An Answer from Five Years Ago

but equally, if not even more, relevant now.  It’s a good thing I’ve stopped doing interviews.

“Q: The future of horror is … ?

A: One usually gets two types of responses to this. Here goes:

The first is along the lines of a request (very often, and most vocally, from old white males themselves) that greater inclusiveness is the future, that a higher proportion of female and minority writers must be afforded greater exposure. Personally, I think true equality consists of treating everyone on the same artistic basis, not a quota basis, and the final criterion for acceptance should be the actual quality of the fiction submitted, not gender, not ethnicity, not disability and not any other factor. What matters is the imagination and the skill of an author in telling a tale. Nothing else. I certainly do not subscribe to the view that individual old white men are, for any reason, more intrinsically capable of writing quality horror fiction than individuals drawn from any other category in society. But the idea that extrinsic political considerations be the benchmark for judging a work of fictional composition is, I contend, a species of patronisation.

The second common response is along different lines. Horror has entrenched itself into the movies and the vast majority of people no longer read books anyway. Successful (I mean highly commercially successful) horror authors had either better write a novel that can be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster film or else produce a body of work that can be utilised as a movie franchise. It’s not a vision that inspires me in the slightest. The other thing to bear in mind, and it was a staple view in the 1990s and the 2000s – but, it seems has finally, and mercifully, died off – is that there will be no return to the likes of the “horror boom” of the 1970s and 1980s in publishing. The decline of literacy has advanced to such a degree that the days of such cycles in publishing are over. The end was in sight when conglomerates took over all the smaller publishing houses that used to proliferate. Now the small press, with one or two notable exceptions, is all that remains for those who might once have been mid-list mass market authors of horror story collections (not anthologies) or novels that are not the size of a brick.

My own view is this: writers will continue, in the future, to work in this continuum of fictional composition (parts of which have been labelled “horror” or “weird” etc. for quite some decades now) as they have always done. No single author, no matter how masterful, is the summation of that continuum. And the label itself certainly isn’t important except for outside factors not connected with literary artistry, like commercial marketing. Ideally, the impetus for the author to engage in that continuum should come from within, and not from without.”

Mark S.


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