Christian publishing is uncomfortable with certain fiction genres, what’s generally called “speculative” but includes science fiction, paranormal, and horror. And yet some of the most successful speculative writers, like Stephen King, acknowledge the presence of Biblical imagery throughout many of their works.
For a number of years, Mike Duran, author of a number of Christian horror story collections and novels, has written about Christian publisher’s reluctance to embrace anything in speculative fiction. Publishers know their audiences, however, and is to the audiences that Duran now turns his attention. Christian Horror: On the Compatibility of a Biblical Worldview and the Horror Genre makes a solid case why Christian readers’ attitudes toward the horror genre is misguided and possibly dangerous.
Duran has written an apologetic for the horror genre in Christian fiction, and it’s an impressive piece of work. And he lays claim for horror some of the most famous works in Western literature.
“Many have suggested,” he writes, “that the epic poem Beowulf is one of the earliest horror stories ever written. Possibly the oldest surviving long form in Old English, Beowulf is often cited as one of the most important works of Old English literature. Though the story is in essence a pagan myth, most believe it was originally written down by a Christian monk who incorporated Christian elements into the text.”
He doesn’t stop with Beowulf. He also makes a convincing case for Christian elements being incorporated into Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man and especially Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a work in which there is nothing subtle about Christian influence. And then there is the Bible itself, filled with any number of horrific stories.
Duran examines religious themes in horror and horror themes in religion; how the evangelical culture has in general responded to the horror genre; what he terms “toward an apologetic” for Christian horror; and the main objections Christians voice against horror and similar genres.
I don’t ready much in the horror genre, but I’ve read books by Duran, Mike Dellosso, and T.L. Hines, among others, and I have found the quality of the writing and stories to be at least equivalent to if not considerably better than much of what’s published in mainstream Christian fiction.
And Duran is right: it doesn’t always have to be an Amish romance.
Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.