“There is no equal of dread.” -Clive Barker
Daniel Baker’s article “Why We Need Dragons” notes that as fantasy fiction has increased in popularity so too has the necessity to bring it into the academic conversation. He suggests that heightened interest in the genre is a move away from realism, and he seeks to understand what that move says about our needs as a society.
Baker argues that the increased cultural interest in fantasy stems from the fact that fantastic themes and impossible realities offer enough distance from underlying social commentary that we can actually see it with more clarity. Baker writes:
“It is only by contemplating the impossible, by journeying into utopian/dystopian alterity, that the limits of our imagination can be found and the impossible enter the dialogue with the possible” (444).
Fantasy becomes a way for us to learn about ourselves and experience our social issues without feeling overwhelmed by something that might hit close to home. Readers are first captivated the a fantastic story and then moved to think about the far-reaching implications of the narrative. As Baker summarizes:
“That is why we have always needed and will always need dragons: sometimes to breathe their flames and burn us, sometimes to carry us on their wings so we can see our world anew” (457).
We contend that horror fiction serves a similar purpose. It offers the experience of fear, dread, and terror from a safe vantage point. As such, we may initially seek horror fiction for the chills and the satiation of our morbid curiosities, but that experience can move us to understand something deeper about ourselves or our human nature.
Unlike other genres, horrors asks us to confront things that are morbid and therefore difficult to understand. It’s a natural inclination to look for meaning in tragedy, and so we search. Horror then, perhaps even more so than fantasy, lends itself to deeper readings. And thoughtful, well-written horror will not disappoint when probed for meaning.
The horror that we utilize for this blog does not come up short when academically scrutinized. Rather, as Baker suggests, it too creates just enough distance for us to be able to see underlying issues and themes with more clarity. Our aim in close reading and analyzing horror fiction is to find meaning in the darkness. We seek to find what lurks within.
-Brittney and Nicole