This may be blasphemy to the Horror genre, but I hate what it is anymore. The classical horror of the Victorian era let the imagination of the reader fill in the blanks allowing for more “horror” than bombarding people with gore. Yes, I know, death is a part of the genre, but in recent decades, death and gore isn’t a consequence, but the point of the story instead. In fact, story takes a back seat to gore and death for much of horror. I would like to challenge people to see the beauty in classical horror.
The setting is a rarely traveled part of the world, perhaps the woods, and there is either a killer or monster lurking. Unfortunately, a group of stupid college students go in that region and get picked off one by one in terrible and gruesome ways. This is the sort of thing that passes as horror anymore, with few exceptions. I enjoy tales of werewolves, in fact my upcoming book will include them, but gaining inspiration was pretty challenging because there are very few quality werewolf stories out there.
I enjoy stories that are based around suspense and unknown with supernatural elements. This is what horror used to be. It isn’t just horror that has changed, fantasy has grown darker and grittier. Dark and gritty isn’t inherently, bad but both modern fantasy and horror have grown incredibly cynical in their messages. In horror most of the time everyone dies brutally, life is cheep, and it seems fantasy is adopting that approach as well. Why is that? Storytelling tends to follow cultural trends, have some genre fiction stories gotten darker, horror much earlier than others, due to an increasingly cynical outlook on life? Is it due to changing tastes that accompany an evolving culture? What if storytellers focused on plot and character development over pushing boundaries instead? At this point it is hard to imagine any boundary that hasn’t been pushed anyway, perhaps all of us who craft stories need to examine why we write them and what is their purpose.
What is evil? That is something wise men have discussed for ages. Some find it hard to define, or even deny its existence all together. Yet it is obvious that there is a measurable standard of what is evil, human history points to that, despite what some may say. Things such as murder, cannibalism, stealing, etc. have been condemned throughout most cultures. In fiction, like in the real world, those who are evil often see themselves as good, but making hard decisions for the greater good.Few people who are evil see themselves as evil, in fact the most monstrous people still carried on typical lives. Well I’m not sure about some such as Elizabeth Bathory, but I’ve seen videos of Nazi SS men talking with their families and having what looked like a normal day. These men of course took part in the holocaust, that is what’s so chilling. Evil can be subtle, not all monsters always appear to be monsters. In a time when morality is often seen as relative by the masses, how will they identify someone who is evil? Will the evil person be ignored by someone or something that is seen as a greater threat?
This is something that has been seen in fiction. One notable example, the rise of Palpatine to power in Star Wars. While everyone thought the Separatists were the main threat, all the while their own leader was plotting to seize power.
I have said before, good fiction mirrors reality and speaks deep truths, even harsh truths. It seems like so many people are married to ideology and incapable of empathizing with other perspectives. When things get to that point how will they recognize evil? In Star Wars they didn’t, the same goes for countless other works of speculative fiction. Maybe we need to be able to discuss things better, understand one another better, before fiction becomes reality. We don’t have to agree, but empathy breeds understanding. Without understanding we are opening the door for evil to come in unseen.
Let us learn from fiction.
I have written before that the fantasy genre is not just an escape from reality, but in truth, if it is done well, it addresses real world issues in a down-to-earth manner. I fully stand by the idea that this is one of the primary reasons people read fantasy. There are many reasons why people my lean toward that genre, including nastaglia and personal preference. However, I think the mysteries of the real world are a huge draw to fantasy.
Often, the fantasy genre includes real world things that are mysterious and unknown, such as ghosts and other spiritual beings. There are mysterious objects that invoke the imagination such as the Baghdad battery and the Book of Soyga that are so strange they look like they belong in a fantasy novel instead of the real world. Now I’m not saying readers should take everything at face value and assume all mysteries are real or do not have alternative explanations. Some things will forever remain mysteries. Some cannot be tested in the lab and will never have empirical evidence to support their existence, and that is what makes them so fascinating. The unknown is what fuels speculative fiction. The human imagination fills in the gaps with “what ifs” and begins constructing entirely new worlds.
