Thoughts on Christian Horror

Last week I was part of a blog tour that featured Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso, a good read that falls in the category of “supernatural suspense” in the Christian fiction (CBA) industry. I made the argument on Wednesday that it really is a horror book.

Sorry for giving that little detail away Mike. šŸ˜‰
Anyhoo.
I asked why books like this are marketed with what basically amounts to a euphemism. From the comments last week, both Mike and Nicole hit it on the head.
Sales.

The label of “horror” is as loaded as the label of “Christian fiction.” As Nicole said, it conjures images of Stephen King and the horror movie trinity of Freddy/Michael/Jason (I take umbrage at the last one). I’ve only read one King novel, and didn’t enjoy the things it did to my imagination. I understand he has books like The Stand that read differently from Pet Sematary. But his reputation is so strong, it is hard for him to write something else that will break through to readers other than his fan base.

Conversely, it is hard for many readers to get away from the stereotype of slasher flicks/books to open up a thoughtful book like Darkness Follows that explores the love of a father and a daughter. DF has a body count, but it is not gory or gratuitous. People die to further the plot, not to shock. Mike in his comment laments the reality of the situation, because I think (as heĀ does)Ā some readers who would enjoy a book like DF won’t find it because it isn’t labeled as horror, although he would lose more if it was marketed as horror.

It is a catch-22 inherent in the CBA industry. It is more conservative than the ABA market it parallels. For those of us who read widely or want to write for the CBA, we just have to keep this in mind. The CBA market is changing, but slowly and not without growing pains and waxing/waning.

I don’t know if we’ll end up with a genre of Christian horror in the CBA. Perhaps the euphemism of “supernatural suspense” is here to stay. BTW, I like a category of supernatural suspense, but I think it is too broad to do horror justice, especially since it fits books like This Present Darkness and the Left Behind series.

Thoughts? Should the CBA aspire to having a horror category someday?

Thoughts on Christian Horror

Last week I was part of a blog tour that featured Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso, a good read that falls in the category of “supernatural suspense” in the Christian fiction (CBA) industry. I made the argument on Wednesday that it really is a horror book.

Sorry for giving that little detail away Mike. šŸ˜‰
Anyhoo.
I asked why books like this are marketed with what basically amounts to a euphemism. From the comments last week, both Mike and Nicole hit it on the head.
Sales.

The label of “horror” is as loaded as the label of “Christian fiction.” As Nicole said, it conjures images of Stephen King and the horror movie trinity of Freddy/Michael/Jason (I take umbrage at the last one). I’ve only read one King novel, and didn’t enjoy the things it did to my imagination. I understand he has books like The Stand that read differently from Pet Sematary. But his reputation is so strong, it is hard for him to write something else that will break through to readers other than his fan base.

Conversely, it is hard for many readers to get away from the stereotype of slasher flicks/books to open up a thoughtful book like Darkness Follows that explores the love of a father and a daughter. DF has a body count, but it is not gory or gratuitous. People die to further the plot, not to shock. Mike in his comment laments the reality of the situation, because I think (as he does) some readers who would enjoy a book like DF won’t find it because it isn’t labeled as horror, although he would lose more if it was marketed as horror.

It is a catch-22 inherent in the CBA industry. It is more conservative than the ABA market it parallels. For those of us who read widely or want to write for the CBA, we just have to keep this in mind. The CBA market is changing, but slowly and not without growing pains and waxing/waning.

I don’t know if we’ll end up with a genre of Christian horror in the CBA. Perhaps the euphemism of “supernatural suspense” is here to stay. BTW, I like a category of supernatural suspense, but I think it is too broad to do horror justice, especially since it fits books like This Present Darkness and the Left Behind series.

Thoughts? Should the CBA aspire to having a horror category someday?

CSFF Tour – Darkness Follows Day 3

Hey! You, web surfer! Yeah you.

C’mere for a sec.

See, I’m part of the Christian Sci-fi/Fantasy Tour, and we just talked about a cool and creepy book called Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso. I talked about it Monday with an overview, and Tuesday with a review.

I don’t really want to talk about it today.

Not directly, at least.

Like I said, I’m in a book tour for Christian speculative fiction. There’s cool people here that like interesting books. There’s an interesting aspect of this month’s tour I wanted to investigate.

The book was brought to us for a speculative angle – the protaganist in modern times finds pages from a Civil War officer’s journal, in his own handwriting. The book is considered in the CBA realm as “supernatural suspense.”

