You’ll always know a splatterpunk novel when you see one. They’re the battered books with gruesome, shadowy cover art that you can find in a dank corner of any decent second-hand bookshop. They’re horror novels that actually look like horror novels.
Even when Mary Whitehouse was cruelly murdering horror movies during the 1980s, her grey zombie hordes ignored splatterpunk fiction. After all, it was always tucked away in the horror section of bookshops. It was a collection of dark spines that you could easily miss if you weren’t looking. It was the sort of thing that was designed to scare away fusty old conservatives, concerned parents and tabloid journalists before they even open the book.
For a while, in the eighties and nineties, splatterpunk reigned supreme. Then it died. For a genre that turned gruesome deaths into poetry, it died in a way that surpassed the worst nightmares of every splatterpunk writer combined. A slow death from natural causes.
Horror simply went out of fashion for a while. Whatever horror writers remained quietly dissected the old splatterpunk novels, grafting their withered flesh onto the edges of the mainstream horror genre. Soon, one was indistinguishable from the other. Splatterpunk was dead.
But, what if it didn’t die? What if, like an ageless monster lurking in the sewers, it just simply refused to die? What if it went mainstream instead? What would that world look like? Here’s one idea…..
Somewhere on the internet, a troll starts writing a Twitter post. His death threats are woefully unimaginative. People tell him so. After all, everyone has studied Clive Barker’s “Books Of Blood” in GCSE English, everyone has been bored by their mums trying to lend them their crumpled old collection of Shaun Hutson novels and everyone has visited James Herbert’s birthplace on at least one dull school trip.
The troll slinks away back into the dark corner from whence he came, muttering angrily. The crowd roll their eyes with disinterest and return to complaining about how the new Ghostbusters movie doesn’t contain nearly enough entrails, viscera or brain matter. It goes against tradition, after all.
In a dark corner of a bookshop, a teenage boy crouches beside one of the shelves. He’s trudged past no less than twenty racks of horror novels, consulted two online maps and looked at every shelf of every rack until he found the ten books on the half-empty bottom shelf with a faded label above it.
He scans the books with beady eyes, hoping that it will be here in this shop! After all, he couldn’t exactly order it online, and his mates wouldn’t even dream of lending him their copies. His parents would go ballistic if they ever found out. Finally, his eyes light up as they fix on a single elaborate word on the cover of one book – “Twilight”.
Meanwhile, a rotund man reclines on a sofa and cheerfully asks for another glass of cola. A jovial man in a balaclava pours him one and offers a selection of pastries too, whilst sharing a funny story about chickens. Another man perches behind the cold lens of a video camera. A rictus grin crosses his face as he begins to imagine how terrified the public will be when this shocking display of friendship and hospitality is posted on the internet.
Unfortunately for him, blurred stills from the mortifying video get relegated to page three of the Daily Mail and page nine of the Daily Express. After all, both of them are too busy getting outraged about “Sick Video Game Shocker Sold To Kids”.
A stern spokeswoman from Mediawatch UK laments the fact that kids today are playing a new game about love and friendship called “Gone Home”. Where is the killing? She cries. Where are the guts? Where are the howls of agony?
In her day, she tells a million middle-aged readers, kids played wholesome games like “Doom II: Hell On Earth” every night after school. The readers grunt and nod in agreement. In her day, children had proper role models like Graham Masterton!
On a roll, she ends her editorial by demanding that the “sick peace sim” be banned and that schools should introduce compulsory knife-carrying for all pupils immediately.
If splatterpunk fiction didn’t die, it would slowly get eaten alive by it’s feral offspring. It’s kind of ironic really. People may have worried about splatterpunk corrupting the mainstream, but the mainstream would probably corrupt splatterpunk. After all, isn’t that the scariest horror of them all.