I’m noticing a trend that fewer and fewer works of Monster fiction are being classified as “Horror.” Stories containing non-humans characters such as Demons, Vampires, Ghosts, Werewolves, Aliens, and anything with Tentacles, used to be clear-cut Horror. Now they’re about as frightening as getting a flat tire.
Have we gotten used to the idea of monsters? Have they been watered down until they just aren’t scary anymore? “Diet Horror”? “Horror Lite”?
Of course, media geared toward kids have always brought monsters down to an un-scary level; nothing new there, and Disney certainly isn’t helping things. Monsters, Inc. turned monsters into cute, cuddly creatures who were Frightened Of Kids! And now Monsters vs. Aliens turns monsters into our allies!
Monsters for Kids are nothing new…
But that’s all kids stuff. What I’m talking about is more than simple cartoonification of monsters. Media across the board have sucked the horror right out of the monster market.
Before I get started, just a disclaimer that I don’t believe that all horror stories must contain a monster. I bet the majority of horror stories written don’t have a “monster” in them. I’m just suggesting that the modern monster has lost some – if not most – of its bite.
How far have the horrific fallen? Let’s take a look:
#1 – The Fanpire Shift
You know you’re in trouble when Underworld makes fun of you.
I’m going to single out Vampires for two reasons. They really weren’t that scary to begin with, and they have become more popular than all the other monsters combined. These two points perpetuate each other in what I’m going to call the Fanpire Shift.
Think Vampires are scary? Guess again. If there was a list of “Pleasant Ways to Die” then getting your blood sucked out of your neck in the embrace of a hot vamp would be at the top of it. If you think Twilight or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or any of the Underworld movies depict vampires as scary, try watching 30 Days of Night. Then you will understand why I think the way modern vampires are depicted, they barely classify as monsters at all.
Keep in mind the original Dracula by Bram Stoker was more Gothic than Horrific. Simply the idea of someone drinking the blood of others to prolong their own life was horrific enough. But Dracula-Done-Right had a sense of inhumanness about the vampire character that was at least unnerving if not flat-out frightening. 30 Days of Night was able to capture the alien feel of vampires, but the majority of books and movies today portray vampires as regal, bureaucratic, pompous socialites. Well-dressed dandies with pointy teeth who drink blood from wine glasses with their pinkys out while listening to Bach. In other words, about as frightening as 70’s fashion.
Because of (or in spite of) this, the popularity of the vampire genre cannot be contained. From the massive success of Anne Rice’s series of vampire books, and the Buffy franchise which took the vampire genre out of Horror and into the Throap (Part Thriller, Part Soap Opera) vampires are IN. People can’t get enough, or water them down enough. Stephanie Meyer is doing her best to continue this trend, placing vampires in the least frightening genre ever created; heartfelt, awkward, teenage relationship stories.
Adding the popularity of the Vampire genre to the fact that they’re barely tall enough to make it into the monster pool without a parent or guardian, means the entire monster pool gets watered down.
Hey, if it gets kids to read, I’m all for it. But even if the surge in interest of Vampires actually Raises the number of monster books across the board, if sure feels like there’s less and less media focused on the particularly horrible horror monsters when the market is drowned in Horror-Lite.
#2 – The Paranormal Romance
A smooch from beyond the grave…
Proof that Romance will sleep with anything, Paranormal Romance is the bastard offspring of Horror and Romance genres that extends on the notion of ‘Love Conquers Death’ – the belief that Love persists beyond the demise of one or both partners. Paranormal Romance takes ‘love from beyond the grave’ to its extreme. Ghosts and spirits used to be something that you AVOIDED. But Paranormal Romance bravely stepped from the shadows to explore the ATTRACTION to the (un)dead!
Borderline necrophilia. Spirituophilia? But there’s more than just ghosts to love here. Romance knows no bounds, especially in the Para-normal.
It should be no surprise that Vampire Romance is growing in popularity. Of the 66,722 Vampire books listed at Amazon today, 1,491 of them are listed as Vampire Romance.
One would have expected that werewolves might have escaped being dehorrified, (with the exception of Teen Wolf, natch) A quick search of ‘werewolves’ on Amazon.com will show you the truth. Out of the 1529 Werewolf books, 279 are Werewolf Romance.