The thing is, the book is really a horror book.

It’s not horrible. Hor-ror. It is scary and spooky [insert Addam’s Family theme song here]. It has a purpose in its scare factor, but it definitely has the chills factor.

It seems the CBA industry is scared of labeling books as “horror.” I don’t mind that a speculative fiction tour is featuring this book, it is pretty good, and I’m glad I got to read it. I think it serves a certain type of reader, and does it without some of the hopelessness found in regular horror fiction.

I don’t have all the insights in this quirk of the CBA. For a better authority, I’ll refer you to Mike Duran on his posts concerning “Can Horror Fiction Be ‘Redemptive'” (part 1, 2, 3) and a quick discussion on covers speaking about horror here, as well as Mike Dellosso’s own words in this post.

Seemed like a good time to take on this idea of the label of “horror” vs. “supernatural suspense” to a group that enjoys speculative fiction. I’ve read CBA books ranging from a ghost story (Robin Parrish’s Nightmare, labeled as “paranormal suspense”) to vampires (Eric Wilson’s Jerusalem Undead series) that would fit into a horror genre in a normal bookstore, but don’t get promoted that way in the CBA.

Why is that?

I have my thoughts, but what say you, the well-read and clever folks of the CSFF Tour? Let me know what you think, and I’ll answer back in a few days.

Uh, to get back on track, here’s where you can find all of the other fine posts on Darkness Follows from my tourmates.

Thanks for stopping by.

CSFF Tour – Darkness Follows Day 3

Hey! You, web surfer! Yeah you.

C’mere for a sec.

See, I’m part of the Christian Sci-fi/Fantasy Tour, and we just talked about a cool and creepy book called Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso. I talked about it Monday with an overview, and Tuesday with a review.

I don’t really want to talk about it today.

Not directly, at least.

Like I said, I’m in a book tour for Christian speculative fiction. There’s cool people here that like interesting books. There’s an interesting aspect of this month’s tour I wanted to investigate.

The book was brought to us for a speculative angle – the protaganist in modern times finds pages from a Civil War officer’s journal, in his own handwriting. The book is considered in the CBA realm as “supernatural suspense.”

The thing is, the book is really a horror book.

It’s not horrible. Hor-ror. It is scary and spooky [insert Addam’s Family theme song here]. It has a purpose in its scare factor, but it definitely has the chills factor.

It seems the CBA industry is scared of labeling books as “horror.” I don’t mind that a speculative fiction tour is featuring this book, it is pretty good, and I’m glad I got to read it. I think it serves a certain type of reader, and does it without some of the hopelessness found in regular horror fiction.

I don’t have all the insights in this quirk of the CBA. For a better authority, I’ll refer you to Mike Duran on his posts concerning “Can Horror Fiction Be ‘Redemptive'” (part 1, 2, 3) and a quick discussion on covers speaking about horrorĀ here, as well as Mike Dellosso’s own words in this post.

Seemed like a good time to take on this idea of the label of “horror” vs. “supernatural suspense” to a group that enjoys speculative fiction. I’veĀ read CBA books ranging from a ghost story (Robin Parrish’s Nightmare, labeled as “paranormal suspense”) to vampires (Eric Wilson’s Jerusalem Undead series) that would fit into a horror genre in a normal bookstore, but don’t get promoted that way in the CBA.

Why is that?

I have my thoughts, but what say you, the well-read and clever folks of the CSFF Tour? Let me know what you think, and I’ll answer back in a few days.

Uh, to get back on track, here’s where you can find all of the other fine posts on Darkness Follows from my tourmates.

Thanks for stopping by.

CSFF Tour – Darkness Follows Day 2

Yesterday for the CSFF Tour I introduced and gave an overview of Mike Dellosso’s latest novel, Darkness Follows.

Mike writes in the category of “supernatural suspense,” which basically is the CBA euphemism for horror. There are speculative elements, so the term is not totally inaccurate. Still, it is good to evaluate it in the proper viewpoint.

Strengths: The book creates a lot of tension around Sam Travis, the protaganist. Is he cracking due to his head injury? Is he having a psychiatric break, or is there an outside force working on him? Mike sets up this question in the reader’s mind, and does a good job drawing it out through to the end. This is why I liken it to The Shining. He keeps the suspense bulding with this tactic effectively.

