Ramsey Campbell’s thoughts on horror (updated)

I haven’t stopped by Ramsey Campbell’s official website for a while, but it was updated since I last saw it with an introduction that talks about why he writes horror and why it is a worthy literary pursuit. It’s a great defense of a genre that shouldn’t need a defense; to quote a highlight:

An old saw states that horror and pornography are the only kinds of fiction that seek to produce a physical reaction. Presumably whichever human prune originated this twaddle was never made to laugh or weep by fiction. I think there’s nothing at all wrong with art that causes us to feel, but I maintain that horror fiction can address the intellect as well. I don’t want to scare people out of their wits; I’d rather scare them in.

I highly agree with this assessment, and I like to think that I’ve been pushing a similar argument in some of my previous horror posts. For instance, Lovecraft and his contemporaries were drawing in significant amounts upon the scientific discoveries of their era (relativity, quantum mechanics, evolution) to unsettle, by exploring what might be considered to be unpleasant consequences of our increasing understanding. I’ll have more to say on this in a few days, after I’ve collected my thoughts a bit more…

Update: Via Trudi Topham, I’ve found that Campbell is currently, and for a couple of weeks, answering questions at the Pantechnicon Forums.  If you’ve ever had a question for a horror master, here’s a good chance to ask it!

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4 Responses to Ramsey Campbell’s thoughts on horror (updated)

  1. Tyler DiPietro says:

    I think the meaning of “horror” has changed over the years. Where it used to mean top-notch literature a la Lovecraft, now it refers to pure gore-fests like “Saw” and “Hostile”. I have plenty of respect for the former, little to none for the latter.

  2. Tyler: I pretty much agree with your assessment, though I would probably say that the big problem is that horror has become a haven for exploitation writing: many authors are writing things that provide just a cheap thrill involving “forbidden sex, wanton violence, drug use, nudity, freaks, gore, monsters, destruction, rebellion and mayhem,” without having any point to it. I can appreciate a film that explores dark and violent topics but, like Campbell said, I want it to be more than violence for violence’s sake. I’ve actually got a rant on this planned for sometime in the future…

  3. Blake Stacey says:

    I think that “forbidden sex, wanton violence, drug use, nudity, freaks, gore, monsters, destruction, rebellion and mayhem” can all be very good things, if they’re explored with a point in mind.


  4. Blake: I’m glad somebody understands! 🙂

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