Humanity has a desire for knowledge and growth and for information about the unknown so that it becomes familiar. This is the heart and soul of fantasy because there are unlimited ways to explore these possibilities through human imagination. The best fiction has a grain of truth in it, and this makes the genre more relatable. Would ghosts, angels, and demons interest as many people if millions hadn’t claimed to encounter them? I personally doubt it. If everything happened in the world as people expected it to, would fantasy then be as relatable? Probably not. It is because life has unexplained mysteries that we are open to looking at life through a different lens to try to explain what we experience, and this can draw people to fantasy.
I have relaunched Goandria: Visions of War. The second edition had new chapters, greater characterization, and now includes Flight of the Wizard short story which used to be only in the paperback version.
It took two months to prepare this version and I feel it finally does the story justice. If you read fantasy and are looking for something new and different you can take a look yourself here.
As always I’m looking for reviews as well. If this is something that interests you, and you want a free eBook copy let me know in the comments below. You can also shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I have noticed in the shows and movies I watch, and the books I read that Nazi imagery for the villains is prevalent. Okay, prevalent might be a little bit of an understatement. The correct word would probably be ubiquitous. I have seen the imagery in Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Wayward Pines just to name a few examples. The Third Reich has undoubtedly earned the villainy reputation it has. Nazis did horrible things and now modern fiction often models the villains after them in some fashion, even if it is just loosely. Now whenever someone doesn’t like a politician or political party, too often comparisons arise between them and the Nazis. Nazis are so commonly used, either directly or indirectly, that they have become the clichéd villains.
History is important, and learning from the atrocities of the past is the most important. I have said before that fantasy isn’t just about escaping reality, it is another window to view it. Reminding current generations of the horrors people have committed in the past is one important function of fiction. The Nazi imagery has been overdone however. Yes, the Nazis did horrible things and history should not forget what they did lest history repeats itself. There were other evil groups, cults, governments, and beliefs that we need to prevent from happening again too. Stalin killed a lot more people than Hitler, yet him and the KGB haven’t even come close to the notoriety of the Nazis. I would argue learning from that part of history is equally as important as the Third Reich.
I would like to encourage other areas of history to influence fiction. Let’s face it, Nazi imagery has been overdone. What about Pol Pot and the genocide he committed, or more recently ISIS? I would like to see more varied allusions to history outside of “How can we make this group more evil looking by subtly comparing it to the Nazis?” We are writers, creative thinkers. Let us tape into the wellspring of history and most just lazily follow the crowd and use the same allusions for evil.
The second edition of Goandria: Visions of War is now released! It has all new chapters, greater characterization, and now the eBook includes the short story Flight of the Wizard, once exclusive to the paperback.
If you read fantasy, I am looking for reviewers. My goal is to have three reviews on this book before Halloween. If you are willing to read it and review it email me at email@example.com and I will send you a free review copy.
If you want more details on the book you can read the description on the amazon page here.
I have said before that marketing isn’t my specialty. Honestly, I need help, as in a professional to come along side me who is honest. I have had friends and family come along side me and give awesome tips, and combined with my own research I’m fairly well-armed. However, that doesn’t mean that I always know how to implement what I learned, and even when I do it doesn’t seem to work very well. I’m willing to pay someone to help, but frankly I’m very suspicious of all the book marketing sites on Twitter. It is particularly alarming when someone clams to be awesome at marketing and when I check out her amazon page she has less reviews than I do and hasn’t sold a whole lot more than me either.
Sadly, this is something I have found to be rather common on Twitter. Hundreds of people or companies claiming they can sell books grunted, but there is very little information on how they are going to sell the books. Meanwhile I’m trying to improve my writing and marketing skills all at the same time. It’s been a fun journey, but I think the time is coming where I am going to need to get even more serious about marketing. Like anyone learning the ropes I made several blunders. It isn’t easy convincing total strangers they should by a book from someone they never heard of, and that is completely understandable. You don’t know the quality of the book I wrote or anything really. You can read the blurb and check it out on the website, but you won’t know how good it is until you buy it.
The other issue with book marketing is literally every author has a “formula” that sells books and as one can imagine the information often contradicts between sources. It is horribly confusing and at the end of the day all I can do is see what works and what doesn’t. So if you are an author like me, hang in there, selling our books takes time and it is often a painfully slow process.