I’m here to say that I like genre writing in a major way. Specifically, I like how the genre talks to itself. My bookshelf is organized in chronological order of publish date. Did you know that? Is that healthy? They always say a writer has to read, and an active reader should constantly be drawing connections between other works. Finding these traditions, common motifs, and repeated themes will make you more critical of your own writing. Has it been done better? How are you adding your spin? Why has this theme been hit over and over and over again. Take a look below at some titles that got me honking like a goose.
Arachnophobia (1990) & Hairy Legs and All by Stephen Graham Jones (2021)
The perfect blend of creepy crawlies and wholesome nostalgia. Jones’ protagonist steps on a tarantula and in some Proustian flashback recalls all the love and heartbreak that brought him to this one fateful moment.
Sinister (2012) & The Mezzotint by M. R. James (1904)
I didn’t anticipate that there is a whole subgenre about ghosts-in-pictures that steal children in the night, but here we are!
The Empty Man (2020) & Bulldozer by Laird Barron (2004)
An epic genre bending adventure of a private investigator on the trail of some cosmic horror. Gets out of hand super quickly.
Angst (1983) & Anybody Home? by Michael J. Seidlinger (2022)
It’s definitely not assumed that you’ve seen Angst, one of the most disturbing and abrasive movies to date but if you did, and you liked it, then this book is for you. Told in 2nd person, the reader is essentially coached through their first home invasion. Gristly but fun (in its own way)
Barbarian (2022) & Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates (1966)
I’m going to get push back on this one, but hear me out. If we follow the central idea of a ‘friendly’ guy encroaching on a woman’s safe space and getting into her house, we can see these two being spiritually linked. Especially when you consider the weird proportions and uncanny body of Arnold Friend, buddy, you’re looking at a ghoul.
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021) & The Cipher by Kathe Koja (1991)
Thirty years apart, yes, but strongly linked in terms of young isolation, punk aesthetic, and needing to be loved. If you’re not losing yourself to some creepypasta forum, then you’re pounding cheap beers and finding yourself in the “Funhole.”
Skinamarink (2022) & House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (2000)
I’m not going to sit here and act like this is a revelatory connection but it’s still worth shouting out. The analog horror, the ergodic literature, the vanishing hallways, we all seem nostalgic and scared of the house we grew up in. Demon voice: “IN THIS HOUSE…”
True Detective S1 & The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers (1895)
It’s important to note that at the turn of the century all these authors were just borrowing and swapping cosmic mythoi. Bierce, Chambers, Lovecraft, you name it. But True Detective seamlessly reaches into the grab bag and scatters the highlights over its iconic first season. The whole thing plays like easter eggs for little freaks.
Smile (2022) & The Grin of the Dark by Ramsey Campbell (2007)
While there are other clown movies to match this novel with, the whole psychological element rises to the top. Campbell’s protagonist is on the hunt for an elusive black and white clown movie and starts to see grinning and smiling and clownish behaviour everywhere he goes. :o)
Bully (2001) & Cows by Matthew Stokoe (1998)
It’s very true that one involves talking cows and the other doesn’t, yes, you’re right. But it’s also true that both are incredibly bleak dissections of toxic masculinity and the lengths a young man would go to prove he’s the ‘alpha.’ Vile, vile pieces that seem more astute than ever.
If you want to learn more from Alex, check out his upcoming workshop with Write or Die, From Frights to Film: A Horror Screenwriting Intensive! Get all the details and sign up here.