Guest blogger Anthony Servante visits from the Servante of Darkness blog to discuss “The Flowering Roots of Horror: Criticism and Creativity."
Ann Radcliffe was the first to argue that horror was not the object of the gothic novel (she wrote six of them and is considered the Mother of the Gothic form), that terror was the dutiful aim of such literature. When the gothic stories became gruesome and sensational (circa early 1800s), Radcliffe dropped out of the writing scene and her work “On the Supernatural in Poetry” was her last published critique of the romanticization of her beloved story form. To find any other literary criticism of horror, we’d have to look back as far as the Ancient Greeks, who argued that “horror vacui” was “a fear of empty spaces.” Thus artwork of the grotesque crowds every single space of the canvas with images, from the works of Dadd to Bosch to Crumb (and even Mad Magazine movie parodies where each caption is filled to capacity with absurd and sometimes horrific pictures and characters that backdrop the main characters of the movie being ridiculed).
Today, however, there is no longer any criticism of horror as art or literature. What I have been trying to do for the past few years under the pseudonym Anthony Servante (especially under the Servante of Darkness moniker) is to revive this critical spotlight on works of horror that meet the criterion established by critics of old and guide readers to new critiques of art, whether in horror, science fiction, fantasy, noir, or gothic forms.
While most writers veer toward fiction and fame, very few choose nonfiction in a field rich such genres as the supernatural, mystery, suspense, thrillers and, of course, gothics. As an academician, I specialize in works of the grotesque in art and literature, concentrating on German and English Romanticism. My interest extends to the Victorian Age because it spawned many a great monster (Dracula, Invisible Man, War of the Worlds, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dorian Gray). As a reader, I peruse the monsters of today from new and old talents in film, art, and books. One day I decided to bring my academic writing to bear on my current readings. I decided to review today’s books the same way I critique the old literature. The only difference is that I don the Servante of Darkness garb for my reviews, but the result is still the same. I’ve had a hoot since I’ve been writing about the new wave in the grotesque.
I have followed the current trend in the Zombie Apocalypse and have interviewed authors on their views on the longevity of the genre. I have followed “cybernocturalism,” the self-publishing avalanche of horror eBooks. Some books are instant classics, while others are just plain bad, and the chasm between the two grows with no end in sight. The literature of Noir is being kept alive in the creative mind of Trent Zelazny. The Southern Gothic is alive and well with Ray Garton. Historic horror maestro Mark Rainey adds a dash of education to his works. Literature of the Absurd is modernized in the works of Gina Ranalli. The Weird Western, a new but important form of horror, has sustained new life with authors such as Ed Erdelac and Ian Rogers.
G.N. Braun has taken horror in a new direction with his work “Hammered” and my review of his book remains one of the top five read articles on my blog. The top three pieces in the Servante of Darkness are interviews with three rock legends: Roger Hodgson, the voice of Supertramp; Dave Lambert, guitarist and vocalist of Strawbs; and Tom Toomey, guitarist for The Zombies. That’s saying a lot about the staying power of Braun’s nonfictional biographic work.
Which brings us back to the lack of nonfiction writers in the field of horror and its neighboring genres. You don’t need to be a professor of literature to write a review or to point out a new trend. You simply need an opinion and a voice. There are plenty of avenues to get your opinion read: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, and so on.
Radcliffe would be proud that her view of terror is still being written about and critiqued, and that the gothic form lives on today in literature and even music and cinema. Even the horror vacui continues in the work of Park Cooper and Barbara-Lien Cooper. It’s a brave new world for horror. And it’s a braver new world for those who write about its branches and growth. I am proud to be amongst them.
Check out this writer at Servante of Darkness blog found at http://servanteofdarkness.blogspot.com/