Happy Friday, everyone! Today we have Lee Allen Howard sitting down for the next quick fire interview for the new book, Many Genres, One Craft. Lee, a graduate of the Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program, is also a student of divinity. So who better to talk about the religious part of the Horror genre’s foundation. We also talk about LBGT issues, horror’s role in e-books, and why he turned to writing horror.
NHRS: What aspects do you think the horror genre and religious parables share, if any?
LAH: Parables are stories, and like many good stories, they have an instructive point or theme. Likewise, horror stories sometimes can be viewed as cautionary tales, warning of what happens when one breaks the rules of society, morality, or religion. This is the unifying principle in the anthology of dark crime and horror I edited, Thou Shalt Not….
NHRS: Some view the horror genre as a conduit for evil that uses many religious images of darkness and evil. Do you think there is a way to make the genre more approachable to those so afraid of it?
LAH: Horror only horrifies those who hold the beliefs transgressed in a particular story. Although it’s shocking to have your beliefs challenged or seemingly desecrated, we must realize that horror is only fiction. Unless the author somehow shares or respects those beliefs, he or she would not have worked long and hard to develop a story based on them. It may be negative reinforcement, but horror in some way affirms the religious beliefs that its taboos challenge.
NHRS: In a time where atheism and agnosticism are growing among people, do you think that the religious roots of horror are weakening and that a more secular foundation of horror will form?
LAH: This has already happened. I just saw an alternative trailer for the 1973 movie The Exorcist, scandalous for its time, but which relied on a strong belief in Catholicism and the respect of the priesthood. The images in the clip were still disturbing, but the current state of church and priesthood—and the world’s opinion of them—have undermined the movie’s ability to horrify.
The horror genre has traditionally relied on its readers coming from a Judeo-Christian religious background. (Why was Dracula considered to portray such evil? Because the drinking of blood is forbidden in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures—see Gen. 9:4; Lev. 7:26, 17:10; Acts 15:20,29.)
Writers counted on their audience to share certain beliefs about good and evil, right and wrong, the holy and the profane. With the religious landscape in today’s world changing, splintering, or fading, modern horror can no longer expect to reach such a widespread and homogenous audience.
Although faith and religion are no longer as strong a foundation for contemporary horror tales, readers still possess a moral conscience. Just ask anyone about the Casey Anthony verdict. Granted, the ingredients of morality are also shifting, but readers still want a protagonist they can root for against the opposition, however the antagonist’s “badness” is defined.
NHRS: Horror seems to be lagging behind other genres in the visible appearance of LGBT characters in its collected works. Why do you think the genre is as hesitant as it is to LGBT protagonists?
LAH: I couldn’t say whether horror is or isn’t lagging behind other genres, but if it is, I’m fixing to change that. My story Stray features a young gay protagonist struggling to get back home when he becomes prey to a man with dark desires. And my next novel, Dead Cemetery (in planning) will feature a protagonist coming to terms with his orientation who returns home to battle the evil that has erupted there.
NHRS: Horror has always adopted the newest trends of publishing fast: from newspaper serials to pulp books. With the boom of indie publishing, do you think the genre will remain a genre in the end, or will it be more of a “meta-genre” recognized only by the addition of “dark” to a genre’s name?
LAH: When I was a kid, there were three basic flavors of ice cream: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. If you encountered anything else, it was considered exotic. Not anymore, although I’ve yet to try bacon-flavored ice cream.
There will always be horror readers, but the advent of digital publishing will dissolve hard genre designations based on brick-and-mortar bookstore shelf labels into whatever you can find online using a search engine. Today’s “dark” addition is perhaps a transitional stage, a way to indicate that a book or story rides (crosses, blurs?) the line between horror and some other genre like crime or fantasy. I describe The Sixth Seed as “dark paranormal,” a mash-up of science fiction, horror, and family drama.
NHRS: If you could tell everyone in the world one thing that it important about the horror genre that you think is overlooked, what would that be?
LAH: One of the biggest reasons I read and write horror is because it makes my personal struggles and problems seem not so bad in comparison. If my protagonists can stand and face unspeakable evil, then surely I can go bravely on to face another day. Maybe others can begin to see horror in that light.
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Lee writes horror, erotic horror, dark fantasy, and supernatural crime. His publication credits include Thou Shalt Not… anthology, Severed Relations, Stray, and The Sixth Seed, available on Amazon.com and Smashwords.com.
He’s been a professional writer in the software industry since 1985. Besides editing fiction and non-fiction, he does editing and layout for health and fitness professionals, medical companies, and psychics.