Re: RARA-AVIS: Noir Horror?

From: Doug Bassett (
Date: 09 Feb 2000

--- Bob Toomey <> wrote:
> Doug Bassett wrote:
> >
> > I strongly disagree with the notion that a
> > hardboiled/horror marriage is impossible. In my
> life
> > I've stumbled across all sorts of hardboiled
> > marriages: hb westerns, hb SF tales, hb poetry
> > (Bukowski), hb memoirs (Burrough's JUNKY), etc.
> Since
> > "hardboiled" is a perspective, a way of looking at
> the
> > world, it can be applied, I think, to any literary
> > genre. Why not hardboiled horror?
  But the
> goals of horror are
> completely different from the goals of hardboiled.
> Hardboiled is
> grounded in a skeptical, cynical, unsentimental view
> of the world.
> Horror is the polar opposite -- romantic,
> sentimental, emotional. So if
> the story is successful as HB, it undercuts the
> horror, and vice versa.

I agree with this in part -- this is what I was getting at when I suggested that, for such a marriage to work, the "horror" in the marriage would have to be redefined. I guess I would say that I have a more fluid conception of horror.

> > One obvious indication that such a marriage might
> be
> > successful is the large number of people who like
> both
> > genres. This suggests, to me at least, that people
> are
> > responding to something similar in both. Another
> is
> > the many, many writers who've tried to blend the
> two
> > genres already.
> First, and again, HB isn't a genre, damn it, it's an
> attitude, an
> attack. Second, I like Gilbert & Sullivan, and
> Louis Jordan's jump
> blues, but I don't see much being accomplished by
> trying to blend the
> two, just because I happen to like both styles of
> music.

Well, like the rest of us frail mortals, I occasionally slip between thinking of hb as a
"perspective" and hb as a "genre". Mea culpa. As for your music choices -- one example like yours, granted. But if 50,000 people in a stadium all told me they liked Gilbert & Sullivan and Louis Jordan, I'd start looking hard at the two and start asking myself what they have in common. That, I think, is the position we're in with hb and horror.

You really like old-fogey stuff like Gilbert and Sullivan? :)

> > I quite agree with you, though, that recent
> attempts
> > to blend the two have been unsuccessful. That
> doesn't
> > mean that it's not worth trying, especially if
> you're
> > interested in horror (a genre that, in my opinion,
> has
> > managed to back itself into an aesthetic
> dead-end). It
> > may mean redefining the nature of "horror" in
> horror
> > fiction, but, well, the genre could use the
> jumpstart.
> I'm not sure horror has reached an aesthetic dead
> end. I do think it's
> been oversold and most of it is the usual imitative
> crap (Sturgeon's
> Law: 90% of everything is crap) being put out by
> untalented hacks to
> make a quick buck from an unsophisticated audience.
That doesn't mean good,innovative work isn't being done.

I review horror magazines for a small horror magazine. Yes, of course there's still good work being done in the field. But I think I know whereof I speak on this point: the genre as a whole really needs a new approach. They've been sifting the same pile of sand ever-more finely, and it shows.


===== Doug Bassett
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