As Howard Phillips Lovecraft said,
"Fear is the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind, and it is the fear of the unknown that causes the creepiest horror.
Perhaps that explains the popularity of horror. Authors of the genre make full use of the theme of fear of the unknown, and under the guise of the unknown can hide anything, from demonic creatures and ancient deities to vampires, aliens or simple serial killers, the main thing - as long as possible to hide the true nature of the nightmare from the heroes and readers.
Authors of "horror" draw inspiration from the most intimate fears of mankind. They seek to frighten, surprise, shock, even alienate the audience, to keep the reader in constant tension and maintain an ever-growing sense of unease and panic. We talked about other genres in this article.
Origins of the genre
Works that seek to shock or frighten the reader have always existed. In ancient Greece and Rome, playwrights explored themes of death, possession, evil spirits and the afterlife, while the ancient Sumerians told each other stories about the first vampires.
At last, "horror" became a separate trend in the XVIII-XIX centuries when Gothic novels became fashionable, and they were influenced by the medieval Inquisition and the consequent obsession with witches, sorcery and the dark forces.
Horace Walpole is considered the pioneer of the Gothic novel. In 1764 he published "The Castle of Otranto" - a grim and frightening story at the beginning of which the only heir of an ancient princely family inexplicably dies on the eve of the wedding: a huge knight's helmet falls on him. The groom's father, Prince Manfred, recalls the ancient prophecy that his clan will lose power if he has no male heirs, and decides to remedy the situation urgently... by getting rid of his current wife and marrying his son's bride, perhaps even against her will and desire.
The novel has many fantastic and frankly supernatural elements, which was highly unusual for that time, for authors of the mid-18th century aspired to realism. Perhaps this is why the first edition of "The Castle" was stylized as a medieval Italian novel, translated into English by a certain William Marshall. In the second edition, however, Walpole acknowledged his authorship.
"The Castle of Otranto" had a great influence on the next generation of writers. In 1796 Ann Radcliffe wrote "The Italian," and a year later Matthew Lewis produced "The Monk."
The real heyday of the Gothic novel happened in the early nineteenth century, when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in one year and Dr. John Polidori wrote The Vampire. On the other side of the Atlantic, Edgar Allan Poe instilled an interest in Gothic literature. "The Fall of the House of Usher" and other works by the writer are striking in their masterful interweaving of logic and madness, sinister atmosphere and everyday reality.
In 1885, in The Strange Story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Lewis Stevenson suggested that the main source of evil and horror could be people themselves, and people quite respectable and innocent at first glance. In 1897, Bram Stoker immortalized the image of the vampire as one of the most popular characters in popular culture by publishing Dracula. And in 1898 Herbert Wells published War of the Worlds and introduced readers to another source of fear: the fear of alien invasion.
Thanks to the popularity of tabloid magazines, the twenties and thirties were the heyday of horror literature in the United States. It was in magazines that the first stories by Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Robert Howard, Seabury Quinn, and Clark Ashton Smith were published.
In the fifties, "horror" returned to major form. This was the time when such iconic novels as I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, The Ghost of House on the Hill by Shirley Jackson and Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin were published, works on which the modern classics of the genre, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Clive Barker and Adam Neville, grew up.