Popular Horror Fiction Subgenres for Book Nerds
What is the definition of horror fiction?
The purpose of horror fiction, books, and stories is to frighten, disgust, and terrify the reader.
The major goal of horror fiction is to instil a strong imaginary fear in the minds of its readers, which can startle and terrify them while they are in their comfort zone reading and enjoying the eerie feeling of fear and death that comes with turning the pages of a book.
The most common figures of terror in horror fiction are ghosts, but the genre is not confined to them.
Monsters, Zombies, Aliens, Spirits, Witches, Vampires, Werewolves, murderers, and other elements can also be employed to create a creepy and terrifying horror story narrative.
What is the Literary History of the Horror Genre?
The horror genre in literature extends back to Ancient Greece and Rome, when stories about death, demons, bad spirits, and the afterlife were common. The ancient Greek tragedy Hippolytus by Euripides, a brutal drama about how jealously and a lack of empathy may lead to tragedy, and Plutarch's Parallel Lives, a collection of biographies illustrating man's various moral failings, are two examples.
The gothic novel, a type of horror book that concentrates on death, first appeared in the seventeenth century, and was popularized by Edgar Allan Poe. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, horror literature frequently centered on tales involving occult notions, such as Mary Shelly's Frankenstein (1818) or Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). (1897).
Serial killers and slasher stories—Stephen King's The Shining (1977) is a perfect example—as well as genre mashups that combine horror with historical fantasy, and modern interpretations of fantastical creatures like ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and witches have all expanded the genre to include new elements and contemporary themes. What are the subgenres of Fiction Horror?
Subgenres of Horror Fiction
Gothic fiction, sometimes known as gothic horror, is a literary genre that deals with horror, death, and romance. The location of a gothic horror tale is either a haunted castle or an old haunted mansion, therefore the setting is quite important.
The novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled "A Gothic Story," written by 18th-century English author Horace Walpole in 1764, is claimed to have all of the fundamental components of Gothic fiction.
In gothic novels, the main horrifying characters are ghosts or monsters.
Other gothic horror features include: a woman (female character) in distress, a gloomy atmosphere, darkness, ruins of buildings, terrible weather, rain, thunder, and lightning, omens, prophecy, nightmares, and spooky sounds, which are frequently used in gothic books.
Examples of Gothic Horror Novels
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
- Frankenstein by Mark Shelley
- The Sundial by Shirley Jackson
- E.T.A Hoffman's The Sandman, the Nutcracker, and Other Dark Fairy Tales
- Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
- Jennifer Geisbrecht's The Monster of Elendhaven
This horror story subgenre appeals to readers who enjoy a good scare but also need to catch their breath every now and then. Instead of 300+ pages of nonstop terror, these books intersperse the horror with bits of humour and irreverence.
In the film industry, the comedy-horror subgenre is well-represented. Films like Shaun of the Dead, Ready or Not, and Zombieland have received positive reviews and grossed large sums of money.
You're undoubtedly aware of this. What you may not realize is that there are a plethora of horror-comedy novels ready to be discovered.
Comedy Horror Examples
- David Wong's John Dies at the End.
- Lish McBride's Hold Me Closer, Necromancer.
- Lee Martinez's Gil's All Fright Diner
- Max Brooks' The Zombie Survival Guide.
- Diana Rowland's My Life as a White Trash Zombie.
Ghost stories and terror elements that can't be explained by science are included in paranormal fiction. This subgenre covers beings and creatures that have no scientific explanation or realm of existence.
The principal horrible monsters seen in stories of this type are zombies, aliens, werewolves, apparitions, and ghosts.
The subgenre also includes well-known phenomena such as time travel and telepathy, both of which are frequently included in paranormal fiction.
Examples of paranormal fiction.
- Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and Patricia Briggs' Moon Called
- Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches Kresley
- Cole's Immortal After Dark
- Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire
- William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist
- Victor LaValle's The Changeling
Supernatural fiction frequently features supernatural characters such as witches, demons, vampires, ghosts, devils, angels, and others, and frequently defies natural rules.
God, archangels, and the soul are all mentioned in supernatural fiction stories.
Examples of supernatural fiction.
- The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe
- Pet Sematary by Stephen King
- The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
- The Shining by Stephen King
- Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
- Dead to the World by Charlaine Harrison
This style of horror story combines horror and fantasy to give readers the best of both worlds. They combine elements of fantasy fiction, such as animals and magic, with a dark coating of terror. What's not to like about that?
