Is horror under the speculative umbrella?

Way back here, Angie had a great post of what Science Fiction is (or isn't.) And, there's a very cool chart in the post, with Speculative Fiction as the broadest category, with Science Fiction and Fantasy as the next broad categories and everything from Dystopian to Historical Fantasy covered under those.  Everything but horror... hmmm....

Well, I was contemplating horror & vampires (I mean - who doesn't at some point, right?) and wondering if I thought vampires were "sci-fi" at all - ever. Then I got to thinking about a movie I saw when I was a kid - it was called The Vampire (1957.) It's a vampire movie with a twist... a doctor accidentally takes some pills, thinking they are aspirin, but they are actually an experimental drug make from the blood of vampire bats. Of course, he turns into a bloodthirsty monster and goes on a killing spree (no sparkly, shiny, sexy bloodsuckers in this movie.) He's not your Transylvanian-type vampire either - no allergy to garlic, no aversion to crosses and no stake through the heart is needed to kill him. He ends up getting taken down by a sheriff using regular bullets. All in all - that movie scared the crap out of me! 

I got to wondering why a movie like The Vampire was so much scarier to me than a movie like Dracula. (Although, honestly - I am a horror movie wimp! Can't really do them... nope... nuh, uh...)  Anyway, The Vampire dealt with a man taking a pill and the pill changed him. Dracula was an undead monster who started from who-knows-where??? The Vampire has an element of Science in it... the pills were part of research that a scientist had been working on having to do with animals. So, there was a modicum of "reality" to the story. 

There's less suspension of disbelief that needs to happen when there is a so-called "scientific" basis for something - like "Jurassic Park" (which, by the way, scared the bejeezus out of me!) And, even though The Vampire was a horror film - I would place it in the Science Fiction category - because of the science element. Same with Jurassic Park (book & movie) - definitely sci-fi. 

So, if say - zombies - show up in a speculative fiction book, and their zombification is the result of some bio-or-chemical accident or warfare or has any kind of scientific underlying basis - is it science horror? Hmmm... I like to think so. (well, maybe "like" is the wrong word for me!)

What d'ya think?


Mandy P.S. said...

I think, as in most things, "it depends" is the correct answer. I agree that The Vampires sounds like SF and horror (so sure, why not science horror?). But if its a horror story about werewolves that are caused by normal "magical" means and can be killed with silver bullets, then its fantasy (Fantasy horror?). And if your horror book is about a guy who snaps and starts killing cheerleaders one at a time, that's just regular horror with no speculative element. After all to be science fiction it has to have some bit of science we don't have today, and to be fantasy it has to have some sort of magic. If a horror story has neither of those elements, then it can't claim SF or Fantasy. In my humble opinion of course. :)

(Oh and "I am Legend" is another good example of vampires in science fiction.)

Angie said...

I think Bittersweet hit it right on the nose. It depends.

And nowadays, I think most vampire / werewolf novels are marketed as paranormal / fantasy rather than horror. Again, that probably depends on the content of the book, though.

Anonymous said...

Yep, the "it depends" answer hits it on the head, I think.

Some things just can't be classified or straddle lines between more than one genre.

Great post.

Sarah Ahiers said...

i think horror can be speculative but doesn't have to be. The horror i write always is (because it has monsters and other creepy things that aren't normal) but horror can also be some crazy asshat murdering babies with no speculative element (i find that horror boring and not scary)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I have no stomach for the horror either! I wanted to love "I am Legend" just because Will Smith, but had to stop watching because ... I'm a wimp. :)

Any horror/vampires/paranormal with a scientific basis is what I would call Science Fantasty - and there's more and more of that, as it all gets melded together. Kinda cool, that.

Jocelyn said...

I agree with the "it depends" answers.

If you were to go back to the diagram in the post you linked to, I think you could extend the "speculative fiction" umbrella out beyond the science fiction and fantasy brackets, and add a bracket for horror. But the horror bracket would stick out beyond the Speculative fiction umbrella. The horror that falls under speculative fiction could probably be classified as "science horror," "fantasy horror," and "paranormal horror." While in the section of "horror" that extends beyond the Speculative fiction umbrella would be things like "baby snatchers," "killer crocodiles," "ax murderers", "serial killers," "cannibals," and things like that.

Jeff Hirsch said...

Yeah i can totally see some horror as scifi and like the Sci Horror tag alot. Makes me think of Cronenberg's The Fly. If anything is sci horror it's that.

I wonder...we have sci horror, fantasy horror and, let's say reality horror (the aforementioned non supernatural baby killer). Does that cover it when it comes to horror? Can anyone think of a horror story that doesn't fit in one of those 3 categories?

Anonymous said...

Love the science horror tag. I absolutely think the idea is scarier if there is a scientific basis for it. To me that's what's so terrifying about most zombie stories--they're coming for you, no frills, no "glamour," no sexy seduction.

Oddly enough, I wrote an article about the hottest vamps today at my site.

Liz @ Cleverly Inked said...

I think that makes sense. Ehhh I don't do scary either

Vincent Kale said...

A perfect example of "science horror" is Justin Cronin's "The Pasage." The funny thing is, no one reviewer or marketing material seems to be able to peg the novel in a genre.

I've seen: horror, supernatural, literary, and dystopian, but no science fiction. Again "it depends" on how they want to market the book. For now, I guess you can just find this one under the new releases.

Julia said...

Thanks for all the comments everyone!

dolorah said...

Yeah, I can agree with horror and SF comingling. In fact, I don't see that any genre or category of genre cannot be interactive. Just look at the Romance genre, and all the varying subgenre's and categories a person can be writing in to market their novel/short story in.

There has to be clarification for something specific that puts a project into a category, but shouldn't limit its readership.

I'd love for bookstores to re-vamp their labeling of shelves. Be a little more specific so when you're browsing for a certain genre you can easily distinguish urban fantasy from sci-fi/fantasy.

But honestly, I don't think writers now fall so smoothly into a category. Where exactly would you put a YA/dystopian/urban fantasy/romance between two opposing cultures in outer space?

I'm thinking STAR WARS Episode II. Young Anikan is barely 18; there is disorder and war; in a metropolitan society; on a world in another universe. And it is a love story at its core.

Classifying genre's isn't as easy now as it was even 20 years ago, I think. And most of my favorite horror movies/novel happen on alternate worlds.

Go figure.