I recently asked author John Leonard how the current Covid19 crisis might affect horror and apocalyptic writing, and he kindly agreed to offer us his thoughts.
These are very strange times. The news is a daily bombardment of death tolls and dire warnings. It feels as if dystopia has jumped off the fictional pages and become our reality. Asking whether COVID-19 will fuel horror and apocalyptic writing may seem like a rather insensitive question, given the circumstances, but it’s not meant that way. Think of it as just another little distraction when any distraction is welcome. Even for those of us untouched by tragedy, this is an odd and disconcerting period. It gets you thinking. I was pondering an aspect of the coronavirus crisis which relates to writing. The impact on certain genres within the writing community. In particular, how it might influence horror and end of the world stories.
I talk to a fair few writers in the horror and apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fraternity. The recent tone of these conversations echoed my own thoughts. The things which infatuate us, niche in many ways, have gone 24hr media mainstream. It raises difficult questions. How you deal with that as an author? Do you shamelessly promote your old stuff? Does the situation make the current work in progress redundant? Is it ethically acceptable to put out an apocalyptic story in this climate?
My take is positive, on the whole. Will COVID-19 fuel horror and apocalyptic writing?
There’s evidence of increased interest in this type of literature at the moment, both amongst readers and writers. Understandably so. Coronavirus lends apocalyptic tales added credibility. The absurd is far less absurd when you experience a diluted version of it as your reality. This appetite will grow after the present crisis has passed. We’ve been given a scare and we read and write about what scares us. It’s a way of coping with the fear. There have been similar instances in the past. The prospect of nuclear Armageddon in the Fifties, for example. That produced an explosion in horror and science fiction. Films and books about disaster and catastrophe. Monsters and aliens which threatened life as we know it.
I might be wrong, but I think this could be comparable. New classics will be born and some neglected gems gain recognition. Don’t get too excited if you’re a PA author, far more of those underrated apocalyptic pearls will probably remain ignored. I also suspect COVID-19 will spawn some truly inventive thinking about apocalyptic scenarios and tighten the weave of horror into the underlying narrative of other genres. On a negative note, there’s a pretty good chance we’ll be swamped with previously unknown levels of crap. A new wave of bad indie. People with time on their hands and imaginations fired by visions of societal collapse will turn to the keyboard and give it the good old college try. That sounds like I’m dissing indie. Not the case, it’s one my great loves. You have to be honest though.
Publishing and promotion isn’t an issue. Write about whatever you want and promote what works for you. If it has merit, you’ll find an audience. The basics of writing don’t change, irrespective of era or setting. Telling the tale well never gets old. A good story is a good story.
It’s perhaps worth mentioning that my own preference for reading (and writing) has always been horror and apocalypse. An inclination which isn’t easily explained. They’ve captivated me ever since I was old enough to buy paperbacks for pennies from some long gone second-hand bookstore. No idea why I’m so entranced. Maybe it’s because my mom let me stay up late and watch Hammer Horror when I was a kid. I could blame Stephen King for writing The Stand. Who can say? Sometimes we simply like what we like, I suppose.
Which brings me back to the question. The horror and apocalyptic genres have attained an enduring status. They’re not going away. People like me gravitate to them without any apparent reason. Rest assured, COVID-19 will only serve to fuel the interest. It may well usher in a golden age.
Thank you John.
John was born in England and grew up in the midlands where he learned to love the sound of scrapyard dogs and the rattle and clank of passing trains. He studied English, Art and History and has, at different times, been a sculptor, odd-job man and office worker.