Borderline bestiality. Lycanthrophilia? Like I said, love knows no bounds. Even Sharks are finding themselves subject to loving de-horrification:
What’s next? Borderline Tentacle Porn? Chuthluphilia? A search for ‘chuthulu romance’ returned no hits. Thank the gods. Maybe someday when the stars are right…
I don’t dislike Paranormal Romance stories any more than I dislike Romance stories. But turning monsters into love interests wrings the horror right out of them. The rise in popularity of Paranormal Romance alone is enough to un-horrify the monster market.
#3 – The Zombidy and Horror/Comedy
Scene from “Fido”
Zombies have always been funny. Undead, true, but they’re slow; both physically and mentally, which makes them more disturbing than frightening. That is, until you add in the fact that they generally come in large numbers, and the whole “Eat Your Brains” thing (crossed with poor table manners) gives them a more secure seat on the horror bus than Vampires nipping daintily at your Jugular vein.
There’s nothing new about horror/comedy, but the success of well-done films like Black Sheep and “Zombidys” like Shaun of the Dead and Fido, which raised the bar and ushered in a new wave of films and books that weren’t just laughably bad low-budget B-movies like Chopping Mall or Jack Frost.
Even people who don’t like Horror can appreciate a Horror/Comedy, making that market larger, and simultaneously eroding the pure Horror market; which includes our Scary Zombie and Monster friends.
#4 – Chasing the Horror-Lite Market
Seriously bro, this movie is like so totally scary, its sick! I think it’s Rated PG-8!
Dark Fantasy is the kissing cousin of Horror. It appeals to a wider audience, and it’s growing.
Part of the rise in this trend comes from the explosion of the Young Adult book market. Ever since the success of the Harry Potter series, the publishing and movie industries have launched a massive assault on the teen market. In this market, it seems that monsters are less of a main course and more of a side dish adding flavor to a plot, and not a plot in and of themselves. For example, each book of the Harry Potter series contains some kind of monster or terrifying creature, but the books are labeled ‘Fantasy-Adventure’ not ‘Horror’.
Because of the larger market for Dark Fiction, Horror authors and other artists looking for a bigger audience might tone down the Horror and play up the Dark Fantasy aspect in order to give their work a broader appeal. The results are stories like The Graveyard Book, and Twilight, books that were inspired by, but never intended for, the horror section.
So where are the scary monsters?
I want to reassert here that I’m not opposed to any of the genres or movements listed above. Mostly. But I like my monsters scary damnit, and I’m on the verge of calling scary monsters an endangered species.
While horrific horror monsters might not be extinct, there’s no question that the points listed above have conspired to shove the monster market back under the bed. The increase in Vampires, Paranormal Romances, Horror/Comedy and the growth of the Young Adult market may have increased interest in works of darker fiction, but it certainly seems to have drowned out the small slice of authors and filmmakers creating frightening Monsters.
But like the things hiding under your bed, just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there, lurking in the dark and forgotten corners of the bookstore… Stories about creatures that could kill you just by stepping into broad daylight, their very wrongness would rip your sanity asunder.
They might even lurk in the minds of dark fiction authors such as myself. You might come back here and find some one day… if you are brave enough.
If you know of any scary monster stories, please share!
Gotta love the 80’s. Like your weird roommate in college, the 80’s were… unique… memorable. For those too young to have experienced the 80’s firsthand, here’s your chance to see and hear what you missed.
The new theater production at the LAB (Formerly the Guthrie Lab) will be a cultural awareness event of epic proportions. The show is called Power Balladz, and runs from May 28 to June 28th 2009. It includes teased hair, colored lights, fog, spandex, and no less than THREE Freddie Mercurys.
The 50% off code for shows between May 28 and May 31 is ROCKSTAR.
Tix list around 30 bucks, but my sources have provided me a discount code that will knock HALF OFF the list price for shows between May 28th and May 31st. The 50% off code for shows between May 28 and May 31 is ROCKSTAR. Simply enter that code when buying your tix and you get them for half price.
50% off Power Balladz tickets for the May 28 – May 31st shows at the LAB. (previously the Guthrie Lab) The 50% off code is ROCKSTAR. www.powerballadz.com
May 28 through June 28, Power Balladz is a rock n’ roll extravaganza featuring some of the greatest songs ever written by man, woman and/or beast. The show skewers and celebrates 80’s rock, the musicianship the glam, the poetry and the spandex.
Three great rock singers, a full band, lots of lights, a fog machine, video projection and more knowledge about power ballads than is necessary (or recommended). Throw in some comedy, teased hair, three Freddie Mercurys and a t-shirt cannon and theatergoers will leave the show if not cultured, certainly entertained.
