Call it dread, terror, fright or the heebie-jeebies, all beings know fear.
The universality of this emotion may partly explain the popularity of the genre, a popularity that stretches back way before Stephen king or Clive Barker. Even before Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” over 200 years ago. Back maybe to the days of caves and early Man huddled in groups around a fire listening to tales that thrill.
LGBT readers (and viewers) are no strangers to the appeal of fear. One might immediately assume we have a special set of fears; being outed. Public stigma and discrimination from being out. The ravages of plague which hit this community during the past three decades. But do these represent fears that are exclusive to this community or are they universal as well? Fears of alienation and loneliness, of losing friends and family and finally the big bugaboos of death and illness. When the maniac with the hatchet in the woods catches up to you, sexual orientation doesn’t matter.
The slasher/psycho killer in fiction may be counterbalanced by what was called three decades ago “quiet horror.” Subtle. Nuanced. Owing more to classic writers like M.R. James than to a cheap, direct-to-DVD splatterfest. The knock at the door when nobody’s there. The sudden sense that something very familiar is somehow not right. The flushing of the upstairs toilet when you’re downstairs and know you’re alone in the house. A decade ago I made regular deliveries to a local amusement park and found the place, its rides and attractions devoid of people, creepy; somehow speaking of absence and emptiness. And of unspoken fears.
Does horror reassure? Yes, sometimes. There is a feeling of safety when the reader puts the book down and thus dispels imaginary boogiemen. There is a vicarious thrill in reading stories where others stake the vampire, lay the restless spirit, confront the dark unknown.
G.K. Chesterton said that fairy tales do not tell us that dragons exist, they tell us that dragons can be beaten.
Jeff Baker blogs about reading and writing sci-fi and horror and other sundry matters around the thirteenth of each month. He has been published in Queer Sci-Fi’s “Flight,” SciFan Magazine and elsewhere. He appears on Facebook as Jeff Baker, Author. He also blogs and posts fiction at http://authorjeffbaker.com. He lives, and fights the occasional dragon, in Wichita, Kansas with his husband Darryl