[Note (26th November 2018): This article was written during a time when I wasn’t reading much and, for various reasons, had gone off splatterpunk horror fiction slightly. It doesn’t reflect my current views about the genre or about Shaun Hutson’s “Erebus” either.]
The night before writing this article, I was binge-reading a really cool blog about old horror fiction that I’d found a few days earlier. Naturally, I skipped to the parts about my favourite horror authors and my favourite sub-genres of horror fiction – and I’d never felt geekier (in a good way) in my life.
To see actual serious articles (and lots of them) about the genre that I used to read regularly when I was a teenager was absolutely amazing. I mean, the splatterpunk genre was already kind of old hat by the time that I found my first second-hand 1980s/90s splatterpunk novel in a market stall at about the age of thirteen but, to me, it was the coolest genre ever.
There are lots of reasons why splatterpunk no longer exists as a genre and I’m sure that I’ve talked about them before (eg: the most prominent reason is probably that everything that made splatterpunk splatterpunk has now been absorbed into mainstream horror fiction), but one of the annoying things about splatterpunk fiction is that it was too recent and too obscure to really be of historic interest to magazine journalists etc…
Literally, the only splatterpunk fiction-related thing I saw in the surrounding culture when I was younger was ( when I was an older teenager) this excellent parody of 80s/90s splatterpunk authors on TV.
Although there was an abundance of actual splatterpunk novels in second-hand bookshops and charity shops for my teenage self to read, there was no real surrounding fan culture to go with them.
So, finding a blog with lots of articles about the genre – filled with both critical commentary and nostalgic pictures of wonderfully lurid splatterpunk cover art was amazing. Even though the creator of the site isn’t a fan of one of my old favourite splatterpunk authors or the type of splatterpunk I liked when I was a teenager, it was still really cool to see a retrospective of this writer’s works and to hear someone else talking knowledgeably about him.
Not only that, the site also contains wonderfully cynical comments about both Guy N.Smith and Richard Laymon’s horror novels. Finally! Someone else who thought the same way about those two authors as I did when I was a teenager! Unfortunately, I didn’t find any cynical comments about how Stephen King used to almost monopolise bookshop horror shelves in the 00s though.
Naturally, after reading this site for a while, I decided to dig up some of my old splatterpunk novels to see if I could get myself back into the genre again. Although I don’t really read anywhere near as much fiction as I used to, the few horror novels I’ve read this decade have all been modern splatterpunk-influenced horror novels. So, I thought that it wouldn’t be too difficult to get back into the genre again.
After a little bit of searching, I turned up a 1990s reprint of “Erebus” by Shaun Hutson. This was one of the old splatterpunk novels that still stuck in my memory and it was one of the cooler ones that I’d read when I was a teenager.
I remembered the story’s dramatic ending and I remembered how the novel was pretty much almost like a Romero-style zombie movie in all but name. Since gory zombie novels were hard to find when I was a teenager, this was an awesome and memorable surprise.
So, naturally, I decided that I’d take a quick look at it again and read the first couple of chapters. My reactions were very different as an adult.
I found the first scene of the story (where a horse on a farm suddenly turns evil and starts violently attacking everything and everyone near it, seemingly without reason) to be laughably melodramatic, rather than compellingly and rebelliously macabre. From the way that it was written, it seemed more like dark comedy than shocking horror.
Even in the second chapter, when Shaun Hutson describes the setting of the novel, I couldn’t quite take all of it seriously because one line of the description (where he describes the local farms producing “full bounty”) sounded exactly like something that Garth Marenghi could say. I stopped reading after this point.
Maybe I’d just grown up? Maybe now that I’m more than old enough to buy proper horror movies, I no longer need splatterpunk novels to tell me luridly gruesome horror stories? Maybe it’s like the old saying that “you can’t go home again”?
As strange as it is to say, my memories of splatterpunk novels are probably a lot cooler than the actual novels probably were. Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, I guess.
It’s strange that the genre which got me interested in writing fiction and which has also had a subtle influence on my art too, is actually cooler in my imagination than it is in reality.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