Beyond just horror, all works of imagination have had an upsurge of popularity: movies, graphic novels; and, within fiction, speculative fiction in general.
In movies, this can partly be explained by increasingly better special effects and graphic novels have been piggybacking on the superhero movie boom. In general, I think movies have made accessible realms of imagination that were outside of the norm in the past. I think the popularity of fantasy fiction is directly linked to the changes in movie-making. Even someone like Machen probably wasn’t all that popular in the past except amongst the literati.
There are a couple of other reasons that imagination has been let loose.
First, many of the censorship laws applied to the movie and comic book industries stifled creativity for many decades… or at least forced creativity outside of the mainstream and into the black market. Comic books such as the Watchmen were direct commentary on this dark period of the American imagination.
Second, I think that imaginative and speculative art in all its forms captures the public attention during times of social upheaval and stress. The American public has been under great stress this past decade, and it seems the fear-mongering has hit a high point recently. People want to escape reality and also imagine new possibilities
And my response to Matt Cardin’s interview with Stephen Jones:
This shows a contrasting view to that of your blog post about Arthur Machen.
I generally disagree with the negative view here. If I remember correctly, more books are being published in larger numbers than ever before in history. I was peruzing Amazon the other day. There were tons of books on a wide variety of intellectual topics and there was no lack of such books having been printed in recent years.
With e-book readers, this book boom will only boom even further. With an e-book, a person can easily carry around all of the volumes of the massive Oxford dictionary (which in physical form take up an entire bookshelf). I think, in particular, small presses are going to get an increase of sales as e-book readers become more popular. Books that have been out of print for decades will soon be available to anyone in the world at cheap costs.
Also, the internet helps the average writer. The internet makes it easier for writers to interact with other writers and interact with their readers. And the internet makes it easier for a writer just starting out to get their name and work out there by joining forums and starting their own website. The internet has introduced me to many new writers including those in the genres of horror and weird fiction.
However, it’s possible my view of reality is too rosy. I live in a liberal college town (Iowa City) which has the oldest writers workshop and supposedly has the highest per capita in the US of the well educated. I’m surrounded by bookstores and book-lovers.