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The Death Of Horror Sections
By Scott Nicholson

Horror sections have been disappearing in the bookstores like ghosts that have been held to the light. Obviously, this has good and bad effects for both the writers and the audience.

Through websites, egroups, newsletters, and friends, I am aware of almost every new horror title that comes out. I very rarely discover something that secretly made its way to the shelves. Small press books seldom make the chainstore shelves. Yet I usually hear as much about them as I do the few mass market releases.

However, some believe the casual horror fan, or someone with a wide range of taste, may have a hard time finding genre books if the horror sections disappear. Newer readers might never learn the joy of fear. Horror sections are kind of fun to hang out in, because they’re usually tucked away in a dark corner somewhere, far from the literary and so-called "serious" books.

The trouble is, most horror sections I’ve seen have only about five authors represented, which definitely does nothing for the genre. I believe just as many readers will discover new horror out among the main fiction shelves. Plus having those books cover-to-cover with DeLillo, Updike, McCrumb, and Hemingway just might earn them a little well-deserved respect.

I wouldn't mind seeing horror lumped in with "mystery & suspense," since I believe so many horror books cross over into those categories. Isn't good horror suspenseful? Isn't it mysterious? Have you ever read a "psychological thriller" that focused primarily on the cheerful and uplifting aspects of the protagonists? This seems a more appropriate category for horror than "Science Fiction & Fantasy," genres which are almost always combined in the bookstores even though the audience is quite different for each.

As a writer, though, I’d much rather be in the general fiction section. Though I do admit to writing horror, it’s not a banner I live and die under like some crusty South Carolinian clutching a rebel flag. Horror is a useful label when the label has marketing clout, but when the genre category swirls down the drain, your career might go with it. I love authors who push the limits, try to expand their audience, and touch widely on the human condition.

This holds true no matter how the books are marketed. H.G. Wells wrote science fiction, horror, literature, wit, mystery, social commentary, and "psychological thriller," all in the same book. Book after book. That’s why H.G. Wells will never go out of print. And I believe that should be a writer’s primary goal.

It doesn’t matter where the books are shelved. The good ones are still being written, and are still being found.

-copyright 2000 by Scott Nicholson

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