When writing first began, it was mostly poetry. Epic poetry like Beowulf and the like. It has evolved over the past millennia since man began to write things down for entertainment. Writing had been used for keeping records and such before someone decided to write down the very first poem just for the fun of it.
As writing advanced, the novel was eventually born. The first proper novel was a romance novel written by a man(go figure) and thus, the genre called Romance was born. This was shortly followed by its polar opposite, Horror. The first proper Horror novel was The Castle of Otranto written by Horace Walpole in 1765.
It was actually termed Gothic because it was based largely in the medieval period, but it was actually a merger of medievalism and terror. Since people in the Medieval period were so superstitious, there was a great deal to be said about fear and the supernatural. Walpole capitalized on this to create a novel that influenced later Horror writers such as Matthew Gregory Lewis(1796, The Monk) and Anne Radcliffe(1794, The Mysteries of Udolpho). Both of those writers would have profound impacts of the likes of Lord Byron and both Shelleys as well as much later writers.
The Horror genre used to be a single genre, but it has evolved along with writing and writers. It used to be a single genre with everything even remotely scary placed under its umbrella however, that’s changed. As writers found more and more ways to scare, and the movies came into being which further developed the genre, Horror sprouted sub-genres:
Gothic -the eldest of all and related to medievalism and the supernatural with death, undeath and love mixed into the equation
Examples: The Castle of Otranto and Frankenstein
Paranormal – related mainly to ghost stories and some supernatural elements
Examples: It and The Exorcist
Non-Supernatural – relates to things that scare us but not of the supernatural sort – stuff made from nightmares
Examples: Misery and The Silence of the Lambs
Body Horror – I found this one by doing some research, and it’s about the mutilation/disfigurement of the body. Think zombies and the like.
Examples: The Walking Dead and The Troop
Splatterpunk – relates to gore and violence, really disturbing stuff
Examples: Seeing Red and In the Miso Soup
Erotic aka Dark Erotica – this is where the vampire novels go
Examples: Danse Macabre and The Vampire Lestat
There may be some more I have yet to come across in my research, the world of horror is becoming pigeonholed as more and more labels are added. Give me a good scary story, and I won’t call it more than horror. 🙂
I actually call the book I’m writing, The Inbetween, a supernatural thriller simply because it’s really not scary. It has supernatural elements, but I’m not out to scare anyone. So you see, sub genres can sprout up at any time.
Hope you enjoyed this basic overview of the genre called Horror.
See you on the flipside and don’t forget your towel and sonic screwdriver!!