Ty Schwamberger

Yet Still It Lives by Wrath
James White

For the last twenty years Horror as a genre has been on life-support. It has been declared dead more times than Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees combined. Yet still, it lurches on, leaving a trail of blood and entrails among the bookshelves.

When I began writing horror seriously back in ’99, it had all but disappeared from the major bookstores. It had been replaced by books with labels like “Dark Fiction” and “Thriller” then buried in the bookshelves in a large melting pot called the fiction section where it would have taken a Pawnee scout and a bloodhound to find it. The last thing any new writer with a shred of business acumen wanted to be was a horror author. Yet gore-filled Psychological Thrillers were flying off the shelves and filling movie theaters. They looked indistinguishable from the pulp horror novels and slasher films of the nineteen eighties sans the stigma of the horror label because horror, as I was told, was dead.

Just six years ago a cascade of magazine and e-zine closures began and we lost one short story venue after another. Even that long staple of the horror genre, the horror anthology, was in jeopardy as anthologies were announced, stories were accepted, and then the books never materialized due to lack of funds. Short story collections from individual authors were becoming increasingly rare as publishers shied away from what they decided were risky projects. Once again, the horror genre was declared deceased. Its fetid putrefying carcass was paraded on message board after message board for all to see. And yet, like that quintessential modern horror icon, the zombie, this rotting carcass continued to breathe.

Two years ago, it seemed that one of the last bastions of horror, the small press, had been dealt a fatal blow by the collapse of the economy. Small press publishers emerged and promptly collapsed, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of readers who were stuck with books that arrived months after the announced publication date with bad covers and riddled with typos, if they ever arrived at all. Older established publishers crumbled as collectors could no longer afford forty and fifty dollar hardcovers and one hundred and fifty to three hundred dollar ultra-limited editions. It seemed that horror had finally been laid low. It had been dragged into the sunlight and doused in holy water. Yet still it lived.

Then, in 2010, we saw the sudden and dramatic implosion of one of the most influential horror publishers of the last ten years in Leisure Books. Their announcement that they were abandoning their mass-market format in favor of e-books sent shockwaves through the genre. Leisure may not have paid the best advances to their authors, they may not have had the best response times, and the quality of their covers and copy editing was often no better than a POD publisher, still, they had arguably the best distribution in horror.

The loss of such a major mass-market publisher is once again being mourned as the bullet to the cranium that will finally silence the walking corpse that has been this genre. But horror has taken more killshots than a game of Resident Evil and still continues to rise. I am confident that it will lumber on, dripping body fluids and losing a few body parts but still monstrously alive. If all the publishers were to turn their backs on horror and authors had to start publishing themselves, it would live. If it only existed as a rare limited edition or an e-book, it would live. Because we love its bloodless, decomposing cadaver and we will keep it alive even if we have to let it feed on our own blood. And as long as those of us who love to write horror continue to do so and those of you who love to read it continue to scour the bookshelves for it, it will never die. It will rise with each full moon and snarl and howl for our delight. It will keep us up at night staring in fear at the closed bedroom door, waiting for the doorknob to turn. It will keep us from going into the basement or attic alone past sunset. It will peer through our bedroom window at night, reach from beneath the bed to grab at our ankles and breath heavily on the other end of the phone. It will do what it has always done. It will terrify us. It will amaze us. It will make us laugh and think and cry and cringe, sleep with the lights on, pull the bed sheets over our heads, and, above all else, it will survive, despite the world’s best efforts to kill it.

[Editor’s Note]
You can check out Wrath’s work at: Words of Wrath

Ty is an author in the horror genre. To learn more about his work, you can visit his website at: Ty Schwamberger

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