems she just read less of it for a while and lost her tolerance for it. But why?
Within my own life, I couldn’t handle certain extremes of horror movies for much of my young adulthood, until I rounded some kind of corner on it. Then I was watching Hellraiser and Dawn of the Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre and all that. But another change came along. Inspired by Takashi Miike, Eli Roth kicked up the transgressive factor in horror a lot, and I had to draw a line of my own. I’m not that hardcore. This mirrors my bf’s mom’s idea about what happened in her own life – “I didn’t change, the horror did” – but I think people can see the difference between The Grudge and The Human Centipede. Amirite?
But horror literature is a whole other kettle of fish. Unless your imagination is superb, you aren’t seeing things the way you do on film. I could read much more violent content in books than I could handle on screen. I can write horror worse than I’d ever want to see, and it doesn’t bother me. It’s all entertainment, diversion, spooky fun times. A spine tingler.
Why are so many people utterly uninterested in horror? I had a kind of lousy friend who wouldn’t check out me or my bf’s stuff when it was just gothy, not actually involving any horror whatsoever. Weenies. Seems like 99% of all reading that happened 2000-2005 was the terf’s kiddie books, and the people who grew up on that never wanted anything substantially different from it. Or maybe I’m just being a hater. I don’t know.
This is mainly looking at fiction for adults. There actually is a lot of horror content now – short fiction, tons of video games, especially in indie spaces – but booksellers don’t want to touch it. And on a possibly unrelated note, I run into a lot of massive weenies. Hi weenies. I’m sure you’re lovely people and make the world a brighter place in your own ways. Just wish I met more non-weenies sometimes.