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  1. #1
    Frog Lady Kaeru's Avatar
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    Red face Horror for wimps?

    I've been trying to branch out in my reading recently, and I'm currently pursuing two directions in addition to my fantasy to-read pile. Classics is one, and that's a piece of cake for me. Even if I hate the book, I love reading the older writing styles. The one that's not too cinchy is horror. I've gone to a few horror flicks on dates, and I always end up checking under my bed for weeks. Dawn of the Dead STILL makes me jumpy in hospital hallways at night, after seeing it several years ago at a theater near guy-in-question. On screen, I tend to prefer milder, thriller types. Lady in the Water represents just beneath my current scare tolerance. I get even more involved in books, and the only things in my reading experience you could cram in to a horror genre are The Fall of the House of Usher, The Stand, and the last few pages of Pet Sematary (for comparison with movie). I started reading Dracula, figuring I'd hit two genres with one tome, but my Mother's reaction upon hearing this has made me wonder exactly how scary IS it. Any recommendations on where I can dabble my toes prior to diving into the pool of horror? Oh, and is Dracula horribly terrifying?

  2. #2
    Filthy Assistants! Moderator kater's Avatar
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    The Descent by Jeff Long is a book that doesn't get mentioned all that often but may do the job for you. The horror elements are there, it has an interesting if somewhat far fetched storyline and sucks you in even when you're unsure if you should read the next page. It's a quality if under-rated book imo.

  3. #3
    Registered User EMMAXIS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kaeru View Post
    I've been trying to branch out in my reading recently, and I'm currently pursuing two directions in addition to my fantasy to-read pile. Classics is one, and that's a piece of cake for me. Even if I hate the book, I love reading the older writing styles. The one that's not too cinchy is horror. I've gone to a few horror flicks on dates, and I always end up checking under my bed for weeks. Dawn of the Dead STILL makes me jumpy in hospital hallways at night, after seeing it several years ago at a theater near guy-in-question. On screen, I tend to prefer milder, thriller types. Lady in the Water represents just beneath my current scare tolerance. I get even more involved in books, and the only things in my reading experience you could cram in to a horror genre are The Fall of the House of Usher, The Stand, and the last few pages of Pet Sematary (for comparison with movie). I started reading Dracula, figuring I'd hit two genres with one tome, but my Mother's reaction upon hearing this has made me wonder exactly how scary IS it. Any recommendations on where I can dabble my toes prior to diving into the pool of horror? Oh, and is Dracula horribly terrifying?

    The only thing terrifying about Dracula is how long it takes British to take action. It's a bureaucratic nightmare! "Where are those notes we've been compiling?" Meanwhile, the vampire goes around kidnapping and eating children. It is not one of your better classics, IMO, and not terribly scary either. I much more highly recommend Frankenstein. A great, great classic and not too scary. Also, anything by H.P. Lovecraft.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Kaeru View Post
    Any recommendations on where I can dabble my toes prior to diving into the pool of horror?
    Very suitable for dabbling: Our lady of Darkness and Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber. Lovecraft nicely combines the horror & older writing you enjoy (Poe as well) - and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes ofc, also highly enjoyable (albeit with a fairly small horror element).

    Cheers,

    Sfinx.

  5. #5
    Check out "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson.

    Book is way better than the movies...

  6. #6
    Registered User EMMAXIS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoshuaPSimon View Post
    Check out "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson.

    Book is way better than the movies...

    Oh, yeah, I second that! In fact, the movie changed the basic premise of the book, for no apparent reason, which I found to be outrageous. There is a good reason it was called I Am Legend, but in the movie that title makes no sense. Great story and not too scary.

  7. #7
    I have no idea if this fits the bill, because I have scarcely read any horror novels and have no real sense for the boundaries of the genre, but The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells seems to have some horror elements. Of course, you may well have already read this, or it may not be what you're looking for, but it seemed to me to have some horror elements without being terrifying.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by EMMAXIS View Post
    The only thing terrifying about Dracula is how long it takes British to take action. It's a bureaucratic nightmare! "Where are those notes we've been compiling?" Meanwhile, the vampire goes around kidnapping and eating children. It is not one of your better classics, IMO, and not terribly scary either. I much more highly recommend Frankenstein. A great, great classic and not too scary. Also, anything by H.P. Lovecraft.
    Oh, finally! Something we disagree on! Though not entirely.

