I have an occasional habit of trawling through the kindle horror books that are available for free (I do the same for science fiction, but let’s stick to horror for this one). I do it because I’m a cheapskate looking for bargains by authors I know and like, and also because it’s a great way to try out new authors (new to me at least) and see if I’m going to be adding them to be “must be read” list. Now, having laid the ground, so to speak, let me state that I’m NOT going to be making any comments about quality of writing or layout etc. Both of those things go up and down more than a pervert’s zipper at a Justin Bieber concert, but that’s not what I want to talk about here.
What I find depressing in the freebie horror list is the vast number of vampire and zombie books. It can be a battle to find a horror story that isn’t about one of these two creatures.
Now, I am not without sin myself… yes I have a vampire novelette out there, The Evil Incantation, and yes I have a zombie novella sitting with a publisher waiting for release, but in my (weak) defence I want to say I have tried to give them a slightly different angle – not saying I’ve succeeded, but I’ve tried. The vast majority of the books I’ve looked at this morning seem to be very much in the traditional zombie/zombie holocaust mode or star romanticised vampires (somewhere between the erotic humour of Kim Harrison and the sickly sweetness of the Twilight books and movies). Where there are more vicious vampires (which I personally prefer) they are generally of the classic type with little originality about them.
Originality, that’s what it comes down to. Zombies can be done with a nice twist (my personal favourites being the zombie books by Brian Keene) and vampires can be entertaining (Kim Harrison, again, succeeded in her Hollows books to make them amusing, erotic and vicious all rolled in together). In fact all those traditional monsters can be done well and, personally, I love the old werewolves, demons and yes, even vampires and zombies. But they have to be done with some originality!
Disclaimer: I haven’t read all the vampire and zombie books available for free on the kindle, I’ve only read synopses and looked at covers, so I can’t comment on individual titles and I could even be way off the mark.
But my comments here aren’t just about free books on the kindle, they apply to the horror genre in general – books and movies. By all means use the old creatures, I’d hate to see them disappear, but please bring something new to them. I know it’s difficult, VERY difficult, but at least try. I will applaud the effort and, in all likelihood, enjoy the end result. And while we’re at it, drag out some other old friends – Greek and Egyptian Mythology are full of them for a start. And then there’s folklore from all over the world. There’s so much to choose from, and that’s before we include new creatures, created by the author just for their book.
I love horror, fiction and film, and I love creature features and monsters. The old Hammer movies are among my favourites (Dracula, Plague Of Zombies, The Reptile, The Gorgon and so on) as are some of the classic books (Dracula, Frankenstein, Werewolf In Paris, The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde and others) but if we’re going to continue using these much loved figures we need to bring something new to them to keep the interest alive, and to draw in new readers/viewers.
I hate the way genre fiction in general is looked down on by the “literary” world, and often they are unable or unwilling to see past the numerous variations-on-a-theme to the hundreds of amazing, original and well-written books that are out there. I don’t think that’ll change any time soon, but we could at least make sure our variations are attempts at original variations and not the same old themes and characterisations that have been done thousands of times before.
Before the personal attacks on my own books begin, can I at least claim to have tried to take a different view on things in my stories. I’m not saying I’ve always succeeded, but I have tried. At least be good enough to acknowledge that.
And to my horror writing co-workers around the world I would say, keep writing and turning out so many fantastic and wonderful works, but let’s use the old themes sparingly and with some kind of different twist that’s all your own (at least, as far as you know because, as they say, ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’).
We should at least be trying.