The Judgment of Horror or the Horror of Judgment

Yep! This about says it all! ~ Image sourced from

Whilst perusing a guest blog on my friend LizzieBeth’s site, I found myself utterly aghast at what I was reading. That, in & of itself, came as a shock to me as I generally come away from her blogs in a happy-go-lucky ‘yay I got to know another cool author’ mood. To be clear, my shock had absolutely nothing to do with LizzieBeth’s writing or with the fact that the guest blogger, Fiona Dodwell, is a published horror fiction novelist. I was taken aback by some of the judgments Ms. Dodwell says some people pass on her & probably others for simply being a horror novelist.

I just can’t fathom why people would pass such harsh &, in my opinion, strange judgment on a person for writing fiction—regardless of the genre. The things mentioned in that post regarding those who choose to write horror, though, are outright appalling & definitely blew my mind. I had no idea. To say it’s ‘unhealthy’ or there ‘must be some deep-rooted issue’ for someone to be entertained by, let alone write in, the horror genre sounds incredibly insane to me. It’s fiction—pure & simple. One either enjoys reading/writing fictional horror or doesn’t. There’s no need to pass judgments on the readers or the writers of this or any other genre.

I wonder if these same hypercritical people give a moment’s thought to the fact that there are far worse things than horror fiction novels that have come from the human imagination, been tinkered with, & materialized into reality—many of which have been around for at least a century? For instance all the medieval torture devices, the atomic bombs, or ‘miracle medicines’ that later turned out to be deadly–just to name a few. Those are all very real things derived from the human imagination. Things one cannot simply close, stop reading, or eject from the DVD player. The very notion of considering a horror novelist to be mentally ill in order to be capable of writing such things is simply deplorable & I applaud all authors of all genres, who likely take a verbal beating from one direction or another, for not allowing such ignorance to hold them back. I shudder to even imagine what those same folks would think of my parents.

I’ve been reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz, & the like since I was probably ‘too young’ in some peoples’ eyes to be reading such things. The same assessment likely applies when it comes to Jean M. Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth’s Children, Book One), The Valley of Horses (Earth’s Children, Book Two), & later the rest of the series. To these folks, I would’ve been ‘too young’ to be reading the horror of Stephen King or the Earth’s Children Series due to prehistoric religious practices & realistic sexual situations. These are just a couple of examples & I honestly don’t remember the exact age I started reading these books. Does that make my parents horrible for letting me read those types of books? In my opinion, not even a little bit. What were they going to do with a child who was capable of reading far above her age level? Make her continue to read “See Spot Run” or “Sweet Valley High”? Not that there’s anything wrong with those books—how do you think I learned to read in the first place were it not for working my way up the reading ladder? However, I’m grateful they didn’t foist what, by the time I was of that age, I would’ve considered the inane drivel of my ‘age group’ upon me by restricting my reading to only that which was recommended. To me, that would’ve been criminal. It could very well have proven detrimental to my desire to read at all in the future, actually, as I would’ve likely been bored out of my skull when it came to books at an impressionable age during which I could’ve just as easily arrived at the conclusion that all books must be boring—never to be bothered with a desire to read again unless forced. Now that thought is, indeed, a horror.

To this day, at age thirty-six & thanks to my parents’ decision not to restrict me to only certain books, I still adore reading. They loved me & cared enough about my intellectual development to simply ‘let go’ a little & allow themselves to be happy I was devouring books rather than placing undue worry over what I was reading. Better, in their eyes & in mine, that it was books I was devouring & not drugs or alcohol—not beginning to ‘party’ like many of my peers were. Reading is & always has been one of my absolute favorite activities. I can find myself so easily engrossed in the world of a well-written book of nearly any genre &, given the choice, I’d still much rather enrich my mind with a good book than attend some drunken party.

I genuinely grieve for the literature-hungry child of today whose parent(s) feels, due to potential scrutiny in a climate of societal judgment that seems to grow more harsh & puritanical by the minute, that they must restrict the reading materials of that child.

Mom & Dad, you have my deepest & most heartfelt gratitude & love for so many things, including for bestowing upon me the cherished gift of loosely held reins that allowed a burning desire to read blossom within me.


16 responses to “The Judgment of Horror or the Horror of Judgment

  1. I didn’t know that people were so anti horror writing. It seems bizarre that any sort of fiction should be criticized merely for its genre.

    Last year I visited the torture museum in Spain. These instruments of torture were devised by a group of very religious people to torture another group of very religious people. This was not fiction. Now I can see why people would want to rise up against this. There is so much real horror going on in the world that it seems very petty to judge fictional horror.

    What a waste of effort that could be directed to where it is really needed.

  2. Well observed, Cari! Judgments tell us more about those who judge, than about the object of judgement.

    And congratulations, you’ve been nominated for One Lovely Blog Award! Well deserved! Check it out on my blog:

  3. Cari, I agree with you 100%. Just because a person writes horror, doesn’t mean they have ‘issues’. And far worse things have been made into a reality. I think the plots behind most horror novels are fascinating, and that an authors can come up with these ideas is amazing as well. Thanks for sharing with us!

  4. Oh, Cari this is a great post to bring to light the issue of judgment. But I am shocked that, of all the things we could be judgey about, this is one of them. I mean, we’re talking about art and reading, here. What’s to judge? Each individual has her own creative means of expression, and who are we to rain on that? And, just btw, I LOVE horror. So, rock on Fiona!

