A Unique Challenge (Recommending Horror Fiction)

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A Unique Challenge (Recommending Horror Fiction)

Postby ashbow » Fri Oct 08, 2010 4:04 pm

There is a unique challenge in offering reviews or recommendations for horror fiction. This genre depends so much upon the imagination of the reader, that no one really takes away the same experience from reading the same novel. Sometimes what makes a book memorable is not what the author has written, but what they have left unwritten. It is that blank space between the lines that only the reader can bring to life, and where the horror truly dwells.

I am by no means a speed reader. I pause and ponder all too often when reading. I imagine what a place would be like, what might be just around the next turn, how I would react in the situation, and wonder why the character is doing the opposite of what I would do.

A great imagination is a gift and a curse at the same time. I know it kept me out of trouble as a kid. I could vividly imagine what my father would do if he caught me dabbling in any delinquent behavior. I easily resisted temptation, knowing the consequences.
On the other hand, I had trouble bringing myself up to the task of asking out some really cute girls in my class. Sure, my friend would argue that "All she could do is say no", but me and my imagination knew better, and thoughts of condescending laughter and constant ridicule by the whole class made me choose the cowards way.

So, back to the point…If you recommend a 'blood and guts', 'monster lurking in the shadows' horror book, you can be pretty certain that a fan of the genre is going to like the book. On the other hand, if you suggest a horror story that subtly hints at the evil and demands an open mind, you have no way of knowing if your friend will get anywhere near the same reading enjoyment that you did.

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Re: A Unique Challenge (Recommending Horror Fiction)

Postby Shuggy » Fri Oct 08, 2010 4:20 pm

It can be difficult indeed; even reccommending a book by an author you both like can be difficult - there are many books by Steven King that I have read and will never read again, and wouldn't reccommend to anyone. However, I have loved some of his work that I know others wouldn't touch with a barge pole.

'Horror' and where we find it is so subjective; one person's horror is another's boredom!
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Re: A Unique Challenge (Recommending Horror Fiction)

Postby ashbow » Tue Oct 12, 2010 1:48 pm

Shuggy wrote:
'Horror' and where we find it is so subjective; one person's horror is another's boredom!


This is why I hesitate to recommend Horror fiction.

More than half of what kept me awake as a teen would cause the slightest impact on my sleeping ability today. Therefore, I can not even trust my own recommendations!

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Re: A Unique Challenge (Recommending Horror Fiction)

Postby Azriel » Wed Oct 13, 2010 3:00 pm

Interesting observation.
I never really thought about it - not having had opportunity to recommend much horror beyond Dracula. I don't often come across people who are horror fans sadly.
I remember reading a horror short story anthology and being completely unimpressed by all but a couple of the stories. It set me on a quest for horror and I've still not found anything completely satisfactory. Then again, I'm not even sure myself what would be satisfactory...
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Re: A Unique Challenge (Recommending Horror Fiction)

Postby MsBrandybuck » Wed Oct 13, 2010 4:04 pm

Az, that brings up another good question: "What are the ingredients of good horror?"

I am sure that it is just as subjective a topic. For me- I think a good horror story has to creep me out such that the story gives me actual chills, stays with me for a while after I've read it, and makes me consciously avoid certain areas/actions where the horror took place or how it was brought about.

Remember hearing about the large number of people who were afraid to get into a shower after watching Psycho?
To me- that's good horror. :)

[Edit: Rats! This is post # 43- and I am no longer THE ANSWER. :P ]
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Re: A Unique Challenge (Recommending Horror Fiction)

Postby shireling » Wed Oct 13, 2010 4:43 pm

I guess I don't like movies that are defined as horror films, but I like the ones that have horrible things in them - well, are horrible to me, like "Arachnophobia", "Deliverance", "Lord of the Flies", "A Handmaid's Tale" or "Usual Suspects".

I read both "Flies" and "Handmaid" before I saw the movies ("Flies", I think, was true to the book), but films made of "The Lottery" have never hit me the way reading the short story did. This last one still brings up the hair on the back of my neck, just thinking about it.

I wish I'd read "Never Let Me Go" before there was all the talk and the movie being out. And that's what's so difficult now. It's just so much harder to stumble onto something and be disturbingly surprised than it used to be.
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Re: A Unique Challenge (Recommending Horror Fiction)

Postby TomCotton » Wed Oct 13, 2010 4:47 pm

Yep, to me a good horror story needs to realy creep me out by suggesting stuff that could be but is not necessarily there. Like that Psycho reference I have creeped myself out a few time while taking a shower in a motel that had a plastic shower curtain like in the movie. The film The Haunting from 1963 still gives me chills.

King, Koontz, and Lovecraft gets me to thinking about the possibilities of alternate realities. Some of the stories written by them make me check under the bed. I remember going into an old barn next to a graveyard in Pennsylvania one night around midnight and just standing there in the dark. After a while my imagination started getting the best of me. Intellectually I know there is no such thing as ghosts in the paranormal sense, but there is a deep primordial memory of bad things in the dark that make situations like that get the adrenaline flowing.

