What isn't Horror?

It has been quite a bit since I did a post on horror. Not especially because it has not been on my mind or because I have it figured out, no nothing like that.

Just a couple of weeks ago we had our high school class reunion. I was prepared for it to be every cliche I have seen or read. It turned out to be a very nice time and I was able to connect with school age friends whom I have not seen since the early 80's. One of these people in particular was a very good friend all through school. Our families attended the same church so over the years we had many experiences in common.

We got to talking for the first time since commencement and the questions came up about my writing and so forth. She was interested until I made the mistake of mentioning horror. If I could have a picture of the look on her face. I have seen it all too many times. But wait... the piano player stopped playing and the saloon went silent.

The sound of a single cricket became deafening. 

I went on to explain how I have written many articles on misconceptions of the genre. Once we moved on to the subject of how much supernatural fiction is considered horror she backed away from the edge of the bridge and pulled herself back to safety. The piano player got back to business as usual.

It was a close call.

She and her husband both eagerly admitted their love of supernatural and paranormal. I wasn't left standing alone looking around like I was lost or someone noticed I crapped my pants in a crowded room. Here is what I see as an illustration of the problem though just in case that image is not enough of a problem by itself.

My mind reading app was disabled at the moment of the conversation but I am fairly confident by the time her mind processed the word horror, everything had already gone into slow motion as she looked desperately for an escape route. I am pretty sure some zombie with a chainsaw and bloody guts might have been involved. At that moment the zombie likely looked just like me... but I didn't really, not yet anyhow. The whole zombie thing didn't happen until sometime late Sunday morning when...never mind.

How does this relate to anything else?
Her initial reaction was no different from my own or nearly anyone I converse with. I have written about it here numerous times and will no doubt continue to. Why? Because I swear the deeper I dig the more fascinating it gets. The more misconceptions I find not only in my own mind but in other people I converse with. Don't get me wrong, I don't think for a second I will solve any part of the puzzle but neither will I give up the search. It is just too interesting.

How does this have to do with what I perceive as a misunderstanding? 

I am starting to think part of the complexity lies in the sheer diversity of the horror genre as a whole. I have spent some time looking at this sweet graphic put out by Horror on Screen which makes it much easier to understand. They list psychological, killer, monster and paranormal as the main sub genres of horror. That just covered a lot of ground. These are just the main sub genres, from here they splinter off into what I might as well call sub-sub-genres because I cant think of a stupider sounding term. This covers the better part of the rest of the horror splinters.

To illustrate this is in a different way I went to Amazon and looked at books for sale by category. This is a pretty scientific and highly accurate method of research so please don't make fun of me (too much). I look at the top two categories, I realize this is not exactly genre, but check it out, it is close enough for this discussion. The top two are historical and none other than horror. 149,000 books for historical and 147,000 for horror, rounded up in both cases. Religious and inspirational comes in a close third at 81,000. Close my ass, it is not even in the same vicinity. The numbers start to spread out from here. I hate to get too complex but look at the sheer volume even Amazon lumps into what they call horror. That is a disproportionate amount of books. They might as well have three categories, historic, horror  and all the other books. They could just call the category "other". Good grief. Why? Because so many different types of books are lumped in there. Horror is a pretty big catch-all, and it is extremely popular in all its forms.

Going back to my classmate and her adverse reaction to horror, she really had no idea that one of her favorite types of book pretty much falls into the catch all of horror. Does it really matter? I can say it really doesn't to me other than to deepen my knowledge of what I have said more than once is a very misunderstood genre. I will keep writing what I write and exercise caution when I speak to people about it depending on how long I would like the conversation to last.

This is a total nonsense graph I created to exaggerate the point I am trying to make.