The mystery killings also set the mood. We know early on they lead to Sam somehow, but the question is dangled each time, slowly moved along, keeping the reader wondering about them. Mike was able to get me second-guessing myself, so the payoff at the end was satisfying in many ways.

Even though I compared it to The Shining, there is a deeper sense of hope. There’s despair, danger, a sense of darkness, but it isn’t fatalistic. It is not dark for darkness sake. If a reader has a problem with some of the nihilistic stories out there, this book doesn’t have that type of effect.

Weaknesses: The early part of the book sets up enough information to catch the reader’s attention, but it is a bit of a slow burn early in the book. It took a little while to fully capture me – but it did grab me and really draw me in about halfway through. This isn’t a terrible weakness, but it wasn’t immediately gripping.

There are a couple of plot points that don’t fully pan out. One of them is too one-dimensional, not developed quite enough. Another major point comes out of left field, and left me with the thought of, “What was THAT?” I don’t want to give them away, and they aren’t major pitfalls, but they kept the book from the “Wow!” range.

Overall: The book is in the “that was a good read” range. I read some horror-type novels, but I don’t like gratiutous violence or language. This book is not for the highly sensitive, as there is a body count and some gruesome details at times. The suspense is more on a psychological level, not a gross-out level, and that’s the type of horror I can enjoy. I read his first book, The Hunted, which I enjoyed and saw his promise. I believe Mike is continuing to deliver enjoyable and thought-provoking fiction, and I can recommend Darkness Follows to fans of psychological suspense/horror and those who don’t mind some chills with their entertainment.

I’m not the only voice on this tour – see what my tourmates have to say by checking Becky’s blog for the latest posts. Tomorrow I want to touch on the idea of supernatural suspense vs. horror in the CBA realm.

Legal disclaimer/mumbo-jumbo: As part of the tour, I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.

CSFF Tour – Darkness Follows Day 2

Yesterday for the CSFF Tour I introduced and gave an overview of Mike Dellosso’s latest novel, Darkness Follows.

Mike writes in the category of “supernatural suspense,” which basically is the CBA euphemism for horror. There are speculative elements, so the term is not totally inaccurate. Still, it is good to evaluate it in the proper viewpoint.

Strengths: The book creates a lot of tension around Sam Travis, the protaganist. Is he cracking due to his head injury? Is he having a psychiatric break, or is there an outside force working on him? Mike sets up this question in the reader’s mind, and does a good job drawing it out through to the end. This is why I liken it to The Shining. He keeps the suspense bulding with this tactic effectively.

The mystery killings also set the mood. We know early on they lead to Sam somehow, but the question is dangled each time, slowly moved along, keeping the reader wondering about them. Mike was able to get me second-guessing myself, so the payoff at the end was satisfying in many ways.

Even though I compared it to The Shining, there is a deeper sense of hope. There’s despair, danger, a sense of darkness, but it isn’t fatalistic. It is not dark for darkness sake. If a reader has a problem with some of the nihilistic stories out there, this book doesn’t have that type of effect.

Weaknesses: The early part of the book sets up enough information to catch the reader’s attention, but it is a bit of a slow burn early in the book. It took a little while to fully capture me – but it did grab me and really draw me in about halfway through. This isn’t a terrible weakness, but it wasn’t immediately gripping.

There are a couple of plot points that don’t fully pan out. One of them is too one-dimensional, not developed quite enough. Another major point comes out of left field, and left me with the thought of, “What was THAT?” I don’t want to give them away, and they aren’t major pitfalls, but they kept the book from the “Wow!” range.

Overall: The book is in the “that was a good read” range. I read some horror-type novels, but I don’t like gratiutous violence or language. This book is not for the highly sensitive, as there is a body count and some gruesome details at times. The suspense is more on a psychological level, not a gross-out level, and that’s the type of horror I can enjoy. I read his first book, The Hunted, which I enjoyed and saw his promise. I believe Mike is continuing to deliver enjoyable and thought-provoking fiction, and I can recommend Darkness Follows to fans of psychological suspense/horror and those who don’t mind some chills with their entertainment.

I’m not the only voice on this tour – see what my tourmates have to say by checking Becky’s blog for the latest posts. Tomorrow I want to touch on the idea of supernatural suspense vs. horror in the CBA realm.

Legal disclaimer/mumbo-jumbo: As part of the tour, I received a complimentary copy ofĀ this bookĀ from the publisher.