A little foreword first;
What I want to say by no means encompasses all authors. My own reading choices make up a minuscule selection of the horror genre, I’ll be talking about my own opinion based on my reading experiences.
I’ll briefly reflect on my recent reading history to show you what I’m working from.
This year so far I’ve read 87 books.
– 31 were horror. (I found this quite surprising actually, I’d expected the number to be above 36%)
–10 written by 10 different FEMALE authors
–20 written by 17 different MALE authors
(4 of these titles were Jonathan Janz)
-SUB-GENRES included fantasy, thriller, gothic, supernatural, body horror, sci-fi, survival, post apocalyptic and coming-of-age.
– 6 of them could be considered YA and 4 of those are marketed as such.
It may also be interesting to note that all were published within the past decade with the exception of two male written horrors first released in the 80s.
As I embark on my 32nd horror novel of 2019, (Jonathan Janz’ The Darkest Lullaby – review here) I’ve found myself considering one of the biggest differences between my experiences of male and female writers of horror.
We’ve all seen terrible examples of men writing erotica on twitter. Those snippets of ridiculous, eye-rolling, sometimes nauseating scenes. Almost always throwing about words like cunt, snatch or whatever derogatory term they can think up for vagina.
In horror especially I find this irritating.
It feels like men are trying to disgust you with sex, making it as tawdry or just gross as possible to elicit shock or unease in the reader.
Let me tell you, it doesn’t work! I’m not shocked, I’m not uneasy. I’m just rolling my eyes at the transparent attempt to force emotion. I find it juvenile and it immediately lowers my respect for the writing.
Now I’m by no means prudish. But seriously? A third of the male written horror books I read put serious focus on genitalia. Specifically male genitalia.
There were giant slimy naked monsters with dicks longer than their arms- come on now, that’s just funny! All the effort you put into describing these fearsome beasts and now I’m imagining them tripping over their own penises.
Dicks growing out of a house interior.-Now that was bizarre. Being raped by a ‘hardwood’ floor? Door handles warping into cocks? Consider any suspense obliterated. If I’m not almost-laughing at such childish ideas then I’m definitely annoyed to have shattered.
There’s nothing more wasteful then spending pages, chapters even, building that sense of dread or slow creeping tension to have it culminate in a brawl where someone gets dick-slapped.
I’ve read about victim being swallowed hole by vampire vaginas and a fountain that pours out cum instead of water- that one was particularly gross actually. My stomach flipped at the thought so I guess maybe that guy got the reaction he wanted. But I can’t say it made me want to keep reading.
I’m not bothered enough by it to put the book down but I read horror to be scared, shocked, tense, thoughtful and many other things that do not count disgusted or a little queasy.
In all the female written horror books I’ve read I have never come across erotica being used to disgust. To scare? Yes, absolutely.
But rather than giant monsters swinging their impossibly big dicks around, (as found in 7 of the 20 male horror novels I’m discussing!) the women creep into your own psyche or put you straight into their characters shoes.
Using sex to frighten readers only has real impact for me when done by women. They bring a subtlety and purpose to the writing that evokes a completely different reaction.
Perhaps this is just because I too am female?
We could easily discuss the societal aspects of this topic but that’s not the point I’m making today.
Some of my favourite horrors are set between 1970 and 1999 so I’m really appreciative of the similarities arising in some of the recent publications I’ve read.
I love the small town, old school vibes I found in many of those 31 books.
But gentleman please, leave the sex-shock trend behind where it belongs would you? I’m bored with it.