Updated: Mar 15, 2022
As an author, I try to stay abreast of current affairs, and something that has been foregrounded in the book industry this year is virulent disgust at the audacity of authors who tackle difficult themes. The umbrella term for this visceral reaction to media is cancel-culture, although very few if any individuals have been cancelled for what they write, and only a handful of smaller names have been dropped by publishers for what they have done or said outside their books.
I can see both sides of the argument, and honestly, there are one or two big names that I would love to see de-platformed for their hateful and dangerous views. But, what about horror? Horror is designed to challenge and make readers uncomfortable. Are there any subjects which are taboo, even in horror?
Readers use and enjoy horror for various purposes, from adrenaline-fuelled entertainment to tackling or unpacking personal trauma in a controlled and safe space. While some can be distressed by certain triggers, others may actually find comfort. In the words of Cesar Cruz: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” The shame that can still surround survivors of sexual assault can feel isolating, and for those readers the vicarious experience of a protagonist’s healing journey or revenge may feel like representation. We are all different and process things in different ways.
In summary, I do not believe that horror is a genre suited to censorship, but I am a fan of trigger warnings, so readers can decide whether they are in the right frame of mind to be exposed to certain subjects. Trigger warnings, either woven into the blurb or listed separately, empower readers, and I feel they have earned a place in horror. You may disagree with my reasoning, and I would love to read your thoughts on the subject.
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