A Question on Horror at Icon 2016

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Icon 2016, the yearly science fiction and fantasy convention, took place this year on 18-20/10. This year my participation was relatively modest, partly due to circumstances and largely due to my delusion that I could get some writing done during the holiday. Consequently I only attended about four events, one of them a panel on dark fantasy with guest of honor Charles Stross, alongside Rani Graff and Ehud Maimon, moderated by Didi Chanoch.

There’s something curious about attending a lecture or panel by an author whose works you’ve never read. On the one hand, I’ve been attending Israeli SFF conventions for years, and it’s important to me to look for the events that won’t be here next year. Anything involving a guest of honor certainly qualifies. I still find myself astonished now and then that our local conventions keep managing to lure international guests, year after year. On the other hand, I always feel a little self-conscious, listening and participating, when I lack the basic context of familiarity with the author’s work.

Feeling guilty about the books I haven’t read is a persistent theme in my life. There’s a second-hand copy of Perdido Street Station on the bookshelf to my right that still has an old bookmark jammed about a third of the way in. I think I bought it at the second-hand table at one of the previous Icons, 2012 or thereabouts. Right this second I’m in the middle of three different books, with a whole other stack, real and virtual both, of books still waiting for me. Through all this I still find myself often looking for “something new”. As I grow older, instead of becoming less restless, I’ve become more so.

But I read the blogs and follow the Twitter accounts of writers whose books I’ve never read, and listen to their writing advice sometimes, and I usually manage to get plenty out of those things, regardless. A panel about the nature of horror was actually pretty timely for me, even though I hadn’t read the Laundry Files books. Genre categorizations can sometimes get in the way of a good story. I’ve so often been disinterested in the horror stories that I’ve been exposed to, I only recently realized that I couldn’t give myself a good definition of what horror is (fortunately Writing Excuses comes to the rescue yet again).

At some point it occurs to me that I could end up writing a horror story without even realizing it. The decision seems to be beyond me. Horror is all about audience reactions. Who am I to tell readers whether they ought to feel horrified by my story or not? I’ve more than once found myself taking a quite casual attitude towards certain subjects, while people around me were, shall we say, dismayed. Maybe I ought to label all my stories as horror, just in case.

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