Editor: "Through the Past Darkly" is a new biweekly column published Tuesdays.
Welcome to the column titled Through the Past Darkly, a new space dedicated to conversing with the dead. Well no, we wont really be conversing with the dead, but it will be a column dedicated to unearthing older, lesser-known titles and thinking about the history of horror and its wonderfully creepy culture.
In essence it will be an exploration of all things dead, past and present. The purpose of the column is twofold: 1) to learn and explore how it is that our favorite genre arrived at its present state, and 2) to have a lot of fun doing it. So pull up a chair. Sit down. Relax and get comfortable. You never know whats lurking underneath.
To begin the conversation on horror, let us start with horror fiction and the people who write our favorite chilling tales. Here's an axiom of frightening proportions: some writers have all the luck. Take Stephen King for example. The penultimate writer, for many a casual reader his name is synonymous with the horror genre. Interestingly his oeuvre has transcended boundaries imposed on it by the publishing industry and crossed over into the mainstream, thereby garnering the attention and admiration of millions of readers.
King, of course, would be the first person to tell you that he is lucky; just search the internet for the terms King and accident and you'll see why. Also key is that Mr. King does have some great work under his belt, titles that have become instant bestsellers and many of which will be remembered for generations to come. Thus, King's prolific career, his luck and his fame are actually great boons for the horror genre. He has been able to bring attention to the genre and expand its fan-base. He has also created a monster: a horde of people with an insatiable appetite for the macabre. For horror, nothing could be better for the genre.
So King is good for horror because he has brought an awareness of and a readership to the genre. However, King is not the only writer to have frightened readers with his prose, nor will he be the last. Horror has probably been around since humans have been telling each other stories, and its characteristics in fiction have certainly been around as long as writing itself. See Beowulf and Shakespeare for some really great classic examples.
This article could also have begun equally well with another mainstream writer. Quickly, the names of Dean Koontz, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, and Clive Barker come to mind. These writers have all contributed to the horror genre in their own special way, have expanded and refined it, making it better and more unique.
Of equal importance, though, are the lesser known writers and artists who have also made important contributions to the horror genre. Shirley Jackson comes to mind. So does Richard Matheson. There are countless others who have also influenced the big names and it is this influence that is worthwhile to explore. A good analogy is that there is a pool filled to the brim with items pertaining to all things spooky. It is a dark pool, its water murky and thick, and it is into this pool that writers and artists cast a line when they need to come up with something fresh. It is also into this pool that Through the Past Darkly intends to dive, to discover fresh perspectives and discover new (old) works.
And now ... lets talk horror.
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