Looking at the state of the horror genre in the early years of the new era, I can’t help being reminded of what it was like growing up. Horror fiction was my gateway drug. It was the genre that got me to pick up my first book somewhere around the age of seven. The first author I was ever aware of was a fellow named John Bellairs. He’s long gone by now, but he has a movie out in theaters as I write this. He also led me from his own work (it was The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring, as I recall) onto the next step. That would have been the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, written by Alvin Schwartz and brought to mind-screwing life by the fundamentally disturbed illustrations of Stephen Gammell (it also helps that George S. Irving seemed to have the perfect voice for these stories on audio tape. If I live to be a million, I’ll still remember his rendition of “Mi-Ti-Doughty-Walker”).
It’s Schwartz’s form of the horror tale that I’m reminded of the most going over the current landscape of the genre. It’s hard to tell whether horror fiction is in a slump or currently enjoying a quiet underground success. I hope the latter is the case. Not only would such a situation keep the torch lit, it could also act as spur to any young talent to take a shot at carving out a name for themselves.