George R.R. Martin's work matches the bill in certain ways. I'm not sure what represents terror more than the White Walkers from his A Song of Fire and Ice novel. Those books also include a lot of fantasy aspects in them, such as dragons and magic.
Neil Gaiman is also known for his dark fantasy works (or fantasy-horror, if you like). Anne Bishop is another another fantastic horror author.
Dark Fantasy Horror Examples
- Gertrude Barrows' The Citadel of Fear
- Glen Cook's The Black Company
- Anne Bishop's Daughter of the Blood
Horror Science Fiction
Sci-fi horror is a science fiction and horror subgenre. This subgenre combines horror and science fiction elements.
Sci-fi horror frequently features a futuristic location in space outside of the earth's atmosphere, as well as a story about a space adventure that explores all of the possibilities for producing fear in space.
Alien, intergalactic elements, undiscovered worlds, and other sources of anxiety are employed in science fiction horror novels.
Space is frequently described as a horrible realm in sci-fi horror, and the plot centres upon surviving and escaping.
Examples of Horror Sci-fi
- The Last Astronaut by David Wellingdon
- The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
- Salvation Day by Kali Wallace
- The Last Astronaut by David Wellingdon
- Peter Watts' Blindsight
- John W. Campbell's Who Goes There?
The universe is vast and terrifying, and we are insignificant in contrast. That's a recurring topic throughout H.P. Lovecraft's and his successors' works.
Lovecraft, despite his effect on the current horror genre, did not consider himself a horror writer in his day. He frequently referred to his own works as "strange fiction," a term that is still in use today.
Lovecraft wrote to the editor of Weird Tales magazine in a letter:
"Now, all of my stories are predicated on the fundamental idea that common human laws, interests, and emotions have no validity or value in the enormous cosmos."
Many of the notions Lovecraft popularized in his day, such as the terror of the unknown and humanity's insignificance, are used by modern "Lovecraftian" horror writers. This subgenre is frequently referred to as "cosmic horror."
Lovecraftian Horror Examples
- H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness.
- Thomas Ligotti's Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe.
- Victor LaValle's The Ballad of Black Tom.
Psychological horror takes advantage of the readers' mental, emotional, and psychological conditions to generate a horrific and disturbing story.
Fear, dread, and discomfort are evoked in the minds of readers in psychological horror novels through investigating the typical emotional anxieties of the human mind and psyche.
Psychological Horror Examples
- Psycho by Robert Bloch
- Shining by Stephen King
- American Gothic by Robert Bloch
- The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
- Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
Serial killers, slashers, and psychos
Maniacs. Madmen. Psychopaths and sociopaths. Cannibals? You can call them whatever you like. Human "monsters" have long been a staple of the horror genre.
This subgenre overlaps with the psychological horror subgenre mentioned above, however the two can also be mutually exclusive. You might have a "slasher" novel that isn't a psychological horror story, or vice versa.
With Jack Ketchum's Off Season, I've even tossed in some cannibals. It's a fantastic horror tale, but it's not for the faint of heart!
People in these novels are the ones we fear — people with terrible thoughts and intentions we can't fathom. People who want or require others to suffer.
Horror Examples of Psychos, Slashers, and Serial Killers
- Robert Bloch's Psycho.
- Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho.
- Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs (again).
- Jack Ketchum's Off Season.
- Riley Sager's Final Girls. (In this group, there aren't many female writers.) However, if you know of any that we have missed, please leave a comment below.)
Civilization has vanished in the aftermath of the apocalypse, and it has been replaced by something dark and terrible. Yes, I'm referring to post-apocalyptic fiction, apocalypse novels that "wipe the slate clean" and start over. The ultimate relaunch!
Some post-apocalyptic stories are dystopian in nature. Others can be classified as a subgenre of horror since they contain horrifying and frequently disturbing elements (zombies, vampires, deadly plagues, etc.). To further complicate matters, several post-apocalyptic novels can be considered stand-alone within their own genres.
But let's keep it simple for now. In this context, we're discussing stories in which civilization is taken down by a horrific force or monster. These types of novels are unquestionably a subgenre of horror literature.
Post-Apocalyptic Horror Examples
- The Swan Song, written by Robert McCammon.
- Emmy Laybourne's Monument 14
- Mira Grant's Feed
- Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
- Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. Justin Cronin's novel The Passage.