The Endurance of Horror
By Sara Jayne Townsend
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years, it’s hard not to notice that we are living in a troubled world. Political strife. Terrorist strikes. Civil war tearing countries apart.
Fiction has always been a way of escaping from the real world, but what’s popular in genre changes depending on what’s going on in the world. In the 1990s, cyberpunk was a hot genre. But in the early 21st century, the near-future dystopia it portrayed is uncomfortably close to the mark and it has, understandably, lost popularity. Instead we’ve seen the rise of steampunk – an idealised version of the past that has enough of a fantasy element to provide escapism. And allows, as an added bonus, an excuse to dress up in top hats and corsets.
Horror, too, has always evolved with society. What scares us in fiction has always reflected what’s scary in the real world. In the 50s, fear of the stranger (the ‘Red under the Bed’) manifested itself in stories of alien invasion. In the 60s, fear of nuclear war led to stories about mutant monsters. More recent decades have given rise to environmental disaster stories, conspiracy theory stories and society being decimated by deadly viruses, to name just a few of modern fears.
The modern world, though, is far more complex. In such times, there is generally a rise in fantastical monsters. The supernatural and the mythical – things that are scary, but that we know aren’t really real – provide a way of getting scared ‘safely’.
And, of course, there are always zombies. Because you know where you are with zombies. Things that are no longer human, have no conscience and no sentient thought beyond the need for fresh human flesh, are quite clearly the bad guys and things you can go after with a shot gun without any kind of moral dilemma. In real life, the bad guys are not always quite so straightforward.
The other thing to note about horror fiction is that it lets you escape to a world that is far worse than real life. If you’re reading about a world where humanity has been decimated and the handful of survivors are being pursued relentlessly by zombies, or a supernatural nasty has the protagonists literally fleeing for their lives, your own everyday worries might not seem so bad in comparison.
Sara Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror, and someone tends to die a horrible death in all of her stories. She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there. She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris. She co-founded the T Party Writers’ Group in 1994, and remains Chair Person.
She decided she was going to be a published novelist when she was 10 years old and finished her first novel a year later. It took 30 years of submitting, however, to fulfil that dream.
Her latest release is SUFFER THE CHILDREN, a supernatural horror novel that is out in e-book format on 9 August 2016, and is available now for pre-order from MuseItUp Publishing.
Learn more about Sara and her writing at her website and her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter and Goodreads, and buy her books from Amazon UK and Amazon US.
SUFFER THE CHILDREN
Orphaned at eighteen, Leanne's life is adrift in a sea of grief and drug use. She washes up on the shore of estranged relatives, the Carver family, struggling with loss of their own. The transition from her South London council estate to her new home in the Surrey middle-class suburbs is difficult for Leanne.
But beneath the respectable veneer of the quiet neighborhood, something terrifying lurks. Displaced and troubled teenagers are disappearing. Leanne recruits her cousin Simon and his girlfriend Carrie to help get to the bottom of the sinister mystery. Can the three of them stop a creature of unimaginable evil before Leanne becomes a target?