So part of my duties lately as a member of the Horror Writers Association has been as a member of the long fiction jury for the Bram Stoker Awards. I’ve read tons of great submissions this year, but I’ve noticed a trend. The ones that I have judged most highly, the ones that have seemed the most literary and the most deserving of the award, have also tended to be incredibly depressing. Rip your heart out, make you wonder about the world, depressing. I just finished one of the best I’ve read–When We Join Jesus in Hell. When I opened it up, I expected some cliched trope about religion. I was wrong. Very wrong.
How would I describe the story? Dark. Chilling. Disturbing. Heartbreaking. A trip through grief and torment and vengeance. And I would call it great. And like all great works, it left me thinking.
Does good horror have to be depressing? It’s an important question for me. I am a horror writer. Like everyone else who ever put pen to paper, I want to produce great stuff. But I am also a believer in the idea that good triumphs over evil. Doesn’t mean everything I write has a happy ending (see my contribution to 90 Minutes to Live), but most of it does. And so I return to that basic question.
I don’t have an answer. Common sense tells me that it can’t be the case. And yet…
So what do you think? Can horror have a happy ending? Or if something is to be truly horrifying, if it is going to take us into the abyss, can there be any light that shines through? Or does hope destroy horror?