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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fantastical Horror

The next few posts will be related to my Speculative Fiction class, which I am planning for right now...
The class is going to be split into four (overlapping) categories, Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal/Urban Fantasy. So, I'm working on the Horror section first. Believe it or not, I'm not that big a fan of horror. Yes, it's true. I get completely grossed out by anything gross. I particularly don't like horror that could really happen, like serial killer type stuff. On one level I would say this is because it truly scares me, and yeah, it does, but on another level, I think I just invest more in stuff with a fantastical element. So, I do love horror that deals with a fantasy type setting, or fantasy type creatures, just not...realistic horror? (though I do think characters have to be particularly realistic and sympathetic to work in horror).
Now, when I was in middle school, V.C. Andrew's books were placed in the horror section, and I read those, but I think the first true horror book I ever read was IT by Stephen King, and it remains one of my favorite books, one of my favorite books by King (though his only horror book that would go on that list) and one of my favorite horror books.

My all time favorite horror book, though, is Shadowland by Peter Straub.

This is the cover I had when I was in middle school, possibly early high school. The silver part was extremely shiny, and I think I wrote my name on it with an orange marker-pen (the precursor of the gel pen, I suspect). And, here is the copy I have now, just purchased a new one to see if I still love it as much...
So far, I do. One thing I remember about this book is the mix of real horror, the sociopath kid who is morphing into something else, and the fantastical. In fact, I have to admit that I'm not at all sure what happens at the end, just that I was so invested in the characters and the world that I couldn't put it down.
Now I'm trying to choose a short selection of horror books for the course I'm teaching. These will either be YA books, or fairly short books, since the students will have only 3 weeks to read them. There will be some exceptions, and I plan to have a supplemental list with books like IT, that will take longer to read, but will be interesting to some students. They only have to choose one from the list.

Here's what I've come up with so far...if anyone has some great suggestions please let me know.
I think these two will cover basically any person who wants to read about zombies. Very very different books, but the idea is to give students enough options to find something they will enjoy, while few enough that I can have some control of the content and discussions.As I look at these titles, some of which I like better than others, I think the element that it comes down to for me in horror, (besides liking the characters, which is crucial) is suspension of disbelief. So what makes good horror for you, and what horror books would you recommend?

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Blogger elissa said...

I am just so jealous of you getting to teach this class! And I don't know how to actually write this, but the thing that gets me most in horror is the buildup of tension. For me it has to be subtle and psychological, but the tension gets you to that point where you can't NOT turn the page, for fear of what your brain might dwell upon. :)

July 8, 2010 at 7:39 AM  

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