I am aware that this is posting on Thursday, but I swear it was written on Wednesday, and was delayed so as to give Day’s anthology announcement a full day as the top story, rather than just a few hours.

Monsters are scary.  I don’t think that’s going out on a limb.  We’re scared of the giant eating-machine shark prowling the coastline.  Of the huge lizard knocking over Tokyo.  Of the squid-headed creature from beyond the stars sleeping under the Pacific.  It’s natural to be scared of these things, as they were written to scare us.  To feed on base instincts and make us question our survival or our place within the natural order of things.

But, just because they scare us, does that make them horror?

Horror is perhaps one of the hardest of the literary genres to define, and part of that is entirely because it isn’t a genre.  Not really.  It’s a mood or a feeling put on another story, and it’s the only mood or feeling that often gets separated out on its own.  You don’t go to the book store and browse through the maudlin section right after the horror section.  Or the hopeful section.  Yes, there’s a humor section, but that’s not typically for humorous fiction.  But many book stores have a horror section.  Many video stores, when those were still a thing, had a horror section.

I’ve already made the argument of horror being a mood rather than a genre once this week, so I’m not going to get distracted from my main idea here, and that’s looking at monsters and “horror.”

So, back to where I started.  Monsters are scary.  Horror is scary.  So why, then, shouldn’t monsters necessarily be horror?  In large part because there’s a difference between the characters within a story being scared, and the audience/reader being scared.  And we’re not talking cheap black cat scares where the monster suddenly appears out of nowhere, we’re talking the slow dread that keeps your heart racing through the movie and leaves you on edge even after you’ve put the book down or left the theater.  For the most part, monsters tend towards the science fiction, being either coming from beyond science’s comprehension, or being created through the misuse or misapplication of science.

Does a monster story have to have horror elements?  Absolutely not.  That isn’t the point of this post at all.  The point is more about the way genres are created and lumped together, and that if you want your monster story to actually be a horror story, it needs something other than rampaging and crashing.  It needs something that I can relate to, which means it needs a much more personalized human element.  And even if the story doesn’t leave me with the idea that this could happen to me, I want the dread that it could happen to someone at some point.

So it’s fantastic if you want to write a monster story.  The world needs them, and they can be wonderfully entertaining.  But I don’t agree with the automatic classification of monsters as horror.

About the author

DLThurston DL Thurston is a writer of novels, screenplays, and the occasional short story. He has short stories due out soon in the Steam Works anthology from Hydra Publications and in The Memory Eater. When he's not writing, he also brews beer and even drinks it sometimes. Check out his exploits either on his blog or on Twitter.