Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Second Type of Horror: The Horror

So, last week, I went over the Gross-out. Today we'll be discussing the Horror. If you want to know what quote started this, go back and take a look. It's a fair sized quote, so I don't want to take up a lot of space with it three weeks in a row.

This is the point where things start to get a little confusing. First off, I want to make it clear that in any given story, none of these things are exclusive. You can have the Gross-out, the Horror, and the Terror all in the same story, sometimes even in the same scene.

The Horror is different from the other two because it's trying to play on our fears and elevate them to higher levels than normal. For instance, many people are afraid of snakes and lizards. The thought of something scaly just unnerves them. So, what does it do to people who are already afraid of reptiles when they see something like this?

Whereas the Gross-out is going for something to make your stomach turn, the Horror is trying to activate your fears. That's one reason people gravitate towards certain writers and not others. The monster horror grips them in ways the crime thriller doesn't. Or vice-versa if the person is more afraid of who their neighbors might be than of snakes, or spiders. 

This definitely isn't just about creepy crawlies though. It can be any fear. The fear of being alone, the fear of drowning, even the fear of being in a crowd. The Horror is about finding what scares you and shoving it right up into your face.

That makes the Horror very different from the Gross-out. It's not going for the gut-punch that makes you queasy or makes you turn away in disgust. This is going for actual fear.

I think this is the level that most people actually enjoy. It's the fear that's embodied by movies such as Pacific Rim and Godzilla, where there's the "fun" fear of being crushed by a giant monster, or even of some unstoppable predator that's trying to eat us, a fear that used to be very based on reality but that has dwindled over the years.

It's the fear of natural disasters such as tsunami's and earthquakes. The movies that are Horror movies if you actually stop to think about it, (seriously, imagine the sheer numbers of dead people in Pacific Rim), but that Hollywood usually labels as Action or Thrillers.

Aliens has a lot of the same things as Alien had. The claustrophobic setting, the monsters, and yet, while this is undoubtedly a Horror movie, it gets listed as an Action movie first. If anything the sequel is even more of a Horror movie, because it shows all our preparations are for naught.

Still, it's more fun to think we can fight the Horror, than to just sit back and be terrified of it, even if we fail miserably.

And that's why I think this kind of horror is generally the most popular.

But that's just my opinion, I could be completely off base. What do you think?

~ Shaun

Monday, January 18, 2016

The First Type of Horror: The Gross-out

Yeah, don't expect many pictures in today's post.

“The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it's when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it's when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It's when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there's nothing there...” - Stephen King

I figured it worth the time to take a look at some of these a bit more in-depth. I'll tell you right now, that was a mistake for this part. Blech.

The gross-out is exactly what you would think. All the most disgusting, revolting things that make your stomach turn over. When a head explodes, a fountain of blood gushes out of a random orifice, someone throws up, that's all going for the gross-out. It's not trying to catch your breath, or send shivers down your spine. It's going for that gut reaction that makes the bile rise up in your throat a little bit.

Now, there's nothing wrong with that. It's even the basis for genre's such as Splatterpunk and Torture porn. So there's certainly a market for it, and there are people that appreciate it.

The SAW series is pretty good for an example of the gross-out. While the story itself stands up pretty well, and has an incredible amount of tension, it doesn't look away when the string snaps and people's heads are ripped open.

Of course, with whole genre's based around the gross-out, you also end up with things like COWS (read at your own risk). stories which seem to be written or told just to see how fast or how many times they can make you lose your lunch.

Of course, the gross-out isn't just a genre. It's a tool. It pops up in a lot of great horror. Stephen King himself uses it scattered through his books.

Jack Ketchum's Off Season is rather famous for being "raw, and disturbing", but it's only in the last third of the book, with it's descriptions of cannibalism and perversion that it gets to that point. The rest of the book remains a regular horror thrill ride of a group of friends fending off a savage attack by the cannibal clan.

Even my own work, Class 5, has scenes which go for the gusto of gross rather than the tried and true method of leaving most of the details to the reader's imagination. The scene of a young boy partially devoured, for example.

So what is the difference between a gross-out and just your average violence? It's more than just not turning away at the pivotal moment. It's about taking the moment and reveling in it. Going into more detail than story or description needs. It's when the author gives up on Terror or even Fear and just goes for triggering revulsion.

For example. When the alien grabs your hapless victim by the head, the reader needs to know that it crushed the human's skull like a styro-foam cup, rather than caress the man's hair. The reader doesn't really need to know that its thumb pushed in through one of the eye sockets, mashing the orb like a grape before the rest of its fingers pressed in, shattering the skull like glass, shards of bone sticking out between the fingers as blood and brain fluid ran down the remains of the man's face.

But it is nice to give them that detail once in a while. Just for fun.