It is stories and films that envoke those kinds of feelings that I really enjoy. A lot of the T&A/slasher type movies from the 1980's got to be boring after a while with all of that jumping out of a closet to startle you type stuff. Everything seems over and safe then the monster sits up or comes out of the water or the darkness or whatever for what seemed like endless times. Most of those plot vehicles appeared to be set ups for the next inevitable movie in the series. One of those should have had a bunch of those scenarios at the end then finaly one of the character could look at the audience and say something like "Are you people still here?" in a very sarcastic voice.

Horror is very subjective. A few years ago someone recommended the movie Signs. They talked about how creepy it was and how much it scared them. I watched it and had an MST3K experience throughout. Nothing scary or thought provoking to me in the show. Just an overwhelming urge to make snide comments and throw things at the screen.

Recommending horror books would be a difficult thing to do. Some people get frightened by things that make other people roll their eyes in disgust. Someone that likes the same kind of movies that you do could recommend a book that you find unreadable for many reasons.

MsBrandybuck wrote:[Edit: Rats! This is post # 43- and I am no longer THE ANSWER. :P ]

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Re: A Unique Challenge (Recommending Horror Fiction)

Postby ashbow » Wed Oct 13, 2010 8:21 pm

TomCotton wrote:Horror is very subjective. A few years ago someone recommended the movie Signs. They talked about how creepy it was and how much it scared them. I watched it and had an MST3K experience throughout. Nothing scary or thought provoking to me in the show. Just an overwhelming urge to make snide comments and throw things at the screen.


It would have been scarier if he had found men with bats in his fields like Kevin Costner did!

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Re: A Unique Challenge (Recommending Horror Fiction)

Postby ashbow » Wed Oct 13, 2010 8:22 pm

TomCotton wrote:
Horror is very subjective. A few years ago someone recommended the movie Signs. They talked about how creepy it was and how much it scared them. I watched it and had an MST3K experience throughout. Nothing scary or thought provoking to me in the show. Just an overwhelming urge to make snide comments and throw things at the screen.



It would have been scarier if he found men with bats in his fields like Kevin Costner did!

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Re: A Unique Challenge (Recommending Horror Fiction)

Postby shireling » Fri Oct 15, 2010 1:57 am

ashbow wrote:

It would have been scarier if he found men with bats in his fields like Kevin Costner did!


My mind is so warped. I saw Costner racing through the corn pursued by bats...
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Re: A Unique Challenge (Recommending Horror Fiction)

Postby ElviraStarkeeper » Sun Oct 17, 2010 11:07 pm

I've never been one to be bothered by gore. I've not even been bothered by horrible evil and creepy-ass monsters. It's things that you just cant stop that get to me (eg: the curse from the grudge. Cant lock the door, cant hit it with a frying pan, and it's UNDER the flipping blankets!). I've not read much horror, and i tend to avoid horror movies cause they're either terrible or freak me out way too much, no middle ground. I am interested in reading some horror fiction though, because im curious and cruel to myself, and because i dont want to dismiss the genre completely. It also might help with making D&D campaigns i DM more interesting >.>

This seems a good place to ask: Lovecraft? Yay or nay?
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Re: A Unique Challenge (Recommending Horror Fiction)

Postby ashbow » Mon Oct 18, 2010 12:14 pm

Lovecraft as a DM campaign could work. His horror had a lot of backstory worked into it, and it was usually a place or house that was haunted due to ancient god/demo worship or 17th century witchcraft rituals. His work is mostly short stories, and you could probably introduce an odd local who knows a legend or have the characters find a section of an old journal or book, giving them an account of past horror associated with the area. This coud give you many chances for false leads, or make it easier to get the players to follow the path you wish them to.

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Re: A Unique Challenge (Recommending Horror Fiction)

Postby ElviraStarkeeper » Mon Oct 18, 2010 1:07 pm

Oh yeah yes i know it makes for excellent RPGs, but i am more wondering if it's a good read?
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Re: A Unique Challenge (Recommending Horror Fiction)

Postby ashbow » Mon Oct 18, 2010 3:56 pm

Hard to say...and that is the reason I chose the above name for this topic. :)
If you read his short stories, I'd suggest spacing them out, and not reading them as a collection from cover to cover. Read a couple, read some books by other authors, and in a few months, go back a read a couple more. His stories seem to follow a formula, and if you read too many in a row, you already assume one of the characters is unsettled before he even begins to crack.
It is kind of like listening to your favorite group's '40 Greatest Hits' album. When you are subjected to all of them in a row, it tends to water down the power of the individual song.

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Re: A Unique Challenge (Recommending Horror Fiction)

Postby ElviraStarkeeper » Tue Oct 19, 2010 1:09 pm

Cool, i shall give some of them a try :) Thanks.
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