Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART II

This is part II in the categorical explanation for THE SUB GENRES OF HORROR.

For an introduction, and PART I of this series, please begin here:

The Sub-Genres of Horror - Part-I


Dark Fantasy (AKA: Fantasy Horror, AKA: Gothic Fantasy)

Dark Fantasy in its broadest definition may be seen as simply another term for “supernatural horror,” being that it has a speculative element and the story is gloomy or grim in tone. However, the Dark Fantasy category is generally referenced when defining fiction in a “fantastic” context, and going beyond just the idea of one supernatural presence in order to explore a greater evil within its universe. Often, alternate and horrific worlds are developed that the characters must exist within. Other associations may involve elements of Sword & Sorcery fiction or High Fantasy fiction, written to a particulalry dark bent. Another example could be that the story is told from a mythological monster’s point of view.

Book Examples:

The Dark Tower (series of books) by Stephen King
The Saint-Germain novels by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Kane (stories and novels) by Karl Edward Wagner

Environmental Horror (AKA: Eco-Horror, including “Natural Disasters”)

This category applies to any story in which an element of nature takes on a speculative aspect with potentially deadly consequences to humans. Often it’s a reactionary tale in which mankind abuses the environment, and by consequence of their own actions cause the environment to exact revenge. Examples of rampant ecology include: catastrophic natural calamity (volcano, earthquake, tornado); climactic upheaval (sudden return of the ice age or cooling of Earth’s core); man-eating plants (‘nuff said); mutated animals (overt monsters such as two-headed monster shark or oversized insects OR psychological/ intellect, ala Planet of the Apes); disastrous weather (flooding, blizzards, extreme heat); atmospheric toxicity (air no longer breathable), etc. Though often ‘campy,’ these stories do promote the greater good of environmental awareness and often serve as platforms for real warnings about misusing Earth’s resources.

Book Examples:

Hothouse by Brian W. Aldiss
Garbage Man
by Joseph D'Lacey
The Ruins by Scott Smith

Erotic Horror (AKA: Dark Erotica)

Erotic Horror is horror fiction which combines elements of strong sexual or sensual imagery, including (though not necessitating) intercourse. Often the erotic element goes against conventional norms, involves supernatural aspects, and may not be ‘pleasurable’ to at least one of the participants. It’s a fine line and matter of taste moving beyond a story’s traditional “romantic” element to elicit erotica and tends to be more common in the horror genre than others, simply by the graphic style of writing that the community promotes. When pushing boundaries, it’s just as easy to describe an intense act of coitus as it is a gory bloodbath; both are somewhat taboo. Much horror has subtle elements that naturally lends itself into this category. Consider Dracula’s sensual sway over female victims, or the demon Succubus that drains unsuspecting men, or even the horror movie cliché that any young couple who engage in sex will be killed the following scene. (Trivia Time: William Shakespeare called the orgasm the “little death.”)

Book Examples:

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker
Scared Stiff
by Ramsey Campbell
Love in Vein: Twenty Original Tales of Vampiric Erotica edited by Poppy Z. Brite

Fairy Tales and Dark Fables

More often recognized in sanitized adaptations with happy endings, children are reared on legion of fairy tales. However, most of these stories were originally developed as being much darker in nature with gruesome twists and horrific endings than as known today. Rather than heroic adventures, fairy tales are parables for children meant to reinforce values and life lessons from an early age. At their heart, these stories may even be viewed as psychological tools . Child psychologist, Bruno Bettelheim, wrote the following in 1975 about this topic: “In order to master the psychological problems of growing up... a child needs to understand what is going on within his conscious self so that he can also cope with that which goes on in his unconscious.” Psycho-babble aside, old-school fairy tales are frightening things; oft-employed grim elements include supernatural monsters or witches, ghosts, deformation, severe punishment or imprisonment, and death. There continue to be new works released that incorporate elements of fairy tales, create their own tale, or promulgate the legends of fairy tales or fables, so this sub-genre by no means includes only “passed-down” stories.

Book Examples:

Grimms' Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Little Red Riding Hood
by Charles Perrault (first published)
Once by James Herbert


MORE TO COME IN MY NEXT BLOG POST! Stay tuned soon for The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART III

Part I Describes: Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic Horror, Bizarro Fiction, Body Horror (Biological Horror)

Part II describes: Dark Fantasy (AKA:Fantasy Horror), Environmental Horror, Erotic Horror, Fairy Tales and Dark Fables

Part III describes: Gothic Horror, Historical Horror, Humor (AKA: Horror Comedy), and Killer Animals

Part IV describes: Lovecraftian Horror (Cthulhu Mythos), Media Tie-In, Monster Horror, and Paranormal

Part V describes: Psychic Abilities, Psychological Horror, Religious Horror (including: Demons and Possession), and Revenge


Thanks to notes on this topic accumulated from the following websites:






Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard


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