What is “horror fiction”? – Why are there so many genres?

I recently had a discussion online about what I consider to be “horror fiction”. These days there seems to be genres within genres, and everyone has a different opinion on what constitutes “horror”. I’m going to go over what I would consider horror fiction, but I would love for you all to argue with me and tell me what you think.

To me, horror is monster fiction. There is a monster and a protagonist who fights against it (or runs from it!). Now I’m not saying the monster has to be a supernatural creature. A human is just as capable of being a monster. But I believe this struggle against something monsterous is what makes horror horror. The focus is the monster, and the effects of it. 

There are stories with supernatural elements, ghosts or vampires, without a focus on the monster. A vampire does not a horror make. Twilight is not a horror novel. Neither, I would argue, is Interview with a Vampire, because though some characters are monsterous, the monster is not what drives the story. Misery by Stephen King, I would consider a horror. Paul’s capture and attempts to survive Annie is the driving force of the novel. Annie is the monster. 

But what about the thriller novel? Would Misery not be a thriller, rather than a horror? Is a thriller novel also a crime fiction novel? Or is that only for detective fiction? Once you start going down the rabbit hole, it’s easy to become bogged down with thousands of genres. 

But I stand by my opinion. Without a monster, a horror is just paranormal fiction. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

Do you agree? Let me know in the comments!

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