Yes, I’m a horror author so let’s get that out there right away. What that means is I’m particularly biased when it comes to the subject of horror fiction and its place in popular culture.
While the last few years have seen various increases in what some would consider horror, or let’s call it genre fiction for now, there may be a corner of the mainstream that’s surprisingly lacking in this area.
Sure, Netflix has quite a few popular hits with series like Stranger Things (which isn’t quite horror but dives into that realm), Black Mirror (sci-fi psychological horror), and a slew of independent horror films that people either love or laugh at. And yes, in over the last few years films like Get Out, Don’t Breathe, The Conjuring franchise, and the remake of Stephen King’s IT has all renewed an interests in genre fiction beyond the formulaic hack-n-slash or torture porn seen in prior eras.
On place this resurgence isn’t hitting is, amazingly enough, in horror novels. Searching through Amazon.com’s list of Top 100 horror books and ebooks you’ll notice quite a few titles but there’s more than meets the eye here.
Firstly, unless you’re Stephen King or his son Joe Hill there aren’t too many other authors selling a large number of books. You do have indie mavericks like Willow Rose who have managed to carve out a good spot for herself on sheer volume of titles alone but then there’s the rest of us (yes, I include myself here now that I have two published works out) who haven’t quite caught on yet.
One might think because genre fiction is so en vogue now that the book market would be raking in the cash. Not so much. Of course the question is why.
There’s no one thing really. On Amazon and other online ebook retailers there are a flood of indie authors in the genre like myself. However, unlike other genres, the horror indie author community hasn’t quite gotten on board with the standards the other genres have. We don’t really have a standard book cover style that is guaranteed to sell, the covers are all over the place. Some are great, some look like they were done by a third-grader with crayon. The content is another story.
I’ve read quite a few reviews of even the top selling books from readers saying that the stories are all the same. The trend is towards ghosts stories, haunted houses, and of course the zombie apocalypse. There are a few gems out there that do something fresh (I read quite a few reviews if you couldn’t tell) but there seems to be a general been-there-done-that attitude.
We have left the age of the New Weird and entered an era that I can’t really describe. Horror fiction was known for being innovative and for a time was a top selling genre. Mavericks like Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, and Ramsey Campbell gave us fresh takes and fresh ideas in the past. While Campbell and Koontz continue to put out books Barker has all but disappeared and many other authors have gone silent as well. My latest trip to the bookstore came with no trip to the horror section because there was no horror section.
Even on Amazon if you look in the top 100 there are quite a few books under “horror” that aren’t horror books at all. They’re not genre fiction either. They’re slightly paranormal and use the tag to get a top 100 ranking in a field that is woefully understocked.
Of course, I aim to do my part over the next few years to add something to the genre. My greatest desire, even more than having a successful bestseller or recognition (which anyone who pays attention can tell I really don’t want), is to give readers a new experience. If readers say they’ve gotten something that wasn’t the same old stuff they’ve read and they thoroughly enjoyed what I wrote then that’s the best compliment I can get as an author.
While I enjoy this new revival in genre fiction for pop culture, I’m hoping it touches the book industry sooner than later.