    Seriously, I like your first sentence, but it doesn't really apply until Dracula reaches England. The first 75-100 pages (the beginning, with Harker in Transylvania) are a clinic in how to build and sustain suspense. Also, the chapter cut from the novel, later published separately as "Dracula's Guest," is terrific in much the same way. Dracula the novel taps into issues in a way that makes me think the writer wasn't entirely aware of them, in particular female sexuality (the three wives of Count D.; Mina's behavior but more so of her friend -- whose name I've forgotten).

    Frankenstein I found rather harder to read, the prose from earlier in the 19th century a bit more laborious, but a more sustained novel. Mary Shelley seemed to have a firmer grasp of what her book was about and pursued it more intently.

    I second the Lieber novels mentioned and would add his story collection, Night's Black Agents. I also second the Matheson novel, and the Wells' novel -- I'd also include Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau, but The War of the Worlds is also something of a horror story.

    I feel like I'm referring folks to this rather much lately, but there are a lot of lists from me and a lot of suggestions from others that you might find of interest:
    http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showt...hlight=october

    What I can't quite figure is whether you are bothered by gore and violence, or deeply bothered by the anticipation of bad things about to happen. If it's the former, then a lot of older work might appeal to you. I'd strongly suggest the ghost stories of M. R. James (I heard that Wordsworth is reissuing the Collected Stories and that would be good, but most any volume of his stories is worth reading). Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural ed. by Herbert Wise and Phyllis Cerf (she has a different name on different editions, but darned if I can recall what it is, now) is a great anthology from the 1940s that might also whet your appetite.

    Randy M.

  9. #9
    Frog Lady Kaeru's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randy M. View Post


    What I can't quite figure is whether you are bothered by gore and violence, or deeply bothered by the anticipation of bad things about to happen. If it's the former, then a lot of older work might appeal to you. I'd strongly suggest the ghost stories of M. R. James (I heard that Wordsworth is reissuing the Collected Stories and that would be good, but most any volume of his stories is worth reading). Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural ed. by Herbert Wise and Phyllis Cerf (she has a different name on different editions, but darned if I can recall what it is, now) is a great anthology from the 1940s that might also whet your appetite.

    Randy M.
    Explicit gore and violence, anything detailed involving children, (possessed children, or children as victims) I can't handle at all well.

  10. #10
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Sounds like Randy's choices are the way forward. I found a copy of the Wise/Cerf book a few years ago and would further recommend it. It will at least give you an idea of the breadth of tales.

    As will The Dark Descent, edited by David Hartwell. Can't remember any demonic children in it: it is a huge tome (in the UK they divided it into three!) but again it gives you a range and some more recent tales too.

    The recent American Library books in two volumes, Fantastic Tales, edited by Peter Straub, might also give you plenty to work at.

    Mark
    Mark

  11. #11
    Registered User Loerwyn's Avatar
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    I don't know if I could suggest Lovecraft and Poe for wimps. What they lack in 70's style horror, they make up for in unsettling you. The Tell-Tale Heart by Poe is a tale of insanity and an act of desperation, but the pacing is so beautifully crafted that you're drawn into the narrator's spiral of madness. It's amazing, but it gets your heart going, and it is a little gory.

    I think Gaiman might also be worth checking out. He's not frequently a horror writer, but he does have these weird and creepy plotlines in his work. I'd suggest his short story collections (Smoke & Mirrors and Fragile Things), as they have a good selection of weird things.

  12. #12
    Registered User EMMAXIS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loerwyn View Post
    I don't know if I could suggest Lovecraft and Poe for wimps. What they lack in 70's style horror, they make up for in unsettling you. The Tell-Tale Heart by Poe is a tale of insanity and an act of desperation, but the pacing is so beautifully crafted that you're drawn into the narrator's spiral of madness. It's amazing, but it gets your heart going, and it is a little gory.