  5. Well, those kind of people usually have pretty bland lives. Must be hard passing judgment on people all the time. Bet they’re pretty worn out. Best to just write them into your next novel to give them a break from all that Gladys Kravitz-ing. You know…the character that runs up the stairs instead of out the door? 😉
    Great post. 😀

  6. Hey Cari this totally struck a chord with me, not because I have had any such judgements passed against me, but because I always remember my mum saying she thought that writers such as James Herbert and Stephen King must ‘not be all there’ to write about the things they do. Now I have been reading adult horror books since I was about 11, I literally went from Enid Blyton to Herbert and King overnight so the concept of horror novelists being mentally ill would never ever have crossed my mind. To me, horror was always THE only genre (although I am slightly more cross-genre now, but only slightly) and even now, when I write, I do wish it was a little more in the same vein as my favourite authors. Even now I still haven’t sent my mum my WIP ‘Dark Sanctuary’ because as she is an avid Catherine Cookson fan and hater of all things horror, I am somewhat concerned I may walk into her house one day and she will have decided to get me sectioned 🙂

  7. As a relatively new writer who sometimes tends towards what I call the “horror lite” vein, I so agree that this type of judgement and assumption is bad. So much of writing, regardless of genre, is about exploring “what ifs” and sometimes, how human nature might rise above awful circumstances. Horror writers take the things that “go bump in the night” and put them out there in such a way that people realize they aren’t alone in being fearful of or disturbed by them. The realm of imagination would be a much bleaker place without the likes of many of the authors you mentioned above!

    I found your blog via David Walker’s, by the way. Congrats on your blog award : )!

  8. Great post, Cari! I’ve been a member of the Horror Writers Association for over ten years, and those authors are some of the most intelligent, thoughtful and caring people around. Often people lash out at what they don’t understand. Experiencing various emotions vicariously has a long tradition–being scared while reading in a safe environment is just downright FUN. Amazing how many omniscient people are out there with the capacity to judge us and our journeys.

  9. Thought provoking post, Cari. Enjoyed it very much.

    Often times, a lot of people that pass judgments on writers just because of the genre they write. They don’t take into account that we all have our preferences – be it in writing or reading. Some don’t seem to understand that horror, or any type of writing, for that matter, is a means to express ourselves. It doesn’t mean that there must be something wrong with person just because they’re writing on a genre/or a subject that to them doesn’t seem to be the norm. In a sense, this way of thinking makes that person(s) a tab biased because they seem to believe that the genre/subject at hand defines who/how the person is, when in fact it does not.

    Personally, I think that people shouldn’t be so judgmental about what is written or read. We like what we like and that can’t helped or changed. Sadly, though, there are a lot out there that do their damnedest to try and change this fact. Which might be why they try to bring people down over the genres/subjects that they choose to read/write about.

  10. I love Dexter too, except I don’t get Showtime 😦
    Well, imo, it makes you into a good person to get book recommendations from! Whoo whoo.

  11. As you know, I love horror. I read it and I write it. I remember a few years ago after a workshop telling another attendee that I wrote “paranormal and horror fiction.” She flinched back as though I’d told her I ate babies (grilled, well-done, with a garnish of mint leaves) for lunch. “Oh,” she snipped, “but that’s not *literature*, is it?” I told her it might not be *literature* but if it entertained someone for a little bit or got someone’s mind off *real* problems, I’d done my job.

    Yes, there’s judgment out there. From other writers, from readers, from random people who don’t understand why I (or other horror writers) want to spend time thinking about things that go bump in the night.

    • Good gravy! Mary Ann, I do know you & to read that someone actually passed that kind of judgment on you, of all people, has me miffed & really glad I decided to write this post. I’d been waffling about it. You’re absolutely correct. A good writer has done their job when they have made the squirrels shut up about fretting over the budget & whatnot for a time. You hit the proverbial nail on the head with your retort. I also know that boy-howdy do you ever have a talent for the horror genre. As limited as you were for word count, your chapter in that Winston-Salem serial had me squicked out–in that great way that only well-written horror can do. Yeah… I say we just go scare something up for dinner in the Granny-ware cookware, shall we? *snickers* 😉

  12. I personally don’t like horror, or sci fi, or some other currently popular genres, but I can handle that by simply not reading them. I feel no need to excoriate those who write it. I’m pretty sure they’re more in step with today’s market than I am, so who am I to judge?

    • Exactly, David. Everyone has their preferences. I enjoy reading a variety of genres (a lot of which depends simply on what I’m in the mood to read) & who knows where I’ll dive in if/when I attempt to write novels? It’s all about what one chooses to read or write. If one isn’t passionate about the material one’s writing, that’s going to show in the work. There’s something out there for basically everyone, so there’s really no point in judging someone solely based on their chosen genre. I was just so shocked when I read that. I never realized people actually say things like that about horror novelists. Mentally ill? Good gravy! *shaking my head*

  13. Heck, yeah, keep the judging OUT! I don’t want to read novels that are 400 pages long that are only filled with accounts of how Mary Sue milked the friggin’ cows.

    • *chuckles* That is no kidding, George. Great example. I was simply so shocked that such odd judgments are passed upon writers of certain genres that I had to blog about it. “Dexter” happens to be one of my favorite television shows & I enjoy a fair amount of horror in my reading, as well. Does that make me a horrible or mentally ill person? Jeesh, I sure hope not! As I said to David, what I choose to read just depends on what I’m in the mood for at the time.

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