The song list includes the following classic hits:
Bon Jovi – Wanted, Dead or Alive
Night Ranger – Sister Christian
Guns n’ Roses – November Rain
Poison – Every Rose Has Its Thorn
Motley Crue – Home Sweet Home
Styx – Come Sail Away
Journey – Faithfully
Heart – Alone
Ozzy Osbourne and Lita Ford – Close My Eyes Forever
Scorpions – Winds of Change
Aerosmith – Dream On
Meat Loaf – Anything For Love
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Freebird
Queen – We Are The Champions
The show will also feature a medley of other favorites as voted on by fans on the show’s web site, www.powerballadz.com.
For those who don’t know, Twitter is a service that lets you post bursts of random nonsense onto the internet in a format called a ‘tweet’. Tweets are limited to 140 characters, so it’s an exercise in succinctity for people who have a lot of nothing to say. Tweets can be sent/received from the web, cell phones, and automatically (as this blog post does through twitterfeed)
The real-world equivalent of Twitter would be: standing in the mall courtyard, shouting out short sentences along with everyone else, as if the whole world had suddenly come down with Tourette’s Syndrome. It’s interesting to simply watch the rolling stream of collective consciousness going absolutely nowhere in thousands of small steps.
Even when you understand it, it still doesn’t make sense. Twitter about as useful as a wet-nap is to a scuba diver.
I’ve been on Twitter since middle of 2008 www.twitter.com/conradzero, and its undergone quite a shift in both popularity and purpose. People everywhere are scrambling to see how they can use Twitter in new and different ways. I have to admit that part of me finds it exciting when some new odd open-source project comes along, and the innovators dive in headfirst trying to twist it into usability.
The number of Twitter-ish applications are growing at a preposterous rate, and you can keep track of them at twtbase.com. Lots of people are desperately trying to integrate music and video ability into Twitter. And of course you can’t help but be amazed at people trying to figure out how to use Twitter to make money. I can tell you there will always be a market for idiots buying books on “How to make money using Twitter,” even when the only obvious way is to sell a book titled, “How to make money using Twitter.”
I was surprised to discover this message in my inbox last Monday: “The Dalai Lama is following you on Twitter!” My surprise was only matched by my disappointment when I found out that it wasn’t the Dalai Lama at all. [UPDATE: Turns out the account was turned over to His Holiness, so you can color me re-surprised!] I’m guessing God and Satan on Twitter aren’t really who they say they are either.
One of the more interesting uses of Twitter that I’ve seen is people using it to release short stories, fiction or poetry in small, 140-character pieces. I might consider doing that myself later this year.
So, what’s the future of Twitter look like? Looking into the Magic 8-Ball; I can imagine where my cell phone is programmed to post tweets for me based on my GPS location and a wetwire connection to my central nervous system, requiring no interaction on my part:
1:31AM – Still at the computer. [Mood: Passive/Receptive/Gathering | Elapsed time: 2hrs 41min)
1:38AM – Wandered into bathroom [Privacy mode activated]
1:42AM – Standing in front of open refrigerator [Mood: Hungry/Active/Hunting]
1:51AM – On the couch, eating Ben and Jerry’s Heath Bar & Coffee Ice Cream (Yum!), watching Pray For Daylight. [Mood: Sated and mildly amused]
Basically my entire day getting poured out into the rolling consciousness cesspool of Twitterville. From there, it would be searched/scanned/filtered for target marketing purposes and aggregated Sociology studies, and the important bits tagged and stored in Evernote for future reference.
Privacy issues notwithstanding, we’ll be able to pull up every moment of our lives, and/or stalk anyone on the planet without bothering them. This should be handy for settling court cases (where were you on the night of August 6th?) and interpersonal arguments (When did you eat the last of the Ice Cream?), not to mention any debates about how boring our lives really are.
Add some audio/video ability to Twitter, and now you’ve really got something. We’ll get together for the holidays and pull up Twitter to play back “The Infamous Shaving Cream Incident” from each persons’ point of view. We can even pass these moments on to future generations, so instead of telling our kids what it was like heating the house with gas or electricity instead of an in-home fission reactor, we’ll be able to show them. Over and over again. And we’ll all wonder how we ever got along without it.
That’s when someone will look up this old blog post and read my quote:
Twitter is about as useful as a wet-nap is to a scuba diver. – Zero
So, what do you-all think of Twitter? Any predictions about it might evolve into? Comment below or throw me a tweet.