As I said yesterday, I recently won an award. Specifically, I won the Whitney Award for Best New Author of 2009, which is an award for LDS authors–not for LDS fiction, but for fiction of any kind that happens to be written by LDS people. A lot of people don’t know that the LDS community has a very large, very healthy publishing market, covering everything from Romance to Thrillers; there are also a ton of “mainstream” authors who are LDS, including people like Tracy Hickman, Brandon Sanderson, David Farland, and Stephenie Meyer. The Whitney is relatively new (this is only its third year), but it is gaining a lot of traction and the competition is very high. This year I was up against people like John Brown, author of the incredible fantasy Servant of a Dark God, and Aprilynne Pike, author of the NYT bestseller Wings. I’m incredibly pleased (and, frankly, quite surprised) to have won.
The thing is, I write horror. Horror gets really stigmatized, even in mainstream circles; every year at the World Horror Convention we have at least one panel where we talk about how and why horror gets so marginalized, and what we can do to change it. Most major bookstores don’t even have a horror section anymore–Barnes & Noble shelves me in General Fiction, because there simply isn’t anywhere else to put me. So in a famously conservative religious community, I figured the reaction would be even worse–right after the nominations were announced, in fact, John Brown and I congratulated each other, laughed about how the voters wouldn’t give us a second thought, and went merrily on our way. Then last week I won for Best New Author and John won for Best Speculative Fiction. What the what?
The thing I’ve learned over the last several weeks, touring around and talking to hundreds of people about what they read, is that no matter how much we say we don’t like horror, most of us secretly love it, even if we don’t realize it. Horror as a word is stigmatized, but horror as a concept is why we love reading. Every story has a conflict–every story has something wrong that must be changed, or conquered, or survived. In thrillers, you face the horror that someone is lying to you, or means you harm. In historical fiction you face the horror of a dangerous or unconscionable situation. In romance you face the horror that you’ve given your heart to someone who doesn’t want it, and you will have to live your life alone. Horror is central to literature because it is central to life; these themes are universal because we have all experienced them, and they are valuable because experiencing them makes us stronger. Good overcomes evil, even if the only character who survives is the reader.
As my book makes the rounds, and comments trickle in through email and Twitter and in person, the most common comment I get is this: “I never read this kind of book, but I loved it.” Most people have a horror-lover somewhere inside of them, they just don’t know it. If my book can convince a few people to try something new, hooray.