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The Case for Horror Fiction

Horror is perhaps the only genre defined by the response it is meant to create in the reader. No other genre works that way. You can laugh at a tragedy, you can cry at a comedy and still enjoy them. Conflicting responses are okay and even valuable. But you cannot not be scared with horror. Otherwise it is bad horror. Side note: what is the opposite of horror? Feeling safe?

It is a genre that had endlessly intrigued me and the reason why I became the avid reader I am today. I grew up reading all types of gothic, horror, mystery and thriller books. And perhaps now, more than ever, horror and all sorts of dark genres have eclipsed other types of media. Yet, contemporary horror, and I mean horror specifically, is looked down upon. Forget the rich literary tradition of gothic literature, which includes everything from Wuthering Heights to Dracula. Forget that the Goosebumps books are a staple of children’s literature. What makes us reject horror as not being “intellectual” enough?

Horror is often instrumental in highlighting the anxieties and the undercurrent fears of the society in which it was written. Because of the fact that it seeks to illicit fear, horror has the monumental task of pinning down a widely held concern and exploiting it. This also entails a nuanced understanding of primal and universal fears. The pale face with red eyes, the darkness, the supernatural, death: they are all timeless anxieties which society has fixated on for what seems like always. What is stopping us from watching the newest horror flick or picking up a scary book? I want to argue that nothing is, and perhaps urge everyone to pick one up themselves. The dark genres are not easy, by any means. As they say, if you want to feel less lonely then turn off the lights and watch a scary movie (or read a scary book!). You won’t feel alone for long.

By: Fatima Ahmed

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