Oh, horror, you loveable realm of madness you. A genre created to delve into our deepest fears, to haunt us in more ways than we could ever have imagined was possible. And, as though that wasn't enough, the decades and centuries have seen horror branch out in unfathomable directions, picking apart phobias, terrors, and petrifying possibilities to unnerve readers even more - and we can't get enough of it. Here are some of horror's most successful and effective sub-genres, the kinds of reads that only the bravest dare to approach...
Ghosts, ghouls, demons, vampires, werewolves, and other uncountable creatures or forces that defy nature galore. Paranormal horror is one of the most successful and well known sub-genres of horror - and no, not just because of Paranormal Activity. Horror novels have utilized the natural fear of the paranormal for centuries. In fact, the first paranormal horror tale dates back thousands of years with Pliny the Younger's story of Athenodorus, which you can read more about in last year's History of Horror blog. Humans have long searched for answers to seemingly unanswerable questions in the realms of the paranormal, but countless paranormal horror works (Dracula, The Haunting of Hill House, Salem's Lot) tell us that perhaps sometimes it's best to leave some doors unopened...
Gothic is a word that can be applied to both horror books and other novels that are dark, macabre, and apply the correct setting - miserable weather, desolate architecture, and morbid stories set in 18th, 19th, and 20th century England being among the staple features of Gothic literature. On top of this, even in horror the term Gothic can be applied to works that span into other sub-genres too, providing that these features are present, with the likes of Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Picture of Dorian Gray standing as strong examples. There are, of course, other incredibly popular Gothic novels which fall more under the banner of classic literature such as Wuthering Heights and Northanger Abbey, but hey - we're talking about horror here!
Survival horror is another sub-genre that can fall alongside other sub-genres. It's fairly common for survival horror stories to include paranormal, science fiction, and other horror elements within, but there's something disturbingly powerful about the way in which survival horror affects the reader. Visceral scenes of POV violence, unnerving situations that slowly spiral out of control, and disastrous circumstances that may not necessarily be all too unrealistic to imagine... works such as Scott Smith's The Ruins and Stephen King's Misery come to mind - especially that infamous and gut-wrenching chapter in the latter, a chapter that will have any reader cradling their ankles in despair. You've been warned...
Science fiction and horror - name a better duo. We'll wait. Science fiction and horror blend together better than perhaps any other genres, and it's really not hard to make a case for this with the countless classic examples. The War of the Worlds, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, The Tommyknockers, Who Goes There?, and so many others prove that pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and the capabilities of our race can be as horrifying as it can be spectacular. From extraterrestrial invaders to artificial intelligence gone horribly wrong, sci-fi horror is a harsh reminder that sometimes it's perhaps best to not reach for the stars.
Now that you've read all about some of the most popular sub-genres in horror, make sure you make the most of our horror books in our vintage Halloween reads collection!