What do the words “literary horror” mean to you?
I find it both ironic and disturbing that some readers and writers turn their noses up at the word “literary” with the same insular narrow-mindedness that they accuse the literary world of holding against genre writing. Certainly there are readers, writers, and critics who unfairly jettison a novel simply because it has a zombie or a spaceship in it, and I’ve felt that sting a few times myself with my novel Verland: The Transformation (What, another vampire novel? No, a novel about loss, mortality, and the transformations that remain with a vampire in it, actually). That said, I think the doors are open wider than they’ve ever been to great novels that may fit the “horror” or “science fiction” or “romance” label, and I’d like to see those doors eventually come down altogether. Denying that a novel is a great piece of literature because it might be “genre writing” is absurd, but it’s equally absurd to pretend that literature is just some idea invented by snooty academics in an ivory tower in order to make the unlettered masses feel inferior. Literary studies thrive upon debates and disagreements, and that’s a part of what keeps things interesting. But it’s disingenuous to pretend that a spaghetti Western is the same thing as Washington Irving or James Fenimore Cooper, or that The Seven-Eyed Alien Who Ate the Earth is a stand-in for Ray Bradbury or Ursula K. Le Guin. These distinctions have nothing whatsoever to do with one’s personal opinion about what is more enjoyable or even “better”—one reader may devour part twelve of The Seven-Eyed Alien and pitch Fahrenheit 451 across the room in boredom, and certainly vice versa. But it is about recognizing a distinction between novels in which the primary purpose is narrative and novels that take that riskier step further into themes and ideas that transcend mere plot.