The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART III

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This is part III in the categorical explanation for THE SUB GENRES OF HORROR.

For an introduction, and PART I of this series, please begin here: The Sub-Genres of Horror – Part-I

PART II is here: The Sub-Genres of Horror – Part-II


Gothic Horror (AKA: Gothic Fiction)

Gothic horror originated as a movement that combined elements of terror with romance, attributed first to English author, Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto (AKA: A Gothic Story). Gothic horror has since then expanded, though it still relies heavily on atmosphere and setting (such as a ruined castle, rugged mountain, or mist-shrouded cemetery) to create an overall sense of gloominess or dread. Often, the plot is melodramatic and sensational and may include a naïve heroine living by the moors of a Victorianesque society and/ or a lonely male traveler, haunted by a dark secret which is revealed at the story’s climax.

Book Examples:

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe
Drood by Dan Simmons


Historical Horror (including: Alternative History)

Historical Horror (and any other type of Historical Fiction) is set in the past. Though not a clearly factual account, this sub-genre relies heavily on historic facts, setting, and/ or people to provide an alternative context or hypothetical explanation to an actual event that occurred, or simply to provide the backdrop for a realistic and interesting point in time. Horror set in history has a broad range, whether including an ancillary character that happens to have existed or by completely rewriting events, such as pitting alien invaders against Confederate raiders during the Civil War. The significance in this style of writing is that particular attention is placed in the details which maintain accuracy to the time period and the appropriate mannerisms and descriptions of characters involved.

Book Examples:

The Terror by Dan Simmons
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
The Devils of D-Day by Graham Masterton


Humor (AKA: Horror Comedy)

Though at first consideration horror and humor may seem like diametric opposites, these two elements actually work complimentarily with each other; each shares the goal to elicit a strong reaction by mixing screaming with laughing. The act of combining humor and horror has a deep-running psychological basis as fears, or that which is not understood, is often exaggerated into parody. The short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving (published in 1820) is considered the first “great comedy-horror story.”

Book Examples:

John Dies at the End by David Wong
The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
Fat White Vampire Blues by Andrew Fox


Killer Animals

A self-descriptive title, this category includes stories of animals engaging in murderous rampage. Whether it’s a single animal or an invasion by large group, these beasts are consumed with a voracious inclination to slaughter every human being in their path. Typically the killer animal may be classified in one of two devices: The creature is already a feared or despised species that causes revulsion in the reader even while in a tranquil state (i.e. spiders or snakes); Or the creature is one which the reader empathizes with (i.e. dog or cat), but who is turned vicious by illness, revenge, latent evil, or any other cause normally attributable to humans.

Book Examples:

The Rats by James Herbert
Jaws by Peter Benchley
Cujo by Stephen King


MORE TO COME IN MY NEXT BLOG POST! Stay tuned soon for The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART IV

Part I Describes: Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic Horror, Bizarro Fiction, Body Horror (Biological Horror)

Part II describes: Dark Fantasy (AKA:Fantasy Horror), Environmental Horror, Erotic Horror, Fairy Tales and Dark Fables

Part III describes: Gothic Horror, Historical Horror, Humor (AKA: Horror Comedy), and Killer Animals

Part IV describes: Lovecraftian Horror (Cthulhu Mythos), Lovecraftian Horror(Cthulhu Mythos), Monster Horror, and Paranormal


Thanks to notes on this topic accumulated from the following websites:


Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard


Eric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. Assorted stories and articles that bear his byline may be found in the disreputable publications reserved for back alley bazaars. As an editor, Eric’s produced the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Outside of the glamorous and jet-setting world of indie fiction, Eric’s a technical writer and college professor, and he stumbles home each day to a wife, children, cats, and a terrarium filled with mischievous beetles. He’s a member of the Horror Writer’s Association, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Of America, and the International Thriller Writers. Visit Eric at:, his blog:, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.