Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

Monday Musing – The Differences Between Horror and Fantasy Fiction

Written By: Tracy - Feb• 21•11

If you walk into a bookstore today, (assuming you still have a local bookstore) it can be difficult to sort out horror and fantasy sections. Once upon a time, horror had all the werewolves, vampires and ghosts while fantasy had the wizards and elves. But with all the dark fantasy, urban fantasy and paranormal novels co-opting the tropes of horror, it can be difficult to tell the two apart.

 

In Stephen King’s novel The Eyes of the Dragon, the protagonists come together to defeat the great evil wizard Flagg. At the end of the novel, the defeated Flagg runs away. The heroes celebrate before noting that Flagg has escaped. Part of the group of heroes vows to chase him down.

This is a sharp contrast to The Stand, another book of King’s where Flagg also plays the part of the villain. In the Stand, the heroes defeat Flagg at great personal cost. In the book’s coda, we find that somehow Flagg escaped, and lives on to continue his wicked deeds.

The difference between the two books is that The Eyes of the Dragon is a traditional fantasy, while The Stand is horror. In The Eyes of the Dragon, the story ends with hope. Although evil has survived, good has triumphed. In The Stand, the forces of good have given all they have to defeat evil, but in the end it was not enough.

In my interview with horror writer Steven E. Wedel (which will be posted tomorrow), the author of The Werewolf Saga, I asked him what separates horror from dark fantasy.  He said that: A tale is a horror story if the author’s primary intent is to instill in the reader a sense of fear or dread.

Horror is typically atmospheric. Think of the creepy topiary that moved in The Shining or the dripping ceilings of the catacombs in The Cask of Amontillado.  Fantasy varies in the tropes that it relies on. Quite a bit of urban fantasy has also borrowed from the gritty tropes of the noir novel. Paranormal romance is usually driven by the romance aspect.

Perhaps horror is in the eyes of the beholder. If so, then what defines a horror novel is what a reader wants to receive from reading the novel.  Many of the early gothic horror novels recycled variations of the same cover: a dilapidated old house with a single light in an attic window and a woman in white running away. These novels promised the reader both atmosphere and psychological terror.

If horror is anything that incites feelings of dread, then horror is a wide net. Watching Unsolved Mysteries used to make me lock my doors and windows at night. For that matter, I don’t watch ghost hunting shows because I don’t want to be jumping every time my house begins to settle.

Now excuse me, I need to go check on that strange noise. . .

 

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

21 Comments

  1. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  2. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  3. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  4. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  5. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  6. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  7. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  8. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  9. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  10. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  11. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  12. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  13. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  14. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  15. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  16. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  17. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  18. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  19. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  20. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.

  21. trystan830 says:

    i do still have a local bookstore – the big one is the one that’s closing. the one in the mall is staying.

    we don’t have a horror section. we have fiction… and scifi/fantasy. and they have NO Idea where to put some authors – they show up in both places (like LKHamilton.) *sigh*

    to me, horror is more either blood and guts… or scary stuff. i’d put some of Dean Konntz’s stuff in horror, actually.