Monday, January 11, 2016

31 Posts of Monsters: River Monsters

Human beings are NOT aquatic creatures. That much should be evident in how little we actually know about places of deep water around the world. It doesn't matter if it's the oceans, freshwater lakes, or even deep, murky rivers.

Name: Muskellunge, Piranha, Xiphactinus, Gar, White River Monster

Size: They range from a pound, to several hundred, and mere inches long to big enough to swallow people whole.

Appearance: Mostly excessively large, toothy fish.

Threat: Low to mid. Some freshwater fish could certainly post a threat to an average adult human, but they're generally unlikely to attack without being cornered or otherwise provoked, such as being on the end of a fishing line. And even though some stories report people just vanishing under the surface, most are just going to give you a nasty bite.

While lake monsters are actually fairly common, river monsters are pretty rare. This can easily be attributed to the fact that rivers aren't closed systems. They dump into lakes, larger rivers, and eventually the sea. So many river monsters may simply be temporary visitors, and only swimming through the rivers for short periods.

One of the most well-known river monsters was the White River Monster, which has been reported infrequently for almost 50 years. The creature has even claimed to have had an effect on the American Civil War, being blamed for the overturning of a boat that was carrying supplies.

Many reports of monsters in rivers are just tales of fish that are much bigger than any that people have previously seen or caught. "The one that got away" so to speak.

It's also worth noting that the shark attacks that inspired the movie JAWS actually happened miles upstream from the ocean, and at least one species of shark, the Bull shark, is known to be able to swim inland.

Of course, there are always a few unexplained deaths near water. Like I said, human beings are not aquatic by nature. Many deaths are likely due to people slipping under, drowning, and their bodies getting washed downstream or just getting caught among roots, the stories of river monsters being created in a way to have something to blame. There are certainly stories enough of fish that can do some significant damage with their bite, and it's not hard to believe that some species could kill and eat people if grown large enough.

Unfortunately, there's really not much in the way of books or movies regarding river monsters. Most focus on lakes or the ocean. The Animal Planet series Lost Tapes has an episode about the White River Monster. Also, although not focused on cryptids, the series River Monsters includes several stories of super-sized fish and legends of giants that feed on human flesh.

Seriously, check this show out!

So, if you go out on the river this summer, be careful. You might have more on the end of your line than you're expecting. 

~ Shaun

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My plans for 2016

Hi everybody! I hope you all made it through New Year's Eve without too much trouble, or pending litigation. Mine was just a quiet night at home, pondering over what I was going to do about the coming year. I've come up with quiet a few ideas and plans that will hopefully keep me busy, and make 2016 my most successful year yet as an author.

This isn't going to be a long blog post, but I wanted give you guys a heads-up on what to expect from me in the coming year.

First off, I slacked off way too much last year as far as writing goes. I had a few short serials on here and wrote up a couple other short stories, but that was it. This year, I'm making writing a daily exercise, a minimum of 500 words a day. Some of them will be for submissions and collections, but some will likely be posted up here on the blog for all of you to enjoy.

I also want to make it clear, I'm going to get this blog back on track. A new post will be up every Tuesday. I've had some issues keeping that schedule the past couple years, but this is one of my goals for this year.

Of course, I have a few series running that are going to continue. My posts of monsters will continue until there's at least 31. Whether we get there this year, that's something we'll have to wait and see.

Reviews of TV shows, Movies, and Video games will continue as well. I may also infrequently post up book reviews on here, instead of just on Goodreads. If anything else particularly interesting and relevant pops up and I deem it worth it, I may even review that too. We'll see.

I plan on looking back over previous posts that I've done, and updating them, considering this blog has been running for several years now. Some of the information in those early posts may need to be updated, or simply be things where I've learned otherwise since then. Part of the reason for this blog was to track and share my own experiences as I wandered through the Publishing/Self-publishing worlds, and I'm learning more on a daily basis. Sometimes I may not even realize how a thought or opinion has changed since I first started, but they're all worth sharing. 

I also plan to continue with new posts on Writing and the Horror genre, so look forward to those as well. 

Now we get to my departure for the year. As I've stated on here previously, in addition to straight Horror, I've also always been a fantasy fan. I've always loved dragons, dinosaurs, Godzilla, etc. etc. And one of my aspirations is to pen a Fantasy novel. I have an entire world, story, and characters drawn up, but it just hasn't felt like the 'write' time. (hehe). Well, to help spur that right time, and with a little inspiration from some current reading, I've decided to do up a few short stories set in that world and post them up here to my blog this year. We'll see how that shapes up and works out, but it's worth a try. 

That brings me to my little piece of advice for today's post. Don't be afraid to branch out, experiment, and try new things. They might work, and they might not, but you can't let fear hold you back. 

And that is the essence of why we enjoy Horror. 

~ Shaun

(And yes, the point of this post is partially to ensure I don't miss the first post of the year, even though I didn't actually have anything good ready to go. :-P Sue me.)