Horror Isn’t a 4-Letter Word: Essays on Writing & Appreciating the Genre

All genre fiction is not derivative. That’s a tenet on which this very site was based, so our appreciation for Matthew Warner’s HORROR ISN’T A 4-LETTER WORD: ESSAYS ON WRITING & APPRECIATING THE GENRE shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Most of this slim trade paperback is comprised of columns he penned for HorrorWorld.org, including advice to fellow authors on collaboration, plotting and crafting dialogue. At this point, you may be saying to yourself, “Wait a second — I haven’t even heard of this guy, so why should pay any attention to what he has to say?” Because he makes sense.

One of the more entertaining pieces has Warner dissecting dialogue from an early draft of Brian Keene’s CITY OF THE DEAD and the published version of J.K. Rowling’s HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN to show how so many authors do it incorrectly. At least Keene’s problems were fixed; Rowling’s are pretty embarrassing (“There! Are! Shitloads! Of! Exclamation points!” Warner notes).

As proof he can write himself, Warner includes a short story of his own, “With the Eyes of God,” about a man who has grown up with the “gift” of peering inside the minds of others, to see their darkest secrets. He doesn’t include it for show, but to illustrate how he successfully broke a taboo in it, and from where his idea spurred.

Other interesting articles touch on free speech, why we shouldn’t sanitize fairy tales, the pitfalls of author-created websites, the horror of schizophrenia and even a defense of the original LEFT BEHIND novel. But the chapter that makes 4-LETTER WORD every bit worth the purchase price is its longest, detailing Warner’s 1995 summer internship as an editorial intern for a firm that eventually was sued by the state of New York for defrauding consumers out of millions of dollars. Although he thought his job was strange at the time, he couldn’t quite put his finger on why. It all became evident after he was fired, and it’s one of those long, incredible stories that just seems too strange to be true, yet is.

No matter what the subject, though, Warner is quite the amiable host. I have no aspirations to write a horror novel, but I found myself reading the book cover to cover anyway. —Rod Lott

Buy it at Guide Dog Books.

EYES EVERYWHERE by Matthew Warner

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Comment by John A. Karr
2008-06-25 10:55:17

Seems that demand for Horror as a popular genre has cycles. Hard core demand is there, but has yet to work its way back after the explosive peak of King twenty-five years ago. At least now agents and publishers refer to it as Horror again, instead of watering it down to Dark Fiction.

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Comment by Alan Cranis
2008-06-25 12:41:32

John is right. My personal favorite substitute term for Horror is “Weird Fiction.” I’ll bet we’ve all read plenty of mainstream fiction that could be called weird.

Comment by Josh Jabcuga
2008-06-25 18:55:43

I’m trying to purchase this book via the website but I must be blind (tired, stupid, or all three). Is there an actual shopping cart or check-out at their site? I tried Amazon as a back-up, but I don’t believe they’re carrying the book as of yet. Looks like a cool read, if I could figure out how to get my hands on it.

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Comment by Rod
2008-06-25 18:59:11

An excellent question, Josh. I’ve forwarded your question to the author.

Comment by Josh Jabcuga
2008-06-25 19:02:44

Cool, thanks! I contacted the publisher right before you responded to my question, so hopefully we’ll get an answer either way.

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