Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dread and Horror

Peter Straub, who is arguably the great master of interior horror, has a great interview in Salon this week, about the new Library of America anthology of fantastic literature.
Did you learn any new secrets about scaring readers from going through so many stories for this new anthology?

I'm not sure I can explain exactly how it works. It has to do with creating believable people for whom the reader can feel affection, then putting them in danger of the unnameable and unseen. And it has to be suspended. You can't just pull a gun out and have them get shot. You have to allow the sense of underlying unease to intensify over time. As crucial as fear is dread. Dread is essential.

How would you distinguish the two?

Well, dread leads to fear, to shame and to terror. And before dread comes foreboding.

And foreboding is ...

A prescience that something bad is about to happen. You don't know why you don't like that guy, but you just have a bad feeling about him. Dread is when foreboding shows itself to be justified. Something like foreboding is built into all fiction, I think. Even Barbara Pym novels have a point where you think, "Is that altar cloth going to work or not?"

I love the sleekness of his work. It's all about the embedded threat and the ongoing impact after the splatter has been mopped up.

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