Now that Holy Horror is out I’ve been noticing an increasing number of scholars who are writing on the topic of monsters. Book writing takes several years, as a rule, and when I began work on my contribution to the discussion the bibliography was a touch slim. There weren’t many books out there and academics who addressed the topic did so warily. Now scarcely a day or two will pass when I won’t find another book I should read on the topic. Publishing may be an industry in crisis, but there’s no dearth of new books being produced. Monsters—which define horror—are a means of coping with the realities of a world out of control. Since 2016 many of us have felt a vague, if at times pointed, sense that something is seriously threatening out there. Horror seems a logical response.
Academia tends to run behind trends rather than setting them. Academic books in general don’t sell too well, and monsters often have crossover appeal. The longer I’m at this, the more I think of how knowledge as a whole is gathered. Having that shiny Ph.D. doesn’t do so much anymore when it comes to credibility. It may get you in the publisher’s door, but to attract readers it helps to pick topics that scholars have typically avoided. Monsters are a calculated risk in this regard. Those who publish in the field become somewhat suspect among their colleagues, as if the subject is one that can only play itself out in naivety, an under-developed sense of sophistication. Anything popular tends to be devalued in the academic mindset. It is, therefore, encouraging to see others addressing my beloved monsters.
A new year is starting and, like many people I have high hopes that it will show some improvement over the past. I can actually dream of a world without monsters and although pleasant it isn’t realistic. We have evil with which we must deal. Horror allows for a fair amount of practice in that regard. I’m very well aware that many people find the topic repugnant, or at least distasteful. Academics, it seems, are following their restless curiosities to the darker corners of the mind. It’s getting difficult to keep up with the monster books appearing, even from reputable presses. Holy Horror is my first contribution to the discussion and Nightmares with the Bible, which I hope to finish this year, will continue the conversation. It looks like it’s becoming trickier to find a voice in this crowd already. I wonder if that implies a better 2019, as we run behind the times.