    I think Gaiman might also be worth checking out. He's not frequently a horror writer, but he does have these weird and creepy plotlines in his work. I'd suggest his short story collections (Smoke & Mirrors and Fragile Things), as they have a good selection of weird things.

    I dunno---I guess I don't get too frightened by fiction. I am always analyzing how the author does this or that. When you know how a magician does his tricks, it has less of an effect on you.

  13. #13
    Registered User EMMAXIS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loerwyn View Post
    I don't know if I could suggest Lovecraft and Poe for wimps. What they lack in 70's style horror, they make up for in unsettling you. The Tell-Tale Heart by Poe is a tale of insanity and an act of desperation, but the pacing is so beautifully crafted that you're drawn into the narrator's spiral of madness. It's amazing, but it gets your heart going, and it is a little gory.

    I think Gaiman might also be worth checking out. He's not frequently a horror writer, but he does have these weird and creepy plotlines in his work. I'd suggest his short story collections (Smoke & Mirrors and Fragile Things), as they have a good selection of weird things.

    I dunno---I guess I don't get too frightened by fiction. I am always analyzing how the author does this or that. When you know how a magician does his tricks, it has less of an effect on you.

    Neil Gaiman is great, BTW. But some of his Sandman stuff is really freaky . . . serial killer convention, anyone?

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Kaeru View Post
    Explicit gore and violence, anything detailed involving children, (possessed children, or children as victims) I can't handle at all well.
    I'm surprised you made it through any part of Pet Sematery, though it is one of the best I've read by King.

    Authors to look for, among older short story writers:
    Nathaniel Hawthorne (a fair amount of his work has fantasy elements and leans toward horror)
    Ambrose Bierce
    Algernon Blackwood
    Arthur Machen
    M. R. James
    Henry James
    Edith Wharton (there's a collection of her ghost stories that's quite good)
    E. R. Benson (there may still be floating around a massive collection of his ghost stories that sold enough for a couple of editions in the late '90s, early Oughts)
    F. Marion Crawford
    Walter de la Mare
    L. P. Hartley
    John Collier
    Elizabeth Bowen (there are ghost stories sprinkled throughout her collected stories)
    H. R. Wakefield
    Clark Ashton Smith
    Robert Bloch
    Fritz Leiber
    Richard Matheson
    Shirley Jackson
    Robert Aickman
    Charles Grant
    Ramsey Campbell
    Neil Gaiman (I very much second -- or by now, third -- the suggestion of his story collections)

    What we would now consider explicit gore and violence in literary horror really started showing up in the 1970s and 1980s, as writers began taking their cues as much from horror movies as from the literature (and from the 1950s EC Comics, which also influenced the movies). Not that there are no instances of violence and gore before the 1970s-- the contes cruel (sp?) of someone like Charles Birkin, for instance, would probably not be to your taste.

    As for novels, Ramsey Campbell's Ancient Images might work for you (but maybe not Midnight House, since it deals with family and so with children; very good novel, all the same, though). The premise of AI is that an obscure and suppressed Karloff/Lugosi movie leads the main characters into searching the history of the movie and that leads to revelations that put them in danger. Fun novel. Also look into Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House (basis for a 1960 movie directed by Robert Wise and a 1999 movie that should be avoided) is a towering example of how subtlety can be unsettling; it's a novel about the psychology of a character and which doesn't entirely admit to being supernatural while not entirely divorcing itself from the supernatural.

    There are also old stand-bys like The Picture of Dorian Grey and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One novel I'd also suggest, though I don't think it'll be all that easy to find, is Cornell Woolrich's Night Has a Thousand Eyes -- eerie supernatural noir before anyone called anything "supernatural noir."

    Randy M.

  15. #15
    Registered User Nikita42's Avatar
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    You could also even start out with Young Adult horror novels. They would be a little more tame than the adult versions. I was an avid horror fan in public school and highschool and read a lot of Christopher Pike and R.L